Killer Food

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Poison on the Platter is a movie by Mahesh Bhatt. The film is intended to create awareness and to enlighten the people about the introduction of genetically modified crops in the Indian market and the irreversible adverse impacts on human health.

In today’s world, we have a very big question — how safe is the food we eat? Do we really know what we are eating? Hunger is such a basic want that we do not even think about whether the food is safe for us or not. Answers to some of these thought-provoking questions can be seen in the film Poison on the Platter, produced and anchored by Mahesh Bhatt and directed by Ajay Kanchan.

The film sheds light on the frightening impact of genetically modified (GM) crops and food on all living beings on planet earth, in general, and on human beings in particular. It launches a scathing, no-holds-barred attack on biotech multinational companies and their nexus with regulatory bodies for unleashing what he describes as “bio-terrorism” in the country. It opens with graphic cards to underscore the veracity of the facts and arguments that unfold within the film.

“Whatever has been said in this film is supported by incontrovertible scientific evidence appearing in some of the best-known peer journals,” is the graphic card that comes up before the film begins.

Another card goes, “The MNCs that sell genetically modified seeds and promote GM foods never talk about the reports and vastly exaggerate the doubtful success of the GMCs and this is precisely the reason for making this film.”

The film opens with documentary clips of natural and man-made and natural disasters like terrorist attacks on 9/11, Hiroshima-Nagasaki, etc., to move on to people on the streets, partaking of all kinds of food being asked about whether they are aware of the dangers inherent in the food they are eating. In different ways, the answer they give is the same — no, they don’t. But food gets cooked and eaten nevertheless, and every day, the possibility of our kidneys being damaged, our liver being tampered with and our blood getting diseased rises manifold as we do not know whether we are eating GM foods or not.

Expert scholars on GM food, who are against its propagation in India and beyond, explain what GM food is all about and why it is dangerous to cultivate GM crops and GM food. Nature allows the crossing of genes that are identical such as a wheat plant with a wheat plant, a maize plant with a maize plant, or a tomato plant with a tomato plant, or, a pig with a pig. It does not allow the crossing of different species such as a pig with a human being. But the genetically modified crop promoters are doing precisely that. They are tampering with nature that carries danger for all living things on this planet. The mixing of an animal gene and a plant gene goes beyond the ethics of human living. The required tests have not been done before releasing such foods in the market and the “safety data” provided by MNCs involved is full of flaws.

Switzerland placed a moratorium against the import of GM crops for at least five to seven years but has now extended the same till 2013. The argument put forth by proponents of GM crops like Monsanto is that GM crops can double the targets of existing yields in corn, cotton and soybean (in India) while using one-third of resources like water, fertilizers and energy while maintaining a stoic silence on the after effects of the same.
The film points out how BT cotton approved for commercial cultivation in India resulted in the death of 2000 goats and sheep taken to graze in the fields in AP died within a few days. Their intestines had shriveled and they suffered from skin infections due to the toxics present in the crops of the fields. BT cotton, it is claimed, reduces the attack of pests like tobacco budworms, cotton bollworms, and pink bollworms. Farmers, they claimed, were losing much of their cotton due to synthetic pesticide resistance. But they keep silent about the presence of toxics that are dangerous to livestock and to humans.
Poison on the Platter is like a tight slap on the government’s claim of not allowing import of any GM foods in the country as it conclusively demonstrates that supermarkets in India are flooded with harmful food stuff and biotech MNCs are cashing on the ignorance of unsuspecting consumers in India. Senevty percent of US food with GM content is already in India brought in through illegal channels so we are already eating GM food since May 2008. As many as 56 GM crops are in different stages of trial in India that include common cereals, herbs and vegetables like rice, potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, brinjal, okhra, ginger, corn and mustard — an integral part of the daily Indian diet.

The history of GM food is traced back to 1989 when a dietary supplement called L-Trytophan, flooded the US market. It killed 100 persons and affected 10,000 in the country. The effects were so disastrous that the US court was forced to take the Japanese firm Showadenko to task. The firm had to shell out $200 billion in compensation to the victims. Soon after, the USA cultivated GM soya, hundreds of mice were affected by soya allergies in the UK where GM soya found its way. As many as 12 cows died in Germany after being fed with BT corn.

The surviving victims suffered excruciating pain doctors had never seen before. Victims of all ages suffered from varied symptoms like memory loss, hair fall, a weakening of muscles, locking and tightening of muscles, leathery skin that became painful, etc. This is intercut with scary clippings of children and youngsters in pain. Many suffered permanent disabilities and the US faced a deadly epidemic.

Poison on a Platter is a very good film. But also very scary.

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