Toxins from Bt crops hitting unborn babies: study

Even as a debate rages in India over the large-scale propagation of genetically modified crops like Bt brinjal, a landmark study in Canada has found that toxins implanted into GM food crops to kill pests are reaching the bloodstreams of women and unborn babies.

The study, carried out by independent doctors at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, found that 93 per cent of blood samples taken from pregnant women and 80 per cent from umbilical cords tested positive for traces of the chemicals.

Biotech companies have for years been genetically engineering food crops, including putting genetic material from the pesticide Bt into crops such as corn, potatoes, rice, cotton - and now brinjal (aubergine), an almost staple vegetable in Indian diets.

In India, Bt rice is already widely grown; while millions of acres in North and South America are planted with GM corn containing the toxins, which is fed in vast quantities to farm livestock around the world.

Now it seems clear that the toxins designed to kill crop pests are reaching humans and babies in the womb - apparently through food. It is not known what, if any, harm this causes, but there is speculation it could lead to allergies, miscarriage, abnormalities or even cancer.

The industry has always maintained that if these toxins are eaten by animals or humans they will be destroyed in the gut and pass out of the body, causing no harm. The latest study appears to blow a hole in these claims.