A genetically modified eggplant showing some promise of trying to become a food crop in developing countries is actually found to be toxic, according to an independent scientific report. Bt brinjal, the name for the genetically modified eggplant developed by Monsanto of the US and Mahyco of India, has been confirmed to cause reproductive disorders, liver damage and inflammation when consumed during tests. It can be seen as another blow to the introduction of genetically modified foods in the consumer market in terms of people’s mindset about GMO’s in general.
Bt brinjal is supposed to be India’s first GM crop for human consumption. It was already approved for commercialization in India since 2009. But after a widespread public outcry concerning its safety, it was put on hold by the Indian government pending further safety studies. And it seems that the temporary suspension was a wise decision since Bt brinjal has recently been found to be unsafe for consumption.
The said independent study was actually a re-assessment and analysis of the raw data of the 14- and 90-day studies included in the Bt brinjal dossier reported to the Indian government by Monsanto. The worst part is that the said dossier was approved and submitted by the government regulators in India. The recent results of the said dossier being flawed may now put those involved in a compromising situation.
The re-assessment was done by Lou Gallagher, an environmental epidemiologist and a risk assessment expert. According to entries in her report, “current results from these rat feeding studies indicate that rats eating Bt brinjal experienced organ and system damage: ovaries at half their normal weight, enlarged spleens with white blood cell counts at 35 to 40 percent higher than normal with elevated eosinophils, indicating immune function changes; toxic effects to the liver: as demonstrated by elevated bilirubin and elevated plasma acetylcholinesterase.”
The report further stated that the major health problems displayed by the test animals were largely ignored by the submitted reports. The dose that was reported was considered lower than what the Indian regulations recommended, the reason probably why the results somehow showed that Bt brinjal was safe.
It seems that flawed data, along with the age old problem of corruption are being used just to seek government approval for the commercialization of Bt brinjal, regardless of how it may adversely affect consumers and the environment later on. Such actions just continue to put genetic modification in a very bad light. If only multinational companies involved in the business of GMO’s are more transparent and honest, the industry may not be seen from such a negative perspective by the public. But such companies put profits and money above all the other things that really matter to consumers and the general public. That is the real problem.