Genetically Modified or GM Crop/Food
An extension of the science of pesticides, in a manner of speaking, is a GM /Genetically Modified / transgenic crop. Here, in one application of the transgenic technology (the insect resistance trait in Bt crops), plants are created to produce a new toxin by insertion of bacterial genes with the claim that the pesticide produced within the plant will allow external use of chemical pesticides to reduce. In another popular deployment of the transgenic technology, plants are created to tolerate application of more pesticides (herbicides in particular, a category of pesticides. This is called Herbicide tolerance or HT trait). Ironically, this science of trying to kill another living organism by toxins inside the plant or sprayed on weeds is not very different from chemical pesticides and causes adverse environmental and health effects. It is also interesting to note that it is the same agri-chemical companies which promoted deadly pesticides which are now asking for a shift to GM crops even as they don't close down their own chemical business! That is because they know that pests will develop resistance in this approach too, that newer pests will emerge, that super-weeds will get created and the chemical business as well as a GM seeds business will rake in profits for the corporations with both products!
The process of taking a gene from one organism and inserting it into the genome of another unrelated organism to give it certain new traits is called GM (Genetic Modification or more specifically, Genetic Engineering/GE). Genes can be found in the nucleus of every cell in all living organisms and are the very building blocks of life. They decide the characteristics, structure, growth and behaviour of all organisms, including us. They play the critical role of passing on genetic information from one generation to the other and the genome of each organism has evolved in specific ways over hundreds of years in Nature.
When a foreign gene is inserted into the cell of an organism, it can disrupt the genome (gene sequence) in ways one can't predict. These unintended side-effects of genetic modification can be harmful to those who consume it, to those who grow it and also to the environment. When GM food was tested on rats by independent scientists, the results were alarming. They had stunted growth, impaired immune systems, potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, inflamed kidneys and lung tissue, less developed brain, enlarged livers, pancreases and intestines and higher blood sugar.
The regulation for such harmful food is surprisingly lax, just as in the case of its twin technology, pesticides. In US, for example, safety is assumed based on the company's declaration, GM crop developer's own studies and their reports on studies are often not made available for public scrutiny. The food doesn't even carry a label, so the consumer has no knowledge or choice about GM. GM food is all set to be launched in India very soon and in all likelihood these foods may not carry a label. In any case, when the food is not packaged as it is mostly in India, labeling is not possible. Due to a citizens' movement taken up all over the country along with scientific analysis related to the lack of safety of India's first transgenic food crop approved by the regulators in 2009 – Bt brinjal, an indefinite moratorium was put into place by the Government of India in February 2010.
The public engagement in the debate related to Bt brinjal showed that you and I as citizens can indeed get involved in issues related to science and technology, whether it be GM foods or pesticides, and ensure that an informed debate is created around issues that pertain to our food.
To know more about GM foods, visit
- from here, you can send a petition to the Prime Minister of India, if you do not want to become a laboratory rat in an irresponsible and irreversible experiment involving GMOs in our food and farming.