Genetically Modified Foods

India Rejects "Frankenfoods" Amid Protests

Written by Jimmy Mengel
Posted February 18, 2010

As India prepares to introduce genetically modified eggplant into the country's food supply, consumer anger is approaching the heat level of the spiciest curry dishes.

Environmentalists and farmers are now turning that fire towards officials, even going so far as to burn effigies in the streets.

The outcry has forced India's Environmental Minister to halt the crop's release until it can be proven safe and build support from the public.

Eggplant would be the very first genetically modified (GM) crop introduced in India, a nation currently facing serious food shortages as crop yields fail to meet rising populations.

The picture becomes more grim as climate change raises temperatures, providing thriving conditions for pests and disease. Proponents of GM foods argue that the modified crops could be a panacea to the food shortage problem.

The GM eggplant — named Bt brinjal — is modified with a soil bacteria gene, making it more resistant to many of the pests responsible for the crop failures.

While environmentalists are mostly concerned with the possible side effects of consuming genetically modified organisms (GMOs), farmers have another concern: the seeds are almost three times as expensive as organic crop seeds.

And to add insult to injury, the patents held by GMO companies like Monsanto that license the Bt brinjal seeds restrict farmers from reusing seeds, meaning the farmers must shell out for new seeds for each and every sowing.

The fears about cost are amplified by a more foreboding fear that once GMO seeds are implemented into Indian agriculture, farmers will become forever beholden to the Monsantos of the world.

It's refreshing and encouraging that Indian consumers are so well informed on the issue of GM crops. In the U.S., our grocery store shelves are bursting with GMOs, without even a fine-print disclaimer on food labels.

I, for one, think we have every right to know whether or not we're eating "Frankenfoods".

The Institute for Responsible Technology offers a free Non-GMO shopping guide.

The guide teaches you exactly how to spot hidden GMOs in everyday products. And I think you'll be surprised at how many you'll find lurking in your pantry...

Until next time,

Jimmy