CHENNAI: As the debate on agriculture technology and genetically modified (GM) mustard gets louder, doctors highlight the need for a detailed study on the health aspects of consumption of biotech crops, which are regarded as safe but said to have a negative effect on some people. Genetically modified food is produced after the alteration of DNA, in an unnatural way using biotechnology. But, due to the genetic modification, food can have reduced quality and nutritive value, say medicos and nutritionists.
"The GM crops aim at increased quantity of the crop, but genetic modification affects the nutrients also, which is different from the naturally grown food. Bio-availability of naturally grown food is always higher than GM crops, which have a different nutritive value," says Dr Dharini Krishnan, Nutrition Consultant with Heinz Nutrition Foundation.
As stated by the World Health Organisation (WHO), when new crops are developed using conventional methods, the characteristics can change positively or negatively. Main issues discussed were of allergic reaction, gene transfer and outcrossing due to consumption of such food.
GM crops are resistant to insects as a gene for toxin production is introduced in the food item from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). But long-term consumption of such food items can impact health in many ways, say doctors. "As a case-by-case basis study is needed to assess the GM foods and their safety because different GM crops include different genes inserted in various ways, a definite conclusion cannot be made on its health aspects as toxins can impact people differently," says Dr D Janardan, a senior nutritionist.
These factors highlight the need for careful assessment and evaluation of GM foods to find out its effect on health. "As these crops are to impact the health of people worldwide, a detailed study of evaluation and assessment of its effects should be done by the professionals. Even though no reports suggest health disasters, there can be indications of health problems arising due to the consumption of such crops," says Dr A. Shanti, member, Doctors' Association for Social Equality.