Bt brinjal can damage liver, hit immunity: Study
New Delhi January 17, 2011
The consumption of genetically modified brinjal can make you sick. If eaten regularly, it can adversely hit the immune response of the body, cause liver damage and lead to reproductive disorders.
This has emerged from toxicity studies done by Mahyco in rats fed on Bt brinjal for up to 90 days, but the company either suppressed these facts or misrepresented them while submitting data to the regulator - the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).
Based on this data, the GEAC approved the commercial release of Bt brinjal, but the approval was subsequently put on hold by environment minister Jairam Ramesh in February 2010. The moratorium remains in force till now. An analysis of raw research data done by an independent expert has revealed that major health problems arising in test animals were ignored and standard research protocols set by the department of biotechnology (DBT) were not followed.
Mahyco had concluded that there were no health effects of Bt brinjal - which was readily accepted by the regulator. But a close scrutiny of the same data revealed "serious indications that consumption of Bt brinjal can cause inflammation, reproductive disorders and liver damage".
The analysis was done by Dr Lou Gallagher - an epidemiologist from New Zealand. The data shows that rats fed with Bt brinjal experienced "organ and system damage and had ovaries at half their normal weight, enlarged spleens with white blood cell counts at 35 to 40 per cent higher than normal with elevated eosinophils, indicating immune function changes". Toxic effects to the liver were seen in the form of elevated bilirubin.
Mahyco did not accurately summarise its results and more importantly, ignored toxic effects seen in rats.
"The text (in the Mahyco study) does not match the data," Gallagher said. For instance, while significant changes in ovarian and spleen weights for the female rats fed Bt brinjal have been listed in the report, the conclusion says: "No alterations in the organ weights of rats treated at 1,000 mg/ kg (were found)". In addition, DBT protocols were flouted - which resulted in lower standards being used, with less power to detect changes in rats. In one of the trials, exposure days were reduced by 29 per cent.
Similarly, there is no clarity on the concentration of toxic protein in dried brinjal powder fed to rats.
"Release of Bt brinjal for human consumption cannot be recommended given the current evidence of toxicity to rats in just 90 days," the report concluded.
Veggie's toxic effects
- White blood cell counts lower by 9 to 12 per cent compared to those on normal diet, indicating lower immunological function
- Levels of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) 54 to 60 per cent higher than the controls, indicating damage to the liver or heart
- Elevated bilirubin and lower plasma acetylcholinesterase - evidence of liver damage
- Ovary weight was 50 per cent less compared to the controls.