Engineering The Food Chain


Scientists uncover a number of problems that genetically modified food could bring if it enters the market.

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We are all slightly concerned by allergies and diseases, such as cancer. Be it directly yourself or one of your close relatives, almost all families face such problems. “It cannot be explained by heredity or viruses,” says Gilles-Eric Seralini, professor of molecular biology at the University of Caen in France. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have got serious consequences for health and could be the origin of a number of cancers. 


A frightening list of adverse effects can already be seen. Independent researches on animals fed with GMOs have shown that the main organs such as the liver and the kidneys were affected. The immune system was also concerned, showing the development of new allergies. For Michael Antoniou, from the department of medical and molecular genetics at King’s College in London, this technology is neither precise, nor safe. “This technology should be contained. It is useful but presents major risks and unintended effects.”

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GMO as a technology is not precise enough. Genes evolve in one particular context, and then are asked to evolve in another one. “The introduction of the gene is random and can cause disruption of the entire DNA.” Indeed, genes are operating in an isolated manner. They are part of a network and each one has got a precise position and functions as part of an integrated whole. “Breakdown of genetics is at the origin of diseases such as cancer,” explains Antoniou.

Another significant reason to contain GMOs is contamination. “GMOs can spread in an uncontrolled way in the environment because living organism can reproduce themselves, cross-pollinate and spread,” warns Antoniou. The problem with contamination is that nobody knows anything about the outcome. “Suppose you have gene silencing and sterility,” explains Suman Sahai, doctor in genetics. 


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As well as presenting risks of spreading, GM products lack adequate testing. “GMOs have been tested for three months, usually these kind of tests should be conducted for three years. Only short term effects are being considered,” declares Seralini. Moreover, test results are not made public, which raises suspicion among the science community. “The more data you hide, the more reasons there are to believe that something is dirty,” says Sahai.

In India with the Bt Brinjal, the Supreme Court ordered the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee to finally publish the Mahyco-Monsanto test file. Seralini evaluated Mahyco’s studies from a qualitative point of view. He found that Bt Brinjal could induce antibiotic resistance, cause diarrhoea, increase water consumption and decrease liver weight. These findings raise serious health concerns and demonstrate that Bt Brinjal is potentially harmful for human consumption.

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However, consumers seem to lack information. Niha Masih, student in journalism conffeses, she has no idea about the risks at stake in consuming GM Food. “I would not even know, if the fruits or vegetables I buy in the market are genetically modified or not,” she says. However, Coline Garré, a French student in Jamia Millia Islamia university, feels reluctant to the idea of eating food that has been genetically modified. “For me it is not authentic, and I do not know anything about the dangers it represents for human being, thus, if I have the choice, I would not buy any genatically modified food,” she asserts.

For Suman Sahai, transgenic technology has no relevance to food security, livelihoods or to better farm incomes. “Any agricultural technology in India must work for the poor farmers. In Europe and the USA, agriculture represents one percent of the population and is heavily subsidized. They do not face the same problems as India”. Accounting for scientists’ point of views, one could ask why the Indian regulatory bodies let these products enter the market.

– Carole

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~ by delhidecidela on November 6, 2009.

3 Responses to “Engineering The Food Chain”

  1. Good story Carole

  2. I must say the handling of the story could have been done more sensitively and scientifically at the same time. Who are your readers? Why not a single expert is there from an Indian institute? There is a flourishing Indian Agricultural Research Institute. There are activist like Devendra Sharma. You could have produced a better story…Carole. You can visit the following link for greater insight about the article:
    http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.com/
    I hope, next time, I do not feel like running away from your webpage.

    • Hi Tilak,

      Thanks for your comment, but Suman Sahai is Indian. And I am not sure I understand what do you mean by more senstively and more scientifically, could you please be more precise ?
      And also what would make run away from the webpage ?

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