GM food debate hots up again

Gilles-Eric Seralini, one of the first scientists to warn the world about the dangers of genetically modified food, counters pro-GM scientists in an interview with savvy soumya misra

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015 | 02:50:09 AM

imageSome scientists are planning to write to the Indian government, saying you never carried out any independent study and had no access to Bt gene of maize or brinjal. What do you have to say?

I was a referee to review the raw data of Mahyco (promoter of Bt brinjal) on health risks of the food crop.
   
This was used by the Supreme Court and the Indian government. I have done this work for the French government and the European Union before commercialization of other gmos. I discovered that Mahyco was admitting in its experiments significant effects on blood analysis of mammals that had eaten GM brinjal for 90 days only. I reviewed that and interpreted the effects differently from Mahyco. To me, there were clear effects reaching liver and kidney that could have been the same as during the development of a chronic pathology. The experiments performed by Mahyco were stopped after 90 days; so, it was impossible to see more. I asked for longer experiments.

There is a call to peer review your study on the grounds that you were commissioned by Greenpeace activists. Your response

Mahyco’s study was the one that was never published in any international scientific journal with a peer review process. That is why Indian authorities such as the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee took into account external reviews from independent scientists like me. I am president of a scientific council of a non-profit, CRIIGEN, and am willing to counter scientists supporting GM food in any public forum. In any case, the real question that has to be answered is: Are the pro-GM activists and scientists paid by the patent holders of GM technologies?

Now that the Indian government has imposed a moratorium on Bt brinjal, what do you think should be the next step?

It is very simple. Medicinal drugs and even pesticides (GM brinjal is a pesticide-producing vegetable) are tested up to two years on mammals before commercial release. It should be the same for GM food. The Indian government should engage independent laboratories to conduct the safety tests with external referees. There should also be studies to assess the impact of GM food on environment, agriculture and communities.

Some argue that people are already consuming oil from Bt cotton seeds and Roundup Ready soybean, so, why stop Bt brinjal. Are they right?

When there is no system for labelling or tracing GM products, there is no way to link chronic diseases like cancers and nervous disorders to an environmental problem. Most of these diseases have their source in the environment, including diet. My research group has demonstrated some side-effects due to GM maize consumption from the data prepared by Monsanto which is similar to our published data on side-effects of RR soybean on human cells (see ‘GM food can cause cancer’, Down To Earth, October 31, 2009).

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