ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

5 March 2002


not the first of April...
Transgenic food can enhance AIDS, Hepatitis B [shortened]
The Press Trust of India, March 3, 2002

New Delhi, Mar 3: Even as the final verdict on the safety of genetically modified food is still awaited, an Indian expert has raised fears on their consumption claiming transgenic food could enhance several auto-immune diseases and also pose problems of toxicity.

"If a plant is genetically modified at any time either by conventional breeding techniques or genetic manipulation, it ultimately results in the introduction of new proteins which can bring about drastic changes in its properties," S Prakash, Senior Biochemist, Department of Gastroenterology and Human Nutrition, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said in a paper presented at a recent National Convention on Transgenic Rapeseed-Mustard.

Such genetically modified plants, with changes in their amino acids, can inhibit the self-formation of antibodies, substances which assist in combating harmful foreign bodies, thereby enhancing auto-immune diseases such as Hepatitis B and AIDS, Prakash said.

"Foreign DNA fragments that are not fully digested in human stomach and intestines can also play an important role in aggravating such diseases," he said. Prakash said certain genetically engineered products called "neutraceuticals," which have recently hit the market with promises of reducing the risk of cancer and lowering levels of cholesterols, could actually do more harm than good.

These neutraceuticals are manufactured by artificially adding antioxidants -- compounds that scavenge free radicals reducing the risk of cancer -- as opposed to certain plants which naturally contain these substances, he said. Acceptance by the human body of antioxidants in their natural form from plants is 100 per cent while studies have shown a very low percentage of acceptance from artificial sources. Moreover, the body uses only that amount of antioxidant which it requires the rest remain unutilised.

The excess antioxidant reacts with other sensitive compounds in the body leading to the production of toxic chemicals, he said adding excess Vitamin C (also an antioxidant) has been linked to gastrointestinal cancer.

Prakash said some of the biotechnology companies were misleading people into using genetically modified products manufactured by them.

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