Does India Understand these Dangers of #GMO Food?

Where GMO food is a major concern for the public and environmentalists in other countries, in India, the environment minister seems to be a comfortable supporter of the government’s eagerness to open the floodgates to GMO vending corporations!

Geneticist Suman Sahai, founder of Gene Campaign in India, in her recent interview warns the nation of the dangers of GMO and lists the following reasons why (in her words) India does “not have the competence to play around with GMO food.”

1. No technological expertise: Our biosafety (prevention of risks associated with biotechnology processes) competence has not improved at all. We need officials trained in genetics who can understand the biosafety data. We have none.

2. No proper field trials: The GMO crop trials are understood [but] nobody follows them. Take the trials of Bt rice conducted in Jharkhand in 2004. We found that one of the farms was in the midst of the farmers’ fields. No signboard, no fencing, no containment of any sort. One farmer put in charge of it had been threshing the produce and may have even eaten it. Later we found volunteer plants (those that grow on their own) had come up on the farm. We sent them for testing and of course they were GM.

3. Government corruption and greed: When we informed the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) that Jharkhand has the highest genetic diversity of rice and such lapses contaminate everything, they sent us a showcause notice for entering the field instead of taking action against shoddy trials.

4. Danger of losing biodiversity: Both brinjal and mustard [two crops India are allowing in] are cross-pollinating plants, so the consequences will be no single, non-GM mustard or brinjal left. Some say you can segregate, but have we managed to segregate Bt cotton? It has gone everywhere.

5. Larger impact on the environment: Uniformity of biodiversity will have its own environmental implications. There is a well-known phenomenon called gene silencing. Very often plants altered genetically don’t survive because you have interrupted the natural process. Those that do survive, certain genes may stop expressing. What can get silenced we have no idea. Yet we are ready to risk the entire germplasm.

6. Risk of Toxicity in food: Brinjal belongs to the Solanaceae family. It’s the family of not just tomato, chilli and potato but also datura (angel’s trumpets) and belladona. These are some of the most toxic plants. We can’t (more…)

Will Kim Kardashian Modernize #Placenta Eating?

The reason I’m taking a curious interest in Kim Kardashian’s plans to eat her placenta, is because I’m actually keen to see how American doctors react to this.  And there’s a reason why.

One of my oldest and closest friends is Hmong American.  The Hmong are an ethnic minority from SE Asia, and live in an extensive community in mid-western USA, a community which I’ve visited frequently with my friend when I stayed with her parents or relatives.  My friend’s mother was a shaman, and she worked with local hospitals translating concepts of health, illness and healing from the Hmong perspective for American doctors with Hmong patients, and vice versa.

childbirth in ancient egypt

Giving birth in ancient Egypt

When a woman gives birth, the Hmong believe that the placenta should be carefully buried under or near the family house, because it holds and guards the spirit of the child.  They believe that if this is not done, then the child will fall very ill and could even die. There are many cultures that have similar beliefs. The Egyptians believed that a child is born with two souls, and one of them was housed in the placenta. So after birth, particularly for royalty, a special tomb would be erected for the burial of the placenta, like for a person. Interestingly where placenta was or still is eaten, as in China, Jamaica,  and among smaller tribes as the Araucaninan of Argentina, it is usually ceremonially eaten by close relatives or fed to the child.  This is symbolic of the same philosophy – i.e. preserving the spirit of the child within the home or by the family.

The problem for the Hmong living in the U.S. was, that American doctors couldn’t fathom this.  They believed that the Hmong were actually eating the placenta (though they actually weren’t)! Placenta-eating is not (more…)

The One Big Rule About Using Fingers To Eat

Some Indian sweets. The ones I generally pick are the ras-malais, the white balls in a bowl. There is a good reason why!!!

I grew up in a culture where we eat many foods, including rice and rotis with our hands.  And in other cultures there are foods called ‘finger-foods’ like fried chicken and burgers and pizza, that are  meant to be eaten with one’s fingers

BUT THE BIG RULE IS:  one is allowed to put one’s finger only in one’s own food! Not in other people’s. This is what a lot of people, specially in India still don’t understand.

In a recent lab study there were about 4700 species of bacteria identified from swab samples taken from only 102 people’s hands.  What that means is (more…)

Why Garbage Cans Disappear in India: A Story (in Pictures)

One in every 5 humans that inhabits planet earth dumps his/her garbage in India.


Hence, one would expect an organized and efficient system of garbage collection/disposal to be a fundamental condition of nation management.  However, garbage has a whole different story in India.  And here it is in pictures.

At first glance it seems that there is no special place for garbage in India! There is garbage everywhere.

It is dumped under trees like this

Empty cartons and plates from the million food vendors that one sees everywhere in India, are piled (more…)

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