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[SANET-MG] are gm foods safe
the financial express Nov. 7,2005
Are GM foods safe enough?
Ashok B Sharma
World over there is an ongoing debate about acceptance or rejection of
foods having traces of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which is
otherwise called GM foods.
The advocates of transgenic technology say that there is no credible
evidence either to substantiate that GM crops damage the environment or
GM food can harm human and animal health. Some even say that as GM crops
and foods are safe as their “substantially equivalent conventional
counterparts”, they need no testing. They go to the extent of decrying
the critics, who have logical and scientific arguments, as
Dr Arpad Pusztai, an eminent nutrition expert and toxicologist of
international repute, is one who dismisses such arguments of the blind
supporters of transgenic technology by saying that in the absence of
safety studies, lack of evidence cannot be interpreted as proof that it
He further says, “Rather few well-designed studies published till date
show potentially worrisome biological effects of GM food, which the
regulators have largely ignored.”
Incidentally Dr Pustai was in Delhi to address a group of scientists on
Saturday. In his presentation he disclosed that a recent review done by
Wolfanberger and Phifer published in Science in 2000 concluded that most
pertinent questions on environmental safety of GM crops have not yet
been asked for, let alone studied.
On the health safety aspect, he said that so far only 19 peer-reviewed
papers have been published. Only one human clinical trial was conducted
and only a few animal studies done so far. Dr Pusztai alleged that the
industry’s and regulator’s preferred “safety assessments” are based on
poorly defined and not legally binding concept of “substantial
“In such a situation it is difficult to conclude that GM foods are
safe,” he told the spell-bound audience.
Referring to the growing concerns about food safety, Dr Pusztai said
that the report of the Royal Society of Canada said that “substantial
equivalence” is fatally flawed and regulations based on it, exposes
Canadians to potential health risks. The British Medical Association has
also said there is “insufficient evidence” to take a decision on health
Pointing to the gaps in risk assessments,he suggested that more tests
should be carried out on animals and humans, particularly in the
alimentary tract. The trials of the first GM crop, Flavr-Savr tomato
have shown 7 out of 40 rats died within two weeks due to necrosis. In
humans, grandular stomach erosions can lead to life-threatening
haemorrhage, particularly in the aged people and patients on
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, he said.
Dr Pusztai referred to the findings of Fares and El-Sayed about Bt
potatoes disruption, multinucleation, swelling and increased degradation
of ileal surface cells in rats. In a study done by Dr Pusztai himself
alongwith Dr Ewen showed that when rats were fed with GM potatoes it
induced proliferative growth in the stomach and the intestines and also
caused lymphocyte infiltration.
Dr Pusztai finally asserted that more researches should be done to
pin-point effects of GM foods before any approval is done. Hope the
world would be wise to follow his advice.
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