Fighting back

GM food supporters attack ICMR report

Published: Wednesday 15 September 2004

advocates of genetically modified (gm) food in India have lodged a strong protest against a report of the Indian Council of Medical Research (icmr) that sounds caution about gm food. On August 10, 2004, they sent an open letter to the director of icmr, urging the organisation to make fresh assessments.

"Regulatory authorities all over the world have reviewed and accepted the published scientific information that establishes the safety and benefits of biotech crops and foods," the letter says. It urges icmr to review the available scientific information anew. Signatories of the letter include Gurdev Khush of International Rice Research Institute, C Kameswara Rao of Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education, Bangalore, and C S Prakash of AgBioWorld Foundation Inc, usa.

The icmr's April 2004 report Regulatory regimen for genetically modified foods: the way ahead was prepared on the request of the Union ministry of health and family welfare. It calls for making the approval process for gm foods strict as there is limited scientific evidence of the health risks posed by them. It says the methodology used for assessing the risks is not robust enough and the molecular and genetic effects of the technology are unpredictable. But it concedes that the use of gm crops would improve agricultural productivity, food quality, nutrition and health. "We will review the complaint and make changes in the report, if required. Call us old fashioned, but we prefer to take the safe way," said an icmr official.

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