Self-poisoning by license

Alarming news has just arrived from Canada. The latest research reveals that Bt toxins are turning up in pregnant women and killing human embryo cells and unborn babies. Where did these toxins come from? The only possible explanation is that they came from man-manipulated genetically-modified Bt crops. Nothing else in the world can spread them to humans.
Although GM crops have been around a mere 17 years, they’ve created more havoc in a much shorter time than even destructive monoculture and agro-chemicals could in a century since their introduction. Understanding and action have been slow, partly because it was seen as primarily a farmers’ issue. No more, as mushrooming numbers of protests and legal actions around the world confirm. When people eat the produce of GM seeds, they spread toxins and alien DNA into our bodies and that of our offspring in horrifying ways only now being discovered.
“It’s called reproductive toxicology,” writes Natural Society, “and just like their suicide seeds, these Bt toxins are starting to kill our own unborn children. Bt toxins are prominent in genetically altered crops such as corn, soy, wheat, and others, called Cry1Ab - and they can be lethal. Not only do these cry-toxins target the kidney cells of developing human fetuses, but when Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac are combined with RoundUp, they can delay apoptosis (genetically-programmed cell death) of human cancer cells. What’s worse, glyphosate, the main ingredient in RoundUp, also causes necrosis, i.e. the death of human tissue, and this happens even when the substance is found in much smaller amounts than what is currently being used in our agricultural crops.”
A couple of years ago, an Argentinian mother lost her 3-day old daughter to kidney failure, resulting from chemicals that saturated fields, farmers and the environment in an ongoing process of comprehensive poisoning. The bereaved Sofia Gatica with 16 other mothers of sickened children, then launched an international anti-Monsanto movement. Countless others joined up. Men too, are parents; as such they were also concerned for themselves, because infertility was rising.
Sofia’s organization arranged the first scientific study of the area and researchers found several agro-chemicals in women’s blood (including endosulfan which is banned in 80 countries). A third of all residents were struck with cancer, over 40 times the national average; plus birth defects, infant mortality, and high rates of neurological and respiratory diseases.
Previous German research showed Monsanto’s Roundup in all urine samples tested, at 5 to 20 times the prescribed limit for drinking water. It wasn’t the first time that direct toxicity to human cells was demonstrated, killing even at low doses. The most detrimental impacts were on infants and unborn babies.
Activists, accompanied by afflicted victims, protested at the Ministries of Agriculture and Health. Thanks to the movement, Argentina’s Supreme Court decided that agrochemicals could not be sprayed near inhabited areas; buffer zones between aerial spraying and inhabited areas became mandatory. Hopefully one day our Supreme Court will do the same.
And then the threats began. An armed intruder broke into Sofia’s house, warning against her activities. Only one party could possibly object. She went to the police, but they wouldn’t share their ‘secret’ findings with her. Still, her years of tireless activism won her the Goldman environmental Award. Large groups of farmers sued Monsanto for causing ‘devastating birth defects.’
Previously scientists believed that Bt only attacked insects. They were wrong. They now concede that concentrated in the plant itself, it affects mammals too. Monsanto’s Bt crops were found to damage red blood cells responsible for delivering oxygen to the body.
Last year, Dr. Mezzomo and a team of scientists at the Department of Genetics and Morphology, and the Institute of Biological Sciences at the University of Brasilia, published their research. They found that ‘Cry’ toxins (whereby multiple genes from different genes are assembled into one), were disruptive even at the lowest administered doses. They poisoned the blood, interrupted blood clotting, lowered the levels of hemoglobin, and caused organ degeneration and tissue damage. Other scientists backed these findings with their own.
Another new study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that Monsanto’s “Roundup” glyphosate weedicide was responsible for rising chronic kidney disease among rice farmers in Sri Lanka and several other countries. Just days ago, Sri Lanka became the first nation to ban its import and sale.
These are serious issues that have never been given any thought here because our Health Ministry was never involved in the Bt crops issue. Now health and lives are at stake with the USA trying to remain entrenched as the world’s agricultural dictator, using sham regulatory bodies riddled with conflicts of interest.
 ‘Biotech Ambassadors’, a new report by Food & Water Watch, accuses the US State Department (USDA) of aggressively pushing GMO crops through their embassies to persuade governments to warm to giant agro-chemical firms like Monsanto. 926 State Department cables written between 2005-2009, released by Wikileaks, were analysed. It transpired that US embassies arranged forums, conferences, speeches, policy meetings, and junkets for officials, lobbying to sell water- and chemical-guzzling biotech and GMOs despite rising global water and land shortages. In fact, the State Department offered special funding to embassies to do so.
A State Department spokesperson responded that ‘global diplomacy required that US embassies work to improve access to the latest science as well as all types of foods.’ But the Biotech Ambassadors report calls for an end to these programs, “because genetically produced crops are being imposed on countries that do not want them, on behalf of seed companies that do not need US taxpayer support.”
This bears non-government, independent experts taking a much closer look at the institutions and regulatory processes set up for GM/Bt and agro-chemicals in Pakistan, and for comprehensively informing the public. Because, the promise of reduced chemicals, drought and insect resistance, and higher yields, have yet to be borne out either here or elsewhere in the world. Although all field trials in Pakistan were acknowledged unsatisfactory, all Bt cotton varieties applied for were recently approved nonetheless under pressure, to be unleashed for mass commercialization. In further unseemly haste, discussions were begun immediately on introducing GM maize.
It is no longer enough to let the various Ministries of Agriculture, Textiles and Climate Change alone decide on thrusting Bt and other GM crops on us, whether citizens are consulted and agreed or not, just because the Americans — no longer able to strong-arm most other western countries rejecting GM — have resorted to imposing it on countries they can bully.
Or will we have to wait for those who were hell-bent on approving Bt crops, good or bad, to be shaken into noticing when widespread poisoning and deaths can no longer stay invisible? Decision-makers like Mr. Seerat Asghar Jaura, Federal Secretary National Food Security & Research (NFS&R); Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad Chairman PARC; Dr. Khalid Abdullah Malik, Cotton Commissioner; Dr. Shahid Masood, PARC; Dr. Muhammad Aslam Gill, Food Security Commissioner, (NFS&R), and Syed Muhammad Nasir Ali Director General, Federal Seed Certification & Registration Department. And Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who personally wrote to the Federal Minister for Climate Change for the issuance of commercial licenses ‘at the earliest.’

 The writer is a former journalist and currently director of The Green Economic Initiative at Shirkat Gah, a rights and advocacy group.

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