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Bt Brinjal: Poison in your stomach.

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  • Jagannath Chatterjee
    Poison in Your StomachSep 01, 2008 By Devinder Sharma Devinder Sharma s ZSpace Page / ZSpace After the rats, goats, sheep and cows, it is now the turn of
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      Poison in Your StomachSep 01, 2008 By Devinder Sharma
      Devinder Sharma's ZSpace Page / ZSpace



      After the rats, goats, sheep and cows,
      it is now the turn of Indians. In a few months from now, if the Genetic
      Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of India has its way, the first
      genetically modified food crop - Bt Brinjal - will be on your table.



      Whether it is the laboratory rats or
      the higher mammals, the animals have been more discerning. Probably
      they have the sixth instinct, which the humans sadly lack. There is
      otherwise no explanation why the laboratory rats, for instance, should
      always be spurning the GM foods. And when force fed, rats have
      invariably developed tumours, develop deformed body organs, including
      kidneys and liver, and led to several serious diseases and ailments.



      We have heard repeatedly of the death
      of sheep and goats when left to graze in the Bt cotton fields. First it
      was reported from Andhra Pradesh and now newspaper reports point to
      Orissa. Not much is however public about how the cattle react. Several
      farmers in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have told me that cows
      avoid the Bt cotton fields when left to openly graze. 



      The Bt gene that has been infused in
      Bt cotton (or Bt corn on which most of the laboratory rats studies have
      been conducted) is no different from the same gene drawn from a soil
      bacterium - scientifically called Bt - that is now being incorporated
      in Brinjal. This gene releases a toxin within the plant that kills
      fruit-and-shoot borer insects. The Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company
      (Mahyco), which is spearheading research on Bt Brinjal, claims that the
      genetically-modified Brinjal is safe for human consumption.



      I have never been overawed by the
      safety claims made by the companies. For several decades now, we were
      told that cigarette smoking wasn't harmful to human health, chemical
      pesticides were completely safe, and white sugar poses no danger to
      human body. These are not the only products that received the safety
      certificate. The list is endless. And yet, decades later, and after
      inflicting a heavy human cost world over, most of these products are
      being banned or phased out. The way sugar-based food products have hit
      the market, and all are vouched safe, diabetes has suddenly assumed
      epidemic proportions.



      Talking about diabetes, and realising
      that the disease is growing at an alarming scale, the disappearance of
      the traditionally-cultivated Brinjal from the market, will surely take
      away one of the simple home remedies and widely-practiced dietary
      solution to combat the Type-2 diabetes. I too suffer from Type-2
      diabetes, and therefore find it appalling to see as to why no
      scientific organisation, including the GEAC, is coming clean on what
      the genetically modified Brinjal will mean to people like me.



      What about diabetic mommies? Pregnant
      women are increasingly becoming prone to Gestational diabetes -- a
      temporary form of diabetes. In recent years, the number of  affected
      women who have crossed-over to full-blown diabetes is increasing -
      almost 25 per cent get Type-2 diabetes within 15 years. Whatever be the
      safety claims, the fact remains that no medical studies have been
      conducted to show that the therapeutic properties in a normal Brinjal
      will not change when the fruit is genetically modified.



      Even if you are not a diabetic don't
      think you are safe. So far you have been made to believe that by proper
      washing of the Brinjal veggies you could get rid of the harmful
      pesticide residues. That may not hold true anymore. You will not be
      able to wash the toxins once the Bt Brinjal arrives in your kitchen.
      No, I am not talking of the pesticide coating on the outer skin. The
      toxin will now be within the Bt Brinjal. 



      And if you don't believe me, let us
      listen to Prof Dave Schubert of the Salk Institute for Biological
      Studies in California: "The Bt toxin is 1000 times more concentrated
      than in Bt sprays, which do not themselves have a history of safe use."
      In simple words, what Dr Schubert says is that genetically modified Bt
      plants, and that includes Bt Brinjal, carry a toxin that is a thousand
      times more potent than what is used to kill insects. Strains of Bt have
      been used as sprays to control harmful insets. Spine chilling, isn't
      it?



      The problem is that once Bt Brinjal
      enters the market, there is no way you can distinguish it from the
      normal ones. Your vegetable vendor will never be able to sell you the
      normal Brinjal that you are so used to buying. Moreover, once the genie
      is out, there is no way to call it back. To make matters worse, the
      GEAC has given permission to conduct multi-location trials on
      Karnataka's famed traditional Brinjal varieties - Udupi Gulla.
      Cultivated for its special taste and unique flavour in the Udupi
      district of Karnataka, these strains are tied in such strong
      socio-cultural traditions that even today the Gulla Brinjal variety is
      offered to Lord Krishna on festive paryaya ceremonies.� 



      Tracing out the antiquity of the
      cultivation and use of Brinjal in India, Ramesh Bhat of the Centre for
      Science, Society and Culture, Hyderabad, writes in a detailed paper in
      the journal Asian Agri-History that Gulla varieties (especially Mattu
      Gulla) are a perfect example of 'plant-God-science' relationship. "The
      example of Mattu Gulla shows how local farmers can choose a variety
      that meets their local needs and preferences, and is best suited to
      their specific local ecosystems. The practices adopted by farmers of
      Udupi have a scientific basis - both traditional and modern."



      Realising the uniqueness of the Mattu
      Gulla Brinjal, the Karnataka State Department of Horticulture is trying
      to preserve the genetic wealth by seeking a geographical indication on
      the Gulla strains. Ironically, the same variety for which GI is being
      sought by the Karnataka government is now ready for genetic plunder.
      The GVK University of Agricultural Science and Technology, Bangalore,
      is trying to introduce a Bt gene into the Gulla strains thereby
      contaminating the genetic make-up of the traditional variety. The
      uniqueness of the Gulla varieties, preserved for over four thousand
      years by local farmers, awaits erosion at the hands of agricultural
      biotechnologists.



      Why worry about this Bt Brinjal, some
      might say. Isn't it necessary for improving production and
      productivity, some of you might argue. First of all, let me assure you
      that there is no shortage of Brinjal. Nor do the Bt Brinjal increases
      productivity and production. But what Bt Brinjal does for sure is to
      bring India's first genetically altered food crop onto your dining
      table. It is time you woke up before it is too late.



      From: Z Net - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives
      URL: http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/commentaries/3606

      "It is now 30 years since I have been confining myself to the treatment ofchronic diseases. During those 30 years I have run against so many histories of littlechildren who had never seen a sick day until they were vaccinated and who, in the severalyears that have followed, have never seen a well day since. I couldn't put my finger onthe disease they have. They just weren't strong. Their resistance was gone. They wereperfectly well before they were vaccinated. They have never been well since. "---Dr. William Howard Hay


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