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New study backs up India’s ban on GM Brinjal

Immediate release (19 Jan 2011)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

A new study [1] of the safety data on GM Brinjal (eggplant or aubergine) backs up the Indian Government’s decision to place a moratorium on its approval in February 2010. [2]

The study reviews the toxicity data submitted by Monsanto’s Indian subsidiary Maharashtra Seed Company when they applied to grow GM Brinjal in India. The GM Brinjal is genetically modified with a Bt gene that produces a toxic protein in the plant to kills moth caterpillars, which can be pests of the crop in the sub-continent.

The new study was critical of the methods used to assess the crop’s toxicity:

The current food safety studies for Bt brinjal were not conducted in accordance with published standards, did not accurately summarize results, and ignored toxic endpoints for rats fed Bt brinjal.

Several indicators of toxic reactions to the GM brinjal with potential to cause adverse effects are reported:

  • Elevated white blood cell counts from chronic exposure – indicating possible inflammation allergy or tissue damage.
  • Higher aspartate aminotransferase [3] in blood from acute exposure – indicating possible liver damage.
  • Elevated bilirubin [4] in blood – indicating possible liver damage.
  • Altered plasma acetylcholinesterase [5] – indicating possible liver damage.
  • Smaller ovaries – indicating possible reproductive toxicity.
  • Enlarged spleens – indicating possible chronic infections or blood cancer.

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

This review of the toxicity data has produced some very worrying findings which should have been spotted and followed up by Monsanto before any application to grow GM Brinjal was made. They fully vindicate the decision by the Indian Government to place a moratorium on the approval last year following protests by thousands of Indian people.

There would be every justification to maintain the moratorium indefinitely until there is more data on its toxicity available and independently assessed. Regulators around the world should note these new findings and review how GM crop safety is assessed as a matter of urgency.

ENDs

Notes

[1] BT BRINJAL Event EE1 The Scope and Adequacy of the GEAC Toxicological Risk Assessment Review of Oral Toxicity Studies in Rats. Author Dr Lou M Gallagher, PhD Wellington, New Zealand.

About the author: Dr Gallagher has a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Nutrition and Foods from the University of Vermont USA, a Master of Science in Environmental Technology from the University of Washington, USA, and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Otago in New Zealand. Dr. Gallagher works for government, university and the private sector with twenty years of experience in risk assessment toxicology, dose‐response modelling and environmental epidemiology. She has twenty‐four peer reviewed publications in international journals and advises graduate students in risk assessment and epidemiology.

See report at www.testbiotech.de/sites/default/files/Report%20Gallagher_2011.pdf.

[2] See “GM Freeze Welcomes GM Brinjal Decision” (9 February 2010) and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8503825.stm.

[3] Aspartate aminotransferase is an important enzyme in building proteins.

[4] Billirubin is a yellow pigment in bile resulting from the breakdown of red pigments in blood cells.

[5] Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme which control nerve impulses.