Resources for Understanding GMO Issues and BT Brinjal

The Beautiful Brinjal, Aubergine, Eggplant

Photo courtesy effe8 at sxc.hu
Photo courtesy effe8 at sxc.hu

India and BT Brinjal - January 2010

In January 2010 I read a number of Internet articles about the debate in India surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and BT brinjal. One of the articles was a timely piece here on HubPages, Indian Government says No to BT Brinjal. The author describes the issues involved in the BT brinjal debate in detail, and here is a brief summary: The BT brinjal debate involved the US company Monsanto's attempt to use India as a testing ground for BT brinjal, a genetically modified version of one of India's most important food staples; those in favor argued that pest-resistant BT brinjal would produce larger crop yields, while those against countered that not enough was known about the biological and economic risks of growing BT brinjal.

The author wrote to a well-informed audience—Indians who have an interest in BT brinjal—making the assumptions a good writer does about audience and consequently not defining either brinjal or BT. I found the author's topic and argument compelling, even though there was much background information I did not have.

The BT Brinjal Debate Is Not Limited by Geography or Time

I did not know what brinjal (called eggplant in the USA and aubergine in Europe) was. I knew what BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) was, but I did not know how BT came together with brinjal in order to create a GMO. I came to learn not only how BT and brinjal come together, but also just how complex are the issues surrounding GMOs and why they are so hotly debated.

Like the molecules of air we breathe, GMOs and the issues surrounding them have no geographic boundaries and no time limits—in this increasingly small world we inhabit, each of us is now or will be exposed to GMOs and GMO issues whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not.

Here are Internet resources you can use to build your own understanding of GMOs and GMO issues so that you can make informed decisions about the role you will or will not play in GMO development and distribution, no matter where you live on Earth.

A Glossary of GMO Terms

This comprehensive glossary is a summary of GMO facts and terms published in the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations State of Food and Agriculture Report 2003-2004.

What Are GMOs?

In layman’s terms, a GMO is created when genetic material from one organism is artificially introduced into the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) of another, thereby altering that second organism’s DNA. DNA, the chemical building block of all life forms, is responsible for your having black hair and brown eyes or blond hair and blue eyes, and for how an eggplant is not an onion and you are not a rabbit. As you can imagine, once a foreign gene is introduced into an organism’s DNA, the offspring of that organism now display the trait determined by the foreign gene. In the case of BT brinjal, the genetically modified brinjal contains the BT toxin gene, purportedly making the new brinjal more resistant to damage caused by certain insects.

What Are GM Foods?

In a literal sense, all foods are genetically modified through the natural process of genetic mutation or through the selective breeding practices that involve cross pollinating one variety of a plant with another. However, the term GM foods (genetically modified foods) refers specifically to those food plants that have had their DNA modified through the genetic engineering processes performed in a controlled laboratory environment.

It is important to note that BT toxin is not the only genetic material used in the production of GM foods. For example, genes from certain viruses have been used to create virus resistant tomatoes. Learn more about GMOs and DNA and how GMO crops are developed, produced, and marketed.

BT FAQs

BT, a naturally occurring bacterium, has been accepted for more than 50 years as an effective and safe organic pesticide for controlling such pests as mosquitoes, gypsy moths, black flies, and some beetles.

For more BT FAQs, check out the University of California San Diego Aroian Lab website, a rich source for answering questions such as: Is BT harmful to monarch butterflies? Is BT safe in food? ...and more

Are Humans at Risk from GMOs?

There is much debate over this question, primarily because not enough research has been done. Tests conducted in Europe and reported in 2009 found that rats fed GM corn for a period of 90 days presented signs of toxicity in adrenal glands, kidneys, hearts, livers, and spleens. The corn they were fed is currently present in human food and animal feed supplies worldwide. No long-term research on laboratory mammals has yet been completed, and no such research has been conducted on humans. In that GMOs have never been a component of either animal or human diets, the consequences of long-term ingestion are not known.

Do GMOs Negatively Impact Ecosystems?

Again, not enough research has been done. Perhaps BT brinjal will increase a farmer’s crop by 20 to 25 percent or more in the short run, as BT brinjal developers suggest, but at what environmental cost? Will beneficial insect populations that have protected crops grown under the vigilant observance of generations of farmers be lost? Will plants and animals in the vicinity of a GMO crop experience unforeseen changes?

In a stunning comment concluding the report of a study conducted by the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) on predicting the environmental effects of BT crops, the ARS suggests that researchers “…should be able to more accurately predict from laboratory studies the impact that new experimental lines may have in the field.” In other words, the environmental impact of BT crop field plantings has not been assessed in the laboratory before being assessed in the field.

9 February 2010: India Said No to BT Brinjal


January 2012: India Charges Monsanto with Biopiracy in Developing BT Brinjal

Who Stands To Lose, Who Stands To Gain - The Economics and Politics of GM Crops

At this writing in January 2010, who stood to lose or gain was a hot issue in India. India was then and is still the poster child for what can happen to any country with an agricultural economic base. India has a long tradition of preserving crops to sustain its people, and both a desire and the ability to remain a permanent and powerful presence in global economics and politics. What India chose to do regarding BT brinjal would most likely impact GM food issues around the globe.

The economic bottom line for India growers was this: if Indian growers bought Monsanto's GM seeds, then they could not harvest and store seeds for the next year’s planting; instead, they would have to buy new seeds each year. This contractual agreement stepped completely outside India’s tradition of harvesting and storing seeds to be used for the next year. The economic consequence was clear: Monsanto would gain while India would lose, since there was no proof that the yearly investment in GM seeds would sustain a farmer's cash flow over the long term.

What about the politics? This question is not confined to the discussion of India in 2010. Big bucks are being traded on the world market to promote GM crops as the premier solution to global water shortages and soaring population growth. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that the corporations who develop, market, and distribute GMOs sit on one side of the GMO fence while global environmental organizations sit on the other. Consensus is still far in the future.

A Sobering Look at Who Stands To Gain

Where Do You Stand?

“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

I am actively involved in GMO issues.

  • Yes
  • No
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This Hub helped me better understand GMOs and GMO issues.

  • Yes
  • No
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This Hub inspires me to learn more about: (you can choose only one, so please elaborate on your choice in the comments section)

  • GMOs and economics
  • GMOs and politics
  • GMOs in my country
  • GMOs in my kitchen
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I already knew that a brinjal was an eggplant.

  • Yes
  • No
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More by this Author


Comments 47 comments

sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 6 years ago

Thank you for this timely Hub ST. This is a big and emotive and complex issue in India. Your Hub has helped to make me better informed.


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 6 years ago from India

I have to say your hub is more enlightening than a lot of the discussion around BT Brinjal that we've been bombarded with over the past few weeks in India! As of yesterday the Government has decided not to allow BT Brinjal till more research has been done on its effects on consumers. We will have to wait and watch.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

How dare they put these food onto the market without us knowing after the rats developed diseases? Also when they haven't done enough research. It shows the care for profit and nothing else. Thank you for a great, informative hub.


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 6 years ago

Well done. Clearly, more research is needed. However, I would hazard a guess that the majority of the population care nothing about about how food is produced, how animals are killed, under what conditions the food gets to the market or just how greedy giant corporations are. Apathy, plain and simple. Al long as the consumer can go to the store, buy what they need, there is little to no interest in the background of any food and how it got there. The important thing, to the average consumer, is that the product is available.

Loved this hub, your research skills always astound me :)


billy sidhu profile image

billy sidhu 6 years ago

Thanks Sally- very informative- at least I know now what the whole deal is.


proudgrandpa 6 years ago

WOW and Wow,

The first Wow is for such excellence in a hub. The second one is for raising this very important point in our history. Without getting too political I think if we close K Street in Washington DC and send all those lobbyist home we would stand a much better chance at democracy. Oops, I guess I didn't hold back. I am almost finish reading "The speed of Trust" by Steven M.R. Covey so your Jefferson quote has so much power for me. Just for the record I do NOT trust Monsanto about this and many other corporate integrity issues. Thanks for all your hubs, not just the ones that make me hungry. NEIL


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Sabu, thank you for the good words and the great links to information that increased my understanding about BT brinjal in India. I feel another Hub coming on!

FP, thanks so much for your positive feedback. As I researched the recent goings-on, it was a challenge to find unbiased information. I'm glad my "basic primer" was helpful. :)


annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 6 years ago from Philly Burbs

Awesome hub as always, Sally! I'm afraid that for practical purposes, I'm one of the apathetic consumers that Trish so rightly calls out, but your hub has definitely gotten me thinking. And aubergines are just soooooo cute!


Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 6 years ago

Monsanto? Watch the movie "Food Inc." Food manufacturers are not required by law to disclose whether the food is genetically altered. What a great article, more people need to be aware of this. You may delete this if you do not want the link on here. You are a very prolific writer.

http://www.traileraddict.com/trailer/food-inc/trai...


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Hello,hello, I hear you loud and clear. Take a look at Tammy Lochmann's comment and watch the Food, Inc. movie trailer...that is, only if you want to keep your adrenalin level elevated. ;)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Trish, one of the things I love best about enjoying HP with you is that you and I talk endlessly about the Hubs we write or don't write, what they mean to us, and then still come here to make a comment.

When we talked about this Hub a few days ago, we didn't talk about apathy. I think there are many out there who are not apathetic and many who are. Looks like I'm going to have to do more research on this question. Thanks, my friend, for giving me more to think about.


Cathy profile image

Cathy 6 years ago from Oregon, USA

Corporations and environmentalists are always going head to head. Great Hub and I'll be more apt to read articles involving GMO issues. Sounds like more big business sneakiness, so the better educated we all are...well, Jefferson said it.

Also, I don't agree wholeheartedly that people don't care about this subject. Consumers are changing their thoughts more rapidly today than ever in the past. Look how far organics have grown. They're in every grocery store I go to now, not just the co-op or farmer's market like just a few years ago. I myself am definitely changing and I was a bona fide Twinkie fiend : )


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

billy, it means a lot to me that you would find this information useful. You are in the hotspot, India, of where this discussion is making news. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Neil (proudgrandpa), you delight me. I am so glad my Hubs make you hungry. :)

Today we got news that congressional voting in Washington DC would be delayed because of inclement weather. Seems that our senators and representatives can't get together to talk about their issues in a communal place. Too much snow.

I have to wonder...everyone else who is wired up to the Internet can have video conferences and Skype conversations. Why not our legislators?

So, our legislative branch will take a siesta while the snow blows over. Funky. Let our legislators get with the real world and do their business with online technology. And let the lobbyists not have access to that system.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

annemaeve, if it's a cute aubergine that gets us thinking, then that's all that counts. Remember, moussaka and the days when GM foods were not even imagined. Our eggplants came from the garden.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Tammy, your contribution here is most welcome, and that puts it mildly. We need to stop living behind blinders. Thanks so much for that link.


FlyingPanther profile image

FlyingPanther 6 years ago from here today gone tomorrow!!

Sally , Thank you for that very informative hub. You know while I lived in British Colombia Canada we would grow our vegetables organicly, now im having a hard time eating what is at the store either its meat or anything else at times I just cant!So when i can I buy organic stuff, but your hub is very interesting thank you for sharing.

Love always.

FlyingPanther


kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 6 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

Sally, the issue of GMOs is one of the most important we face today - the implications are frightening - corporations have been tampering with seeds and creating new organisms that would never occur in nature due to natural cross pollination - then they patent them and own them as intellectual property - disallowing farmers to save seeds from year to year - farmers are caught in the snare of the greedy agribusiness that has already succeeded in owning them and forcing them to buy the seed and the pesticides they sell. The FDA is sold out Monsanto and others who are players here, and refuses to require these foods to be labeled so the public can choose whether to buy GE or non-GE food. Most of our food his now being genetically engineered and corporations will continuing controlling more and more of the world's food supply. Of course they want to control the agriculture in other countries like India where they are meeting with a great deal of resistance by some great activists.

http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/science-techn...


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Cathy, I'm glad this Hub inspires you to read more on the topic. Adite's writings were that inspiration for me.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Your important words add much to this topic.

Best regards,

Your fellow (and former) Twinkie fiend :)

For those of you who might not know what Cathy and I are drooling over, check this out:

http://www.hostesscakes.com/twinkies.asp


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Flying Panther, I know what you mean. The good news is that the the organic farming industry does not recognize genetic engineering as an organic method.

Stay warm, eat well!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Kartika, thank you for eloquently stating the issue staring us in the face. Kudos to all of India for their decision. And thank you also for providing the link to the Voice of America update on India's vote.


kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 6 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

Sally, I worked for a non-profit years ago - Mothers for Natural Law - we worked on this issue and a number of people in my town are pretty actively involved with the issue - one thing I learned is the FDA is IMPOSSIBLE and POLITICIANS are scared to death to touch it - the Catholic church came out and said it is wrong. I live in Iowa and all the farmers use Monsanto GMO seed - only the organic growers don't. But, as you say, now the GMO Crops are contaminating the organic crops - a real sci-fi nightmare!


adite profile image

adite 6 years ago from New Delhi, India

Sally, what a well written hub! I'm honoured that you were inspired by my hub on BT Brinjal. That's a huge encouragement for me. And your excellent hub has taught me a thing or two about how to write better hubs. Thanks!


greensnob profile image

greensnob 6 years ago

Really enjoyed this hub! Yes, America has been pushing the agricultural envelope on our food production for the masses. This was an eye opener. I have just discovered the herb Salba, for health. Some of the most intriguing reading is about our food choices, or lack of understanding what we should be eating or not eating and why.


ateenyi profile image

ateenyi 6 years ago from Chicago

Informative Hub!!!!!!!

The hub is inclined toward scientific arena. The US Agriculture Research Services were the main area of focus. The methodology adopted in the research field is discussed in detail. The hub is highly informative and hugely knowledgeable.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Kartika, thanks again for providing additional useful information. It appears that there's quite a body of factual information prepared by Mothers for Natural Law regarding genetic engineering and food at this site:

http://www.safe-food.org/-issue/ge.html

The information there is current up to 1998; the work of Mothers for Natural Law is now being continued by the Organic Consumers Association here:

http://www.organicconsumers.org/

I'm sure you know all this, but I wanted to share it with our readers.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Adite, thank YOU for your inspiring work on this issue. It's pretty complex, isn't it? I'm looking forward to your next articles on the topic.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Greensnob, I agree completely with you that "Some of the most intriguing reading is about our food choices, or lack of understanding what we should be eating or not eating and why." There is so much education needing to be done. Thanks for adding your thoughts...and for introducing me to Salba. I had no idea what it was until you commented here.

ateenyi, I found it quite challenging to write objectively about this topic, especially when I started to realize how skewed a lot of the so-called scientific information out there is. I am glad you found the resources in this Hub helpful, just as I did.


martycraigs profile image

martycraigs 6 years ago

Robert Falkner, Senior Lecturer International Relations at the London School of Economics, has some great literature on this topic. Those interested in reading more about the political and world trade issues at play in the GMO debate should check out his book: The International Politics of Genetically Modified Food.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Marty, thank you very much for pointing us toward this resource. Yours is exactly the kind of participation I want this Hub to elicit...an exchange of ideas and information.

For those of you who'd like to take a look, Faulkner's book appears in the Amazon capsule above.


Cathy profile image

Cathy 6 years ago from Oregon, USA

YIKES!! Just read the Twinkie page and 'deep frying them' is a real gagger to me!! eewww...aren't they bad enough without the lard?? Make that extra lard.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

LOL Cathy...fresh out of the package is good enough for me. The idea of deep frying gags me too. However, I've never tried them that way, but I think I might like them. Just more comfort on top of comfort. :) Oh, a sad state I'm in.


2patricias profile image

2patricias 6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

This is a truly excellent Hub. All too often, writers present an arguement for/against an issue without explaining the basics.

You have provided the information that is required for an informed debate, and explained where to access more detail.

If we could rate this Hub 'up' twice, we would.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Your comment shows that my purpose in writing this resource article is achieved. There is plenty of for/against out there on this issue in particular, but I'm not sure that all who take sides are as informed as they could be. Admittedly, it's a complex topic, and I'm happy to contribute to the "101" understanding of it. 2pats, thanks so much for your good words.


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

What a wonderfully informative hub, Sally's Trove. Thank you so much for the link - I'm linking this hub to mine so readers can understand exactly what the issues about GMOs are all about. We may have won the battle when it comes to brinjal but most definitely haven't won the war. Isn't it sad when our kitchens and health are under attack by the people who we elect to keep us safe?


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

How true, Shalini, about our elected officials, and this truth holds in my country as well, certainly when it comes to the issue of GM foods.

Thank you always for your thoughtful comments. And thank you also for linking to this Hub from yours, "You Can Do It If You Try."


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

nice one well written about GMOs, Thank you!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

You are so welcome. Thank you for reading and commenting.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

There are many sides to this issue. There's nothing simple about it.

Today in the news, scientists announced that they've created a GM mosquito that cannot carry malaria. The implications are huge, but the questions this research provokes are even grander.

There's a danger in looking at this issue from only one viewpoint, which is easy to do if we buy into the benefits without being apprised of the negative consequences.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment.


METPRP 5 years ago

Listening to and reading many technical presentations at work I find this article very informative. The discussion of (Frankenfood) sorry but, that's what we call it arround our lunch room is lively and heated.

But, the majority of participants are not in favor of GM foods.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

METPRP, thank you for your contribution to this discussion. I had not heard the term "Frankenfood" before.

The character of the monster had a redeeming quality of his creator, namely a soul or at least a prototypical soul. In creating the monster, Dr. Frankenstein strove to infuse his creation with heart and compassion.

Frankenfoods have no essence of heart or compassion, contrary to what their PR gurus would have us believe (as you folks around the lunch table know). They are not for the betterment of feeding the world's hungry; they are for the betterment of corporate gain.

I am glad you have these discussions around the lunch room. Unfortunately, too many folks have no idea of what you are talking about...they have no idea of how much of their daily food intake already consists of GMOs.


Vanadis profile image

Vanadis 5 years ago from Barcelona

A very informative hub! I have strong feelings on this matter and oppose GMOs. Much more research is needed, but sadly profit comes before health and the environment. All we can do is continue to raise awareness and buy organic food while it is still available (cross pollination from GMOs are quickly contaminating organic seed so who knows how long it will be) or grow your own organic food. Thanks for addressing this issue.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Vanadis, thank you for sharing your thoughts here. It is a matter of greed and politics.

While the UK and other European countries have decided to regulate GMO crops, and India drew its line in the sand a year ago, the US has failed to take a cautious stand, thereby allowing GMOs to be a focus of US industry. This will give us another reason to be hated around the world. Sad.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

Thanks for sharing this information. This is such a big topic and sadly most of us are eating GMOs in some form or fashion and don't even realize it. When I give nutrition seminars and touch on this topic, most in the audience can't believe how wide spread GMOs are in the U.S.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Thanks for bringing this topic up to date, Kris. You are right...most folks in the US don't know that genetically modified foods are staples of their diets. Every loaf of bread, every pot of popped corn, and too many more commonly consumed foods already contain GMOs.

I applaud India for taking a stand against introducing GMOs into one of their food staples, the brinjal, although I don't know how long the stand will last.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

I just read recently that there was a high suicide rate among farmers in India over this. They were talked into buying GMO seed the first year at low prices and then once hooked the prices went way up the following year. I never went back to check the source of the info but that's pretty devastating for the families of these farmers if that is true.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Kris, your information is correct. Here's an in-depth article on the GMO-related suicides in India. Interestingly, this article dates back to November 2008:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1082559/Th...

A search on GM genocide India will return more recent news.

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