Food for Thought – Barsanjit Majumdar
ARE YOU SCARED ABOUT FOOD PREPARED FROM GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROP, THINK AGAIN:
By Barsanjit Majumdar
The purpose of this posting is to give the readers some fact and evidence based information. Recently the protest against Genetically Modified Food (GM FOOD) is enjoying enormous popularity in many places world-wide including US. The truth is considering the projected world population of 9 Billion by 2050 we need to grow 70% more food and the GM FOOD might be the only way to feed the world. At present three quarters of worlds soybean crop, half the worlds cotton and a quarter of world’s corn are being planted in US, Brazil, Argentina and Canada and a large portion of these crop is GM. These countries are extensively using Food based on GM crop.
Certainly anyone could argue that as a unified human society if whole world could share its food resources then there never will be a food shortage. Yes, it is a very wishful thought but in today’s complex geopolitical landscape and dynamics it is not going to happen. So the only alternative is all corners of the world have to earn a near self-sufficiency status at least in terms of food in this projected population explosion. Therefore the food producing plants should grow in less than perfect condition i.e with less harvest time, less water, more salinity, non-optimal pH and temperature, less fertilizer even in pest infested land. Genetic manipulation of the plant is the only viable way to achieve this goal.
Some recent fear tactics against GM food is “it could cause cancer”. This is based on unsubstantiated evidence. It is simply poor science. For example a recent French study (Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, Vol 50, November 2012, Page 4221-4231) concluded that rat feed with GM corn suffered high rate of fatal cancer. This study has been harshly criticized by many independent scientists and laboratory because of its poor experimental design, poor statistical analysis, poor interpretation and use of an animal strain that is predisposed to the high occurrence of cancer (For more information see http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2012/09/25/scientists-smell-a-rat-in-fraudulent-genetic-engineering-study/).
This French group has been criticized in past for lack of scientific merit by European Food Safety Authority. Many Millions of people have consumed genetically modified Soybean, Corn and Rice but Epidemiological data do not support that people from these regions are suffering from higher rate of cancer compared to the region where GM food are not in use.
Another claim based on no scientific rationale. Prof Jack Heinemann and Prof Judy Carman from Australia claimed that using particular GM wheat could cause a serious human disease that mimics glycogen storage disorder a rare but deadly human disease. Their opinion (there is absolutely no evidence) is based on the fact that this GM wheat had been developed by shutting down the expression of a gene responsible for the synthesis of “Glycogen” by RNA interference (RNAi). This wheat has lower starch more grain with a lower glycemic index, healthier wheat. They claimed that the residual RNAi from the wheat may stop Glycogen production in human and could cause devastating consequences. But any scientist working with RNAi will know the lack of scientific rationale for this claim. RNAi in wheat is generated from the engineered genome of wheat under the control of a promoter. It is almost impossible that the RNAi generation machinery will cross the species boundary, pass and integrate into human genome.
We should not forget that there is a finite chance of plane crash every time we travel in plane. Another logic that many people are using is “Who knows what bad consequences the GM food could bring”. We should not forget that when our ancestors first discovered fire, the discovery of the 1st antibiotic penicillin, controlling the growth of cancer cell by radiation we did not know the consequences but today we cannot survive without those. The vaccines against polio and small pox that our body has received and made us immunized against these viruses are live but attenuated viruses of the same deadly counterpart.
We should realize that the real danger in Food is from the indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizer and pesticide. The genetically modified crop plant could be less dependent on pesticides because of their inherent pest resistance activity by manipulation of the relevant genes. But, at the same time I agree that uncontrolled use of GM crop might also bring serious threat to the biodiversity of the endogenous plants and some Biotech corporation could use this as a cash crop through the use of Terminator Seed. Public awareness will be absolutely required in these areas.
In conclusion, I will say that many popular propaganda tool against Genetically Modified Food and their so-called Health Risk seriously lacking Scientific Evidence and Rationale and mostly based on Myth, Propaganda and the so called evidence based on Poor Science, inconsistent, irreproducible and not appropriately reviewed scientific data.
Disclosure: I have no financial relationship with any Biotechnology Organization engaged in the production and sale of Genetically Modified Crop. As an academic scientist all of the research programs in my laboratory at Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio are funded by US Federal Government such as National Institute of Health and non-profit research organization such as American Heart Association.
Regarding the Author:
Barsanjit Mazumder Ph.D (Ex Student of Siksha Bhavan, VB)
Associate Professor, Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease
Department of Biological Science, Cleveland State University
2399 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115, USA
Ph: 216-687-2435, Fax: 216-687-6972