Posts Tagged ‘DNA’

THE DEATH

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

THE DEATH

 

Prologue:

As a student of medicine, since I joined medical college in the year 1978, I have been a witness to death either in the form of dissecting a dead body or declaring someone dead. The dissecting cadaver (corpse) is a critical component of every medical education. Without the anatomical understanding of the human body that is afforded by dissection, much of modern medicine would simply not exist. I also remember a very difficult task of informing a crying mother that her only son died of poisoning. Hundreds of patients have died before me in my experience as a doctor. Many times my junior doctors have expressed apprehension of declaring someone dead because they were afraid that patient may still be alive and I used to teach them signs of death like unconsciousness, no response to any stimulus, no breathing, no pulse and no heart beat on auscultation with a stethoscope. To make doubly sure, I used to teach them to take a 12 lead ECG which will show flat line in all leads. It is easy to witness a death in humans but difficult to define death. 

 

Introduction:

In my article on ‘Duality of Existence’, I have shown that the distinction between living and non-living matter is arbitrary because every electron/photon has a consciousness. In my article on ‘Genetically Modified’, I have shown that every DNA in every living organism has consciousness. So somehow consciousness is the key word of deciding that something is alive. Consciousness means awareness of one’s own existence. When it comes to consciousness of humans, ‘I’ comes into picture.  I’d like to know where the “I” goes under you are under general anesthesia. Where does it go during sleep (for those of us who don’t recall dreams)? Where does the “I” go in someone who is in a coma? And is the “I” still the same, the fundamental spirit, for lack of a better term. If a stroke transforms the personality into something totally different from what it was like before that stroke, what happens to ‘I’?  Is it the same ‘I’? Can we separate the “I” from the brain? If you ablate area 17 of the occipital lobe of your brain, you lose vision. Ablate Broca’s area, and you take out speech. If you ablate the temporal lobes, you take out morality. Ablate the frontal lobe, and you radically transform personality, volition, and so on. So we know that the “I” is a function of the physiology and neurochemistry of the brain and therefore when the brain dies, ‘I’ also dies. So brain death means irreversible & permanent destruction of human consciousness, irreversible & permanent loss of ‘I’. However, it will be apparent later on in this article that even if brain is dead, other organs like heart, kidneys, liver etc may be still be alive because cells in these organs survive as long as they get blood circulation no matter whether brain is dead (‘I’ death) and these organs can be used to save lives of other humans by organ transplantation. So ‘I’ death in one human can make another ‘I’ in another human survive. On the other hand, a human may be alive & healthy with good functioning brain with full consciousness but cells of his other organs may be dying on daily basis by the process known as Programmed Cell Death (PCD).  PCD is death of a cell in any form, mediated by an intracellular program. In contrast to necrosis, which is a form of cell-death that results from acute tissue injury and provokes an inflammatory response, PCD is carried out in a regulated process which generally confers advantage during an organism’s life-cycle. PCD serves fundamental functions during both plant & animal tissue developments. PCD are of 2 types, Apoptosis or Type I cell-death and Autophagic or Type II cell-death (Cytoplasmic: characterized by the formation of large vacuoles which eat away organelles in a specific sequence prior to the nucleus being destroyed).  So what is apoptosis?  The term apoptosis had been coined in order to describe the morphological processes leading to controlled cellular self-destruction. Apoptosis is of Greek origin, having the meaning “falling off or dropping off”, in analogy to leaves falling off trees or petals dropping off flowers. This analogy emphasizes that the death of living matter is an integral and necessary part of the life cycle of organisms. The apoptotic mode of cell death is an active and defined process which plays an important role in the development of multicellular organisms and in the regulation and maintenance of the cell populations in tissues upon physiological and pathological conditions. For example, the differentiation of fingers and toes in a developing human embryo occurs because cells between the fingers apoptose; the result is that the digits are separate. Between 50 and 70 billion cells die each day due to apoptosis in the average human adult. For an average child between the ages of 8 and 14, approximately 20 billion to 30 billion cells die a day. Too little or too much apoptosis plays a role in a great many diseases. When programmed cell death does not work right, cells that should be eliminated may hang around and become immortal, for example in cancer. When apoptosis works overly well, it kills too many cells and inflicts grave tissue damage. This is the case in strokes and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer, Huntington and Parkinson diseases.  So what is death anyway? You are alive & healthy but your billions of cells are dying daily. You may be declared dead by a doctor but your organs are alive and can be transplanted in another human to save his life. Think over it.

 

If the “I” does in fact survive bodily death, we would like to know where the “I” goes. There comes a concept of the soul & the body. A soul in certain religious, spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions, is the incorporeal essence of a human being which is regarded as immortal, separable from the body at death, and susceptible to happiness or misery in a future state. The afterlife (also referred to as life after death) is an idea that soul in the form of consciousness continues to live after death of the body occurs, by natural or supernatural means. Major views on the afterlife derive from religion, esotericism and metaphysics. The concept of afterlife includes various experiences or phenomena right from reincarnation to near death experiences to out-of-body experiences to astral projection to EVP to mediumship etc. The concept of afterlife is also based on faith which is depicted in religious books like the Bible, the Quran, the Talmud, the Vedas, and the Tripitaka etc. One way that humans have devised for dealing with the tragedy of death and the knowledge of our own mortality is to develop complex visions of what might follow death. Major religions teach the immortality of the soul and put forward an afterlife of reward or punishment, depending on your performance when you were alive; and some teach that human souls cycle eternally, life after life. If a person does believe in the traditional dualistic & religious notion that the soul is separate and distinct from the physical body, then out-of-body experiences can be explained by a non-physical reality that does not lend itself to scientific experimentation of explanation. Such a phenomenon could not be investigated scientifically because science measures physical phenomena. Of course, it is possible that there is some kind of physical manifestation of the out-of-body soul that has not been measured yet because the appropriate scientific measures have not been applied to measuring it. (Has any scientist actually used existing scientific instruments to measure physical signs of the soul departing the body?) Alternately, from a scientist’s perspective perhaps we don’t yet even know of some physical forms of energy that correspond to the soul. It is quite possible that soul never existed and we are only imagining things depending on our religious teaching and in fact we are victims of confirmatory bias of our religious beliefs.

 

A near-death experience (NDE) refers to a broad range of personal experiences associated with impending death. These phenomena are usually reported after an individual has been pronounced clinically dead or otherwise very close to death, hence the term near-death experience. According to a Gallup poll, approximately eight million Americans claim to have had a near-death experience. Many view the NDE as the precursor to an afterlife experience, claiming that the NDE cannot be adequately explained by physiological or psychological causes, and that the phenomenon conclusively demonstrates that human consciousness can function independently of brain activity. NDEs are also associated with changes in personality and outlook on life. Among these changes one finds a greater appreciation for life, higher self-esteem, greater compassion for others, a heightened sense of purpose & self-understanding, desire to learn, elevated spirituality, greater ecological sensitivity & planetary concern, and a feeling of being more intuitive. Changes may also include increased physical sensitivity; diminished tolerance to light, alcohol, and drugs; a feeling that the brain has been “altered” to encompass more; and a feeling that one is now using the “whole brain” rather than just a small part. NDE researchers are trying to prove that consciousness can survive death.

 

Your life is created by mating of your father’s sperm with your mother’s ovum at the time of fertilization. Both the sperm and the ovum were living cells. These living sperm and ovum were created from the living cells of the bodies of father and mother which in turn were created from their respective embryos which in turn were created from the mating of the sperm of grand father and ovum of the grand mother and so on and on and on… So life is created from life of parental germ cells which in turn were created from grand-parental germ cells which in turn were created from great-grand-parental germ cells. In other words, life means ability of DNA to replicate in suitable environment to reproduce itself. When this ability is taken away, it becomes dead DNA. So death means permanent cessation of DNA’s ability to replicate itself. Since DNA functions like a biological internet in any living cell, this DNA’s ability to replicate itself is correlated with the functioning of the biological internet. In other words, death means irreversible cessation of the functioning of the biological internet of DNA.  I will give example. The undifferentiated amebas need never die, only divide. One amoeba divides into two amoebas and two amoebas divide into four amoebas and so on. That means the DNA in the nucleus of amoeba keeps on replicating into similar DNA and the biological internet of DNA continuously functions indefinitely. However, we can kill amoeba by boiling water as extreme heat kills amoeba. So extreme heat destroys the biological internet of amoeba permanently. In the same way we can view the potential immortality of human germ cells. You see, germ cells go on making more germ cells as well as our bodies. The line of germ cells goes on without a break from grandparents to parents to you. And now we see what death is. Death is the casting aside of the body after it has done its work. That work is to carry the germ cells, to feed it, to protect it, to warm it in a warm-blooded organism, and finally to mingle it with the germ cell of the opposite sex. With that, it has completed its function and can be discarded. The thought that life is through with the body once sexual reproduction has been accomplished is repugnant to us as humans because we consider ourselves civilized as opposed to animals. Yet now I should like to say that, repugnant or not, this would be no surprise to a salmon. For in salmon, and eels, and many such creatures, it is all too clear that reproduction is the last act of life, and that the preparation to reproduce is simultaneously the preparation to die. We humans declare someone dead but in fact his DNA is alive in his children and when his children die, his DNA continues to live in his grand children and so the life continues despite deaths of bodies. This invalidates the concept of soul & afterlife as discussed earlier. So this is the asymmetry between life and death. While cells and organisms may die, they have never been observed to arise from non-living material (spontaneous generation). In human affairs, we are normally concerned with the life and death of a person, not the death of his or her components.

 

If there is one thing we can be certain of in life, it’s that eventually we will die – that is, we will no longer be alive. Sadly we are not completely certain what “being dead” mean because defining death is much more complicated than it appears. Also, it seems it is not death per se that scares most people, once you’re dead (really dead, that is), you won’t know anything about it. What does seem to frighten people is the process of dying, and whether it will be painful. Another potentially frightening event is the death of a loved one. It can certainly be a very sad and painful time. There are thought to be five main stages of grief: disbelief, yearning, anger, depression and finally, acceptance. The most common emotional difficulty experienced is, unsurprisingly, emotional loneliness.

 

Death is the termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. The word refers both to the particular processes of life’s cessation as well as to the condition or state of a formerly-living body. Death is the irreversible ending of the vital processes by which an organism sustains itself including chemosynthesis, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, cell generation, and maintenance of homeostasis. Almost all animals fortunate enough to survive hazards to their existence eventually die from senescence. Rare and remarkable exceptions include the jellyfish Turritopsis nutricula, thought to be, in effect immortal. The medusa of Turritopsis nutricula is the only form known to have developed the ability to return to a polyp state, by a specific transformation process that requires the presence of certain cell types (tissue from both the jellyfish bell surface and the circulatory canal system). Careful laboratory experiments have revealed that all stages of the medusae, from newly released to fully mature individuals, can transform back into polyps. Polyps further multiply by growing additional stolons, branches and then polyps, to form colonial hydroids. This ability to reverse the life cycle (in response to adverse conditions) is probably unique in the animal kingdom, and allows the jellyfish to bypass death, rendering Turritopsis nutricula potentially biologically immortal. However, in spite of this remarkable ability, most Turritopsis medusae are likely to fall victim to the general hazards of life as plankton, including being eaten by other animals, or succumbing to disease.

 

Death means irreversible & permanent cessation of life functions. This can involve the whole organism (somatic death), individual organs (organ death), individual cells (cellular death), and individual parts of cells (organelle death). In traditional Western medical practice, death was defined as the cessation of the body’s circulatory and respiratory (blood pumping and breathing) functions. Death meant cessation of heartbeat (cardiac arrest) and of breathing, but the developments of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and prompt defibrillation have rendered that definition inadequate because breathing and heartbeat can sometimes be restarted. Events which were causally linked to death in the past no longer kill in all circumstances; and without a functioning heart or lungs, life can sometimes be sustained with a combination of life support devices, organ transplants and artificial pacemakers. With the invention of machines that provide artificial circulation and respiration; that definition has ceased to be practical and has been modified to include another category of death called brain death.

 

In the United States, the states have adopted criteria for death modeled on the Uniform Determination of Death Act (developed by the President’s Commission, 1981), which says that “an individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead. A determination of death must be made in accordance with accepted medical standards.” In the United Kingdom, the accepted criterion is brain stem death, or the “permanent functional death of the brain stem”. A dictionary defines a death in a better way: ‘Death is defined as the cessation of all vital functions of the body including the heartbeat, brain activity (including the brain stem), and breathing’.

 

Deaths in humans are classified into deaths due to natural causes (senescence, diseases) and unnatural causes (accidents, suicides and homicides including war). From all causes, roughly 150,000 people die around the world each day; out of which about two thirds die of age-related causes but in industrialized nations, the proportion is much higher reaching 90%. In developing nations, inferior sanitary conditions and lack of access to modern medical technology makes death from infectious diseases more common than in developed nations. One such disease is tuberculosis, a bacterial disease which killed 1.7 million people in 2004, Malaria causes about 1–3 million deaths annually and AIDS death toll in Africa may reach 90–100 million by 2025. Hunger or malnutrition cause death of 36 million people worldwide every year. Tobacco smoking killed 100 million people worldwide in the 20th century and could kill 1 billion people around the world in the 21st century.

 

Thanatology is academic and often scientific study of death among human beings. It investigates the circumstances surrounding a person’s death, the grief experienced by the deceased’s loved ones, and larger social attitudes towards death such as ritual and memorialization. It also describes bodily changes that accompany death and the after-death period. In most cases, thanatology is studied as a means towards the end of providing palliative care for dying individuals and their families. Thanatology recognizes that ultimately death is inevitable. It works to develop guidelines to ease the process of dying. Thanatology also studies the similarities and differences of various cultures around the world and their manner of dealing with death of themselves or a loved one. It is primarily an interdisciplinary study frequently undertaken by professionals in nursing, psychology, sociology, psychiatry, social work, and is offered as a course of study at many art schools.

 

Death can also be classified as biological death, legal death, religious death, clinical death and brain death.

 

Biological death:

Biological death means death at a cellular level when all metabolic & homeostatic processes of a living cell irreversibly close down and the cell dies along with enzymatic autolysis of cell organelles. I have already discussed how a human can be alive with death of billions of his cells by apoptosis and a human can be dead yet his organs with living cells can be transplanted. It is note-worthy that many types of human cells like blood & skin cells live for a short time and are replaced by new ones.

 

Legal death:

Legally, a person can be pronounced dead in three different ways. By far the most common is pronouncement by a medical doctor. The second most common is pronouncement by a coroner or a medical examiner. The third way a person can be pronounced legally dead is by the courts; after a person has disappeared for some time, the courts will pronounce them dead so that their property can be distributed appropriately. A death certificate is a legal document which states how and when a person died, and who pronounced them dead.

 

Religious death:

For the Roman Catholic Church, death is the “complete and final separation of the soul from the body”. However the Vatican has conceded that diagnosing death is a subject for medicine, not the Church. Followers of religions like Buddhism believe that the mind & body are integrated and have trouble accepting the brain death criteria to determine death. Some Orthodox Jews, Native Americans, Muslims and fundamentalist Christians believe that as long as a heart is beating even artificially, you are still alive. 

 

Clinical death:

Clinical death is the medical term for cessation of blood circulation and breathing, the two necessary criteria to sustain life. Since breathing rarely continues when the heart is stopped, clinical death would also mean cardiac arrest or cardiac death. The reversal of clinical death is sometimes possible through cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), Defibrillation, Epinephrine injection, and other treatments. Resuscitation after more than 4 to 6 minutes of clinical death at normal body temperature is difficult, and can result in brain damage. Longer intervals of clinical death can be survived under conditions of hypothermia.  Most tissues and organs of the body can survive clinical death for considerable periods. Detached limbs may be successfully reattached after 6 hours of no blood circulation at warm temperatures. Bone, tendon, and skin can survive as long as 8 to 12 hours. However, the brain appears to accumulate ischemic injury faster than any other organ and full recovery of the brain after more than 3 minutes of clinical death at normal body temperature is rare without CPR. The purpose of CPR during cardiac arrest is ideally reversal of the clinically dead state by restoration of blood circulation and breathing so that oxygen can reach vital organs of body. If clinical death occurs unexpectedly, it will be treated as a medical emergency and CPR will be initiated. This effort will continue until either the heart is restarted, or a physician determines that continued efforts are useless and recovery is impossible. If this determination is made, the physician will pronounce legal death and resuscitation efforts will stop. If clinical death is expected due to terminal illness or withdrawal of supportive care, often a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order will be in place. This means that no resuscitation efforts will be made, and a physician may pronounce legal death at the onset of clinical death. Reduced body temperature, or therapeutic hypothermia, during clinical death slows the rate of injury accumulation, and extends the time period during which clinical death can be survived. The decrease in the rate of injury can be approximated by the Q10 rule, which states that the rate of biochemical reactions decreases by a factor of two for every 10°C reduction in temperature. As a result, humans can sometimes survive periods of clinical death exceeding one hour at temperatures below -20°C.

 

Brain death:

Until the late twentieth century, death was defined in terms of loss of heart and lung functions, both of which are easily observable criteria. However, with modern technology these functions can be maintained even when the brain is dead, although the patient’s recovery is hopeless. Therefore, a more advanced understanding of death was accepted by the medical community: when the brain dies before the heart and respiration ceases, this is known as neurological death or brain-death. Accordingly, it is misleading to call a patient “brain-dead”, since that sounds as if the patient is alive and merely suffering from a condition. The brain dead patient is dead and the medical community knows this by the fact that the brain is dead.

 

The term brain death is defined as irreversible unconsciousness with complete loss of brain functions including the brain stem, although the heartbeat may continue. Neuroscience experts define brain death as irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.  Physicians, health care workers, members of the clergy, and laypeople throughout the world have accepted fully that a person is dead when his or her brain is dead. There is a clear difference between severe brain damage and brain death. The physician must understand this difference, because brain death means that life support is useless, and brain death is the principal requisite for the donation of organs for transplantation. In adults, the chief causes of brain death are traumatic brain injury and stroke. In children, abuse is a more common cause than motor vehicle accidents or asphyxia. However, brain death also occurs following clinical death with failure to revive despite CPR but it is classified as clinical death and not brain death. It must be emphasized that when heart & lungs stop working irreversibly, consequently, the brain also dies due to lack of oxygen but it is not classified as brain death. Only 1 % of deaths in the U.S. result in brain death and rest all are clinical deaths. Brain death is the irreversible end of all brain activity (including involuntary activity necessary to sustain life) due to total necrosis of the cerebral neurons following loss of brain oxygenation. There is a controversy whether brain death means death of whole brain along with brainstem or death of only brainstem since all the vital centers to maintain circulation & respiration reside in brain stem. The brain mainly consists of the larger part of the brain (the cortex) and the smaller part of the brain (the brain-stem). Whole brain death is when the entire brain (both cortex and brain-stem) is not functioning, and medical tests show this to be irreversible. Brain stem death means irreversible cessation of functions of brain stem. In both cases, there is a total absence of any response whatsoever to stimulation, and a total lack of breathing and total unconsciousness and no chance of recovery.  The difference lies in the results of testing. In brain stem death, there are instances where blood succeeds in reaching other areas of the cortex and there can be measurable electrical tracings as indicated by an EEG. This is not necessarily indicative of brain function but rather that some cells have electrical activity. Even with this activity, if the patient is brain-stem dead, there is no chance of recovering consciousness or breathing.  Brain death, either of the whole brain or the brain stem, is used as a legal indicator of death in many jurisdictions.  Brain stem death has been the criterion in use in the United Kingdom for declaring death on neurological grounds since 1979. The UK ‘brain stem death’ standard for the diagnosis of death on neurological grounds ignores evidence of persisting life and function in other parts of the brain and has never been accepted in the USA – where the irreversible cessation of function of the entire brain, specifically including the brain stem (‘whole brain death’), is required. The US President’s Council on Bioethics has recently described the UK standard as “conceptually suspect” and ‘clinically dangerous’. Medical science contends that a permanent cessation of electrical activity of brain indicates irreversible loss of consciousness. The definition of brain death can be challenged in future only if technological advancement makes artificial brain possible.

 

Cardinal findings in brain death include coma or unresponsiveness, absence of cerebral motor responses to pain in all extremities, absence of brain stem reflexes, and apnea.  Medical criteria for the diagnosis of brain death when the patient is identified as a beating-heart organ donor are as follows:

Preconditions:

1) There should be no doubt that the patient’s condition – deeply comatose, unresponsive and requiring artificial ventilation – is due to irreversible brain damage of known aetiology.

2) There should be no evidence that this state is due to depressant drugs.

3) Primary hypothermia as the cause of unconsciousness must have been excluded.

4) Potentially reversible circulatory, metabolic and endocrine disturbances likewise excluded.

5) Potentially reversible causes of apnoea (dependence on the ventilator), such as muscle relaxants and cervical cord injury, must be excluded.

 

With these pre-conditions satisfied, the definitive criteria are:

1) Fixed pupils which do not respond to sharp changes in the intensity of incident light.

2) No corneal reflex.

3) Absent oculo-vestibular reflexes means no eye movements following the slow injection of at least 50ml of ice-cold water into each ear in turn (the caloric test). Absent oculo-cephalic reflex means eye balls remained fixed in position on movement of head laterally.

4) No response to supraorbital pressure.

5) No cough reflex to bronchial stimulation or gagging response to pharyngeal stimulation.

6) No observed respiratory effort in response to disconnection of the ventilator for long enough (typically 5 minutes) to ensure elevation of the arterial partial pressure of carbon dioxide to at least 6.0 kPa (6.5 kPa in patients with chronic carbon dioxide retention). Adequate oxygenation is ensured by pre-oxygenation and diffusion oxygenation during the disconnection (so the brain stem respiratory centre is not challenged by the ultimate, anoxic, drive stimulus). It should be noted this is a dangerous and potentially lethal test.

7) Two doctors, of specified status and experience, are required to act together to diagnose death on these criteria and the tests must be repeated after “a short period of time … to allow return of the patient’s arterial blood gases and baseline parameters to the pre-test state”.

8) Brain death is a clinical diagnosis. Confirmatory test may include two isoelectric (flat-line) EEGs 24 hours apart. The patient should have a normal temperature and be free of drugs that can suppress brain activity if the diagnosis is to be made on EEG criteria. Alternatively, a radionuclide cerebral blood flow scan that shows complete absence of intracranial blood flow can be used to confirm the diagnosis without performing EEGs. Other confirmatory tests for brain death include conventional cerebral angiography, extracranial doppler sonography (ECD), somatosensory & brain stem auditory evoked potentials (use of multimodality evoked potentials) and MRI. However, both EEG & ECD have false positives & false negatives and therefore cerebral angiography and cerebral blood flow studies are the most reliable investigations in confirming diagnosis of brain death.    

9) These criteria for the diagnosis of brain-death are not applicable to infants below the age of two months.

 

A study on fifty consecutive patients (aged 19-77 years, median 56 years) with primary cerebral diseases and the clinical signs of absent cortical and brainstem function were subjected to electroencephalography (EEG), brainstem acoustic evoked potentials (BAEP), extracranial Doppler ultrasonography (ECD) and arterial digital subtraction angiography (DSA). In the majority of cases the results of the technical tests agreed with the clinical signs and were suggestive of brain death. However, in one patient EEG revealed clear bioelectrical activity. In 6 cases, doubts existed about whether the EEG was isoelectric; in 3 of the 6 cases biological activity might have been present. In 31 of 42 patients ECD showed a typical pattern of intracranial circulatory arrest, in 9 of 42 ECD revealed a pattern suggestive of the cessation of cerebral blood flow. In four patients BAEP recordings compatible with brain death were recorded 2-3 days before intracranial circulatory arrest. In 2 patients with isoelectric EEG and absent BAEP arterial DSA demonstrated residual perfusion. The findings are discussed in view of the conceptional differences concerning brain death. It is concluded that the strict application of the concept of death of the whole brain requires angiographic demonstration of absent intracerebral blood flow.

 

Clinical observations compatible with the diagnosis of brain death:

These manifestations are occasionally seen and should not be misinterpreted as evidence for brainstem function.

1) Spontaneous movements of limbs other than pathologic flexion or extension response.

2) Respiratory-like movements (shoulder elevation and adduction, back arching, intercostal expansion without significant tidal volumes).

3) Sweating, blushing, tachycardia.

4) Normal blood pressure without pharmacologic support or sudden increases in blood pressure.

5) Absence of diabetes insipidus.

6) Deep tendon reflexes; superficial abdominal reflexes; triple flexion response.

7) Babinski reflex.

  

 

Brain death may result in legal death, but still with the heart beating, and with mechanical ventilation, all other vital organs may be kept completely alive and functional, providing optimal opportunities for organ transplantation. The non-living donor is kept on ventilator support until the organs have been surgically removed. If a brain-dead individual is not an organ donor, ventilator and drug support is discontinued and cardiac death is allowed to occur.

 

Organ transplantation has been one of the greatest advances of modern science that has resulted in many patients getting a renewed lease of life. It was included in the top five medical miracles of the last century. Transplantation would not be possible but for organ donation. Organs can be donated by a living person, after natural death and after brain death. Experts say that the organs from one donor can save or help as many as 50 people. The organs that can be donated include kidneys, heart, liver, pancreas, intestines, lungs, bone and bone marrow, skin, cornea etc After natural death only a few tissues can be donated (like cornea, bone, skin and blood vessels) whereas after brain death almost 37 different organs and tissues can be donated including critical organs such as kidneys, heart, liver and lungs. Various countries have passed laws on human organ transplant to streamline the activities of organ transplants.

 

Family members of patients with brain death need reassurance and accurate information. They may think that their loved one has a heartbeat and is therefore being “kept alive” by mechanical ventilation. They may also think that their loved one will get better through treatment or intensive rehabilitation. They must be explained that brain death is irreversible. Patients who are brain dead have permanently lost the capacity to think, be aware of self or surroundings, experience, or communicate with others. It is difficult for some families to understand that a person who has a heartbeat can be brain dead, because historically the presence of a heartbeat indicated life. Family members of a patient of brain death must be told in unequivocal language that brain death means death and not coma and therefore ventilator support ought to be discontinued.  Also, a living will can solve many problems surrounding brain death. A living will is made after intimate discussion with decision makers covering the many possible scenarios surrounding the end of life. This discussion is difficult, for few people like to contemplate their own demise. However, the benefits of a living will are substantial, both to physicians and to loved ones who are faced with making final decisions. Most states have passed living will laws, honoring instructions on artificial life support that were made while a person was still mentally competent.

 

The opponents of ‘brain death’ concept believe that it seems to be going too far to equate the life of a human being with the functioning of a single organ like brain. In fact for one period of our lives—namely during the very early stages of embryo development—we exist without a brain at all. An early embryo has no functioning brain, and is therefore not conscious, but is undeniably alive. However, at the age of about 3 weeks of embryo, brain tissue starts getting differentiated from a ball of cells albeit with no recognizable evidence of consciousness. Another problematic example concerns the case of brain dead mothers who have subsequently gone on to give birth, in one case 107 days after brain death was diagnosed. It seems strange to describe a woman’s body functioning as an organic whole in this way—even to the extent of producing breast milk for her unborn child – as “dead,” and if medical opinion is saying that dead patients can give birth it would seem to have lost touch with the ordinary common-sense understanding of what the words “life” and “death” mean. The opponents of ‘brain death’ concept believe that there is a real shortage of organs for transplant and therefore doctors have created concept of brain death so that more organs can be donated for transplant.

 

Signs of imminent death:

Physical death is a progressive process, during which there are some signs that usually indicate that death is imminent. Not all of the following changes occur, nor do they necessarily occur in any particular order, as the body shuts down during the dying process.

1) The dying individual may become increasingly tired and sleepy, and may be difficult to arouse. The dying individual may become confused much of the time and may no longer recognize familiar persons, places, or objects.

2) Hearing and vision may become impaired, and speech may be slurred, difficult to understand, or nonsensical.

3) A few dying individuals become restless or very anxious and move about frequently in the bed, pull at the bed clothes or bedding (linen clutch), and reach out.

4) The person may experience hallucinations.

5) Less nourishment will be required, and the person’s intake of food and water will diminish. Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia) may also occur.

6) The person may sweat profusely.

7) The dying person may lose control of his/her urine or bowels (incontinence), necessitating that the individual be kept especially clean and dry in order to prevent bed sores (decubitus ulcers).

8) Urination may become darker and diminish or stop.

9) The mouth of the dying individual may become dry, and then secretions may accumulate in the back of the throat. Breathing may become noisy because of the gurgling or rattling of the secretions in the mouth or chest (“death rattle”).

10) The pattern of breathing may change; become slower or faster, deeper or shallower, or irregular. Often the dying individual will have periods of rapid breathing followed by periods in which breathing is very slow or is even absent for as long as 15 seconds.

11) The legs, and then arms, may become cold and non-reflexive as the circulation slows down.

12)  The skin may be pale or mottled, and some parts, particularly the underside of the body, may become a dark color as the blood pools, usually a deep blue or purple.

 

Vegetative state:

Patients in a vegetative state may have awoken from a coma after severe brain injury, but still have not regained awareness. Recovery of consciousness may occur without functional recovery, but functional recovery cannot occur without recovery of consciousness.  In the vegetative state patients can open their eyelids occasionally and demonstrate sleep-wake cycles, but completely lack cognitive function. The vegetative state is also called a “coma vigil”. The chances of regaining awareness diminish considerably as the time spent in the vegetative state increases. The persistent vegetative state (PVS) is the standard usage for a medical diagnosis, made after numerous neurological and other tests, that due to extensive and irrevocable brain damage, a patient is highly unlikely ever to achieve higher functions above a vegetative state. Individuals in PVS are seldom on any life-sustaining equipment other than a feeding tube because the brainstem, the center of vegetative functions (such as heart rate and rhythm, respiration, and gastrointestinal activity) is relatively intact. Recovery after long periods of time in a PVS has been reported on several occasions and is often treated as spectacular events. In a severe vegetative state the cerebral cortex, the center of cognitive functions including consciousness and intelligence, may be dead while the brain stem, which controls basic life support functions such as respiration, is still functioning. Relatives will often remark, when facing severe vegetative state, “Well, any chance is better than none”. But this is not true; the chance of survival might only be bought at the cost of a very high risk of an unacceptably bad survival. This is a serious wager because we have a responsibility to do what the patient would want if he were able to choose. As opposed to brain death, severe vegetative state is not recognized by statute as death in any legal system.            

 

Shattering the dogma:

Suppose somebody has just died of heart attack. The patient couldn’t be revived because the tissues of his brain and heart had suffered irreversible damage from lack of oxygen. This process was understood to begin after just four or five minutes. If the patient doesn’t receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) within that time, and if his heart can’t be restarted soon thereafter, he is unlikely to recover. That dogma went unquestioned until researchers actually looked at oxygen-starved heart cells under a microscope. To their astonishment, the researchers found that heart cells were alive for few hours even after the blood supply was cut off. But if the cells are still alive, why can’t doctors revive someone who has been dead for an hour? Because once the cells have been without oxygen for more than five minutes, they die when their oxygen supply is resumed. It was that “astounding” discovery. Biologists are still grappling with the implications of this new view of cell death—not passive extinguishment, like a candle flickering out when you cover it with a glass, but an active biochemical event triggered by “reperfusion,” the resumption of oxygen supply. The research takes them deep into the machinery of the cell, to the tiny membrane-enclosed structures known as mitochondria where cellular fuel is oxidized to provide energy. Mitochondria control the process known as apoptosis, the programmed cell death; and it is the apoptosis of abnormal cells that is the body’s primary defense against cancer. It appears that the cellular surveillance mechanism cannot tell the difference between a cancer cell and a cell being reperfused with oxygen. Something throws the switch that makes the cell die. Researchers say that while resuscitating we should aim to reduce oxygen uptake, slow metabolism and adjust the blood chemistry for gradual and safe reperfusion. A study found remarkable rate of success in treating sudden cardiac arrest with an approach that involved among other things, a “cardioplegic” blood infusion to keep the heart in a state of suspended animation. Patients were put on a heart-lung bypass machine to maintain circulation to the brain until the heart could be safely restarted. The study involved just 34 patients, but 80 percent of them were discharged from the hospital alive as compared to 15 % success rate of traditional method. So the body in the emergency room is clinically dead, but its trillions of cells are all still alive and we want to resolve that paradox in favor of life.

 

Scientific research on clinically dead dogs:

The scientists at a leading university have killed dozens of dogs and then brought them back to life. Several dogs have their veins drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution which drops their body temperature from a normal 101 degrees to near freezing. That puts them in a state of extreme hypothermia, making them scientifically dead with no breathing, no heartbeat and no brain activity. But their tissues and vital organs are preserved. These corpses are then brought back to life by returning the blood to their bodies, giving them pure oxygen and applying electric shocks to restart their hearts. The test subjects could be brought back to life from the state of being dead for the period of maximum three hours. Anything more than three hours and they could not be revived. The lucky ones turn out to be perfectly normal with no brain damage — although other dogs are stricken with serious physical or behavioral problems. The animal-rights activists slammed the research as “indefensible,” cruel and inhumane. However, the researchers say that they are developing technique for suspended animation to help humans who are injured in combat or crime. The issue before me is that a highly evolved mammal was clinically dead with no brain activity & no heart activity for three hours and revived back to life.

 

Cryopreservation:

Cryopreservation is a process where cells or whole tissues are preserved by cooling to low sub-zero temperatures at – 196 °C (the boiling point of liquid nitrogen). At these low temperatures, any biological activity, including the biochemical reactions that would lead to cell death, is effectively stopped. Cryogenic storage at very low temperatures is presumed to provide an indefinite, if not near infinite, longevity to cells although the actual “shelf life” is rather difficult to prove. A new technique named vitrification is the process of converting something into a glass-like solid that is free of any crystal formation. For example, by adding a cryoprotectant, water can be cooled until it hardens like glass without any ice crystals forming. This is important in the embryology world because ice crystal formation can be very damaging to frozen embryos (or other frozen cells). So it is now also possible to freeze human embryos and store them in liquid nitrogen. These frozen embryos can be stored for as long as is needed – even for many years. When they are in liquid nitrogen, at a temperature of -196 C, they are in a state of suspended animation, and all metabolic activity at this low temperature stops. Pregnancy rates with good-quality frozen-thawed embryos are as good as with fresh embryos. It is reassuring to know that the risk of birth-defects is not increased as a result of freezing. So these frozen embryos are almost dead at minus 196 degree centigrade with no metabolic activities for many years but can develop into a normal human being.

 

After death:

Immediately after death, blood circulation stops and various changes occur in a dead body.

 

Algor Mortis (body temperature): After death, body temperature declines progressively until it reaches the temperature of its surroundings. This process generally takes about 8 to 12 hours on the skin, but the centre of the body takes about three times as long to cool. This fact can be used to estimate time of death.

 

Rigor mortis: The breakdown of glycogen in the muscles of a dead body leads irreversibly to high levels of lactic acid in the muscles. This leads to a complex reaction where actin and myosin fuses to form a gel. This gel is responsible for the stiffness felt in the body. This stiffness will not be over before decomposition begins. Rigor mortis should never be the only basis for estimating time of death. After the onset of putrefaction (about two days after death) the body temperature will increase again, due to the metabolic activity of the bacteria and other decomposing organisms. 

 

Autopsy:

An autopsy (postmortem examination) is a medical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a human corpse (dead body) to determine the cause and manner of a person’s death and to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present. It is usually performed by a specialized medical doctor called a pathologist. The time of death is sometimes extremely important. It is a question almost invariably asked by police officers, sometimes with a touching faith in the accuracy of the estimate. Determining the time of death is extremely difficult, and accuracy is impossible. The time of death can be ascertained by the study of the amount and distribution of rigor mortis, the change in body temperature, and the degree of putrefaction of the body.

 

Temperature of body Stiffness of body Time since death
Warm  Not stiff  Dead for less than three hours
Warm  Stiff Dead between 3 to 8 hours
Cold  Stiff Dead between 8 to 36 hours
Cold Not stiff Dead in more than 36 hours

 

Time of death can also be ascertained by comparing the occurrence of events which took place at known times with the time of occurrence of the death. For example, a wrist watch stopped by a blow during an assault, the extent of digestion of the last known meal etc. Other benefits of autopsy include allaying a family’s fears about what they could have done to prevent the death, providing family members information about potential genetic diseases that may have implications for them, medical education, training and research leading to improved health care and providing information about preventable causes of disease and accident and other public health hazards.

 

Dying declaration:

In the law of evidence, the dying declaration is testimony that would normally be barred as hearsay but may nonetheless be admitted as evidence in certain kinds of cases because it constituted the last words of a dying person. However, it must be emphasized that it is wrong to assume that the dying person always speak truth. Also, the defendant has a right to cross-examine a witness who has given testimony against him but since the person who gave ‘dying declaration’ is already dead, he can not be cross-examined. Under such circumstances, many courts have ruled out dying declaration as a mere ‘hearsay’.

 

Misdiagnosed death:

There are many anecdotal references to people being declared dead by physicians and then “coming back to life”, sometimes days later in their own coffin, or when embalming procedures are about to begin. This is especially true in neonatal death immediately after birth or alleged stillbirth. In cases of electric shock, CPR for an hour or longer can allow stunned nerves to recover, allowing an apparently dead person to survive. People found unconscious under icy water may survive if their faces are kept continuously cold until they arrive at an emergency room. The comatose patient from drug overdose or hypothermia may mimic being dead but can be revived.

 

A faked death occurs when an individual leaves evidence to suggest that he or she is dead in order to mislead others to fraudulently collect insurance money or avoid capture by law enforcement for some other crime. People who fake their own deaths sometimes do so by ostensibly drowning, because it provides a plausible reason for the absence of a body.

 

Practice of disposal of corpses:

I will not discuss religious beliefs or family traditions or costs for the disposal of a corpse. Every year more than 50 million people die worldwide. The two main forms of funeral rites adopted by most are either cremation or burial.

 

Cremation is the practice of disposing of a corpse by burning. Most archaeologists believe that cremation was invented during the Stone Age, about 3000 BC. The word cremation comes from the Latin word cremo which means “to burn” – particularly the burning of the dead. Cremation generally involves the application of high temperature, typically between 1400 and 2100 Degrees Fahrenheit (760 to 1150 Deg. C), to a wooden package or casket which contains a dead body. The body and the wooden-package are almost completely consumed; the cremated remains consist of bone fragments and particles, which usually weigh from 4 to 8 pounds (1.8 to 3.6 kg). They are then finely ground into granule form. The entire process takes 3 to 5 hours. Although the attendants attempt to remove all of the remains, a small portion will be left inside the cremation chamber, and subsequently mingled with the next body to be cremated. Cremations release both mercury and poisonous chemicals into the environment – carcinogenic dioxin, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, hydrogen fluoride (HF), NMVOCs, and other heavy metals, in addition to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP). Cremation of one adult body releases 50 kg of carbon dioxide and 200 micrograms of toxic mercury in the environment harming the ecology. In addition, cremation can be an aid to murderers. A cremated body cannot be exhumed and analyzed for evidence. There are many instances where in a suspicious death occurs, and a certain member of the family insists upon cremation. It usually turns out that this one family member is a suspect in the death. However, during the Black Plague epidemic, when having too many bodies during the burial process would spread disease to an already dangerously depopulated Europe, cremation was preferred over burial. Some times some persons who died with severe contagious diseases like tuberculosis, are likely to spread that disease as the bacteria spread after death but cremation that is consuming the body to fire eliminates this possibility and so it is welcome from health point of view. Also, it is a quicker and easier way to dispose off dead body. Once cremated and flushed, the place can be used for any number of times. Required wood is readily available from dead/dried trees.

 

When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and the followers of other religions were exiled or exterminated, burial became the only method of disposing of bodies throughout Europe. “Cemetery” has its roots in the ancient Greek for “sleeping place,” a reflection on the belief that death is a type of sleep. The deceased is buried in a coffin and left to decompose over time. Decomposition takes more than six months in usual and it takes years together for decaying of bones, especially skull & pelvis. Unless everything is clear, we can not bury another person on the same place. For want of sufficient space, it is not practicable in every village and don’t think of cities. Also for burial, lot of trees are cut for making coffins. Natural decomposition after burial seems less harmful to the environment, especially when a shroud rather than a coffin is used. However, burial is also a known source of certain environmental contaminants. Embalming fluids, for example, are known to contaminate groundwater with mercury, arsenic and formaldehyde. Each year, traditional burials in the U.S. deposit 827,060 gallons of embalming fluids – formaldehyde, methanol, and ethanol – into the soil which are then washed by rainfall into the seas and lakes, endangering the ecosystem with pharmaceutical wastes. The coffins themselves are another known source of contamination. Another concern is contamination from radioisotopes that entered the body before death or burial.

 

Newer greener method for disposing of your mortal remains includes Aquamation where the corpse is placed into a steel container and potassium is added, followed by water heated to 93 degree Centigrade. The flesh and organs are completely decomposed in 4 hours, leaving bones as the only solid remains. Aquamation uses only 10 per cent of the energy of a conventional cremation and releases no toxic emissions.  Another method involves freeze-drying of the corpse in liquid nitrogen, pulverizing it with high frequency vibrations into powder that can be used as much for trees or shrubs planted in the cemetery or in the family’s back yard.

 

So various methods are available for disposal of a corpse but as a general rule, whenever foul play is suspected in death, bury the body and whenever infectious disease has caused death, cremate the body.          

 

DNA test for identity of a person after death:

Under normal circumstances, a buccal (oral) or blood sample will be taken from a living human for the study of DNA but there may be plenty of DNA recoverable from a human body 10, 50 or even 150 years after death. Also, DNA has been extracted from Egyptian mummies 2,400 years after their deaths and DNA has been extracted from Mammoths preserved in permafrost over 27,000 years after they died and Human DNA has been recovered from a Neanderthal fossil 70,000 years old. Generally, DNA testing is quite reliable on a deceased person prior to cremation but it is once the DNA is exposed to the heat of cremation, it does not survive intact. If the person is recently deceased, within a week of death, samples such as fingernail clippings or hair (with roots attached) may be collected. DNA is present in these tissues and may still be viable after death. It is important to note that if the decedent’s body has been exposed to preservatives such as formalin, the DNA in these and other tissues may be damaged and, therefore not useful in DNA testing. If the decedent’s body has already been buried, one may consider trying to obtain personal effects of the decedent. Many items such as toothbrushes, cigarette butts and worn & unwashed clothing may contain the owner’s DNA and can prove useful in DNA testing. When all else fails, and there is justification for exhumation of a decedent’s body, DNA may still be found in the exhumed remains. Generally, there will be no soft tissue remaining, and if so, it is likely not to be viable. In this case, the recommendation is to obtain a two-gram bone sample from the humerus or femoral shaft or alternatively two teeth. DNA is vulnerable. It breaks down in sunlight and water, and there are enzymes that naturally destroy it. But long after death, DNA would survive in teeth and bones.  

 

Euthanasia:

Euthanasia is the act of killing an incurably ill person out of concern and compassion for that person’s suffering. It is sometimes called mercy killing. Euthanasia is usually separated into two categories: passive euthanasia and active euthanasia. Withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining medical care is often classified as a form of passive euthanasia. Active euthanasia, sometimes called aid in dying, on the other hand, can consist, for example, of a physician’s giving a patient a lethal injection of medication. Opponents of active euthanasia argue that it undermines the value of and respect for all human life; erodes trust in physicians; desensitizes society to killing; and contradicts many people’s religious beliefs. In the United States, active euthanasia is generally recognized as murder or manslaughter, whereas passive euthanasia is accepted by professional medical societies and the law in certain circumstances. The American medical association (AMA) considers euthanasia – which it defines as ‘the administration of a lethal agent by another person to a patient’ – to be a breach of professional ethics. In a way, euthanasia may be classified as medically assisted suicide involving people who are terminally ill, in extreme pain, or have (perceived or construed) minimal quality of life through injury or illness.

 

Suicide:

Suicide is the act of a human being intentionally causing his or her own death. Over one million people commit suicide every year. There are an estimated 10 to 20 million non-fatal attempted suicides every year worldwide. Mental disorders are frequently present at the time of suicide with estimates from 87% to 98%. Besides mental disorders, other causes are substance abuse, socio-economical factors and genetic factors. The leading methods of suicide in different regions include hanging, insecticide poisoning, and firearms. According to stricter definitions of suicide, to be considered suicide, the death of the person who commits suicide must be the central component and only intention of the act, not just a certain consequence; and hence, suicide bombing is considered a kind of bombing rather than a kind of suicide, and martyrdom usually escapes religious or legal proscription.

 

DEATH PENALTY (CAPITAL PUNISHMENT):

 

The Death Penalty has existed long before 2500 BC, when Hammurabi was the first to create written law. Before that time, it’s likely that if a person committed a capital crime, such as murder or theft, they were executed to maintain harmony in the community. Even though the world’s most major religions take an ambiguous position on the morality of capital punishment, the doctrines of the world’s majority religions, which is to say the Bible, the Torah, and the Quran, have occurrences where the death penalty is not only supported, but staunchly endorsed. As a result, the religious doctrine is and will continue to be one of the strongest arguments for death penalty, especially in countries where religious doctrine has a strong influence on legal doctrine, such as countries within the Middle East, Israel, and even the United States. In Islam, death penalty is allowed but the family of a murder victim can pardon the murderer. However, in the 2010 world, killing a criminal is more and more being considered a barbaric practice with revenge instead of retribution being the sole motivating factor.

 

The death penalty (capital punishment) is the killing (execution) of a person by judicial process as a punishment for an offense. The term capital originates from Latin capitalis, literally “regarding the head” (Latin caput). Hence, a capital crime was originally one punished by the severing of the head. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences but  what is capital crime is debatable & variable and therefore various countries have implemented death penalty on various offences depending on religion, culture, type of offences, type of state, people’s inclination etc. Although laws vary between different countries as to capital punishment, the crimes for which it is most commonly used are murder and drug-related offenses. In some countries sexual crimes such as rape, adultery, incest and sodomy carry the death penalty, as do religious crimes such as apostasy in Islamic nations (the formal renunciation of the state religion). In China, human trafficking and serious cases of corruption are punished by the death penalty. In militaries around the world courts-martial have imposed death sentences for offenses such as cowardice, desertion, insubordination, and mutiny. The death penalty was overwhelmingly practiced in poor and authoritarian states, which often employed death penalty as a tool of political oppression.

 

 

In the year 2007, UN passed a non-binding resolution (by 104 to 54, with 29 abstentions) by asking its member states for “a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty”. Among non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are noted for their opposition to capital punishment. According to them, the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by a state. This cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is done in the name of justice. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, without exceptions, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristic of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner. The death penalty specifically and explicitly violates the right to life clause stated in most modern constitutions and human right treaties. The Supreme Court of India ruled in 1983 that the death penalty should be imposed only in ‘the rarest of rare cases.’ In India, capital punishment is awarded in the “rarest of rare” cases and there are adequate safeguards provided in the law in this regard.  

 

In Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, and Western Europe, the death penalty has become relatively unpopular, with the majority of the population opposing it. However certain cases of mass murder, terrorism, and child murder occasionally cause waves of support for reinstitution. Abolition was often adopted due to political change, as when countries shifted from authoritarianism to democracy, or when it became an entry condition for the European Union. In United States some 15 states have had bans on capital punishment for decades while others actively use it today. The death penalty there remains a contentious issue which is hotly debated. In the U.S., surveys have long shown a majority in favor of capital punishment. 74% of Americans support the death penalty; nearly half of those do not think the death penalty is used enough. A Gallup International poll from 2000 said that “Worldwide support was expressed in favor of the death penalty, with just more than half (52%) indicating that they were in favour of this form of punishment.” Capital punishment has in the past been practiced in virtually every society, although currently only 58 nations actively practice it, with 95 countries abolishing it (the remainder having not used it for 10 years or allowing it only in exceptional circumstances such as wartime). In the European Union member states, Article 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union prohibits the use of capital punishment. The four most populous countries in the world (China, India, United States and Indonesia) where 44 % of world’s population live, apply death penalty and all of them voted against the Resolution on a Moratorium on the use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly in 2008.  Since World War II there has been a trend toward abolishing the death penalty. According to Amnesty International, at least 714 executions were known to have been carried out in 18 countries in 2009. In addition, there are countries which do not publish information on the use of capital punishment, most significantly China, which is estimated to execute hundreds of people each year. At least 17,000 people worldwide were under sentence of death at the beginning of 2010. Countries which retained death penalty are called ‘retentionist’ and countries which abolished death penalty are called ‘abolitionist’ countries. For example, India is retentionist country while England is abolitionist country. Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and the U.S. are the only developed countries that have retained the death penalty.

 

Terrorism, drug trafficking and death penalty:

Those who really think that death penalty can stop terrorist attacks or make them decrease, are naïve people or dreamers. Usual punishments, death penalty included, don’t provoke any fear within terrorists or political criminals, who are ideologically motivated and devoted to die for passion of their cause. Their religious masters have already brain-washed their minds in thinking that they will straight go to heaven after death. Besides, terrorist activities are dangerous and the terrorist faces lethal risks every day, so he isn’t frightened by immediate death. How could he be discouraged by the risk of being sentenced to death?  Also, there is no convincing evidence that a decrease of drug traffic in interested countries could be attributed to the threat or application of capital punishment. In Iran, executions for drug crimes started before the revolution in 1979. It turns out that later, over a thousand people have been sentenced to death; and yet drug abuse and trade are still a serious problem, not solved at all. In Malaysia, where death penalty for drug crimes is compulsory since 1983, authorities have more than once publicly acknowledged its ineffectiveness. On the grounds of many experts’ experience, the fact that as utmost punishment there is death penalty doesn’t imply necessarily that it has particular effects against drug traffic; as a matter of fact in some cases it could complicate Public Prosecution’s activity since law courts need much higher standards of evidence if death penalty is provided (particularly if it’s compulsory). The most effective deterrent is surely the certainty to be discovered and arrested. There is some merit in suggestion that terrorists should be given life imprisonment without parole so that their wish of going to heaven after death is converted into living in solitary confinement in this world till death.

 

Methods of execution include electrocution, firing squad or other sorts of shooting, stoning in Islamic countries, beheading, gas chamber, hanging, and lethal injection. Opponents of death penalty find methods of execution as barbaric & inherently cruel and will always mock the attempt to cloak them in justice. Our society has nonetheless steadily moved to more humane methods of carrying out capital punishment.

 

Arguments put forward by supporters of death penalty:

1) It is justified by the principle of retribution.

2) It deters crime and future murders.

3) Life imprisonment is not an equally effective deterrent.

4) The death penalty affirms the right to life by punishing those who violate it in the strictest form.

5) It is a good tool for police and prosecutors.

6) It improves the community by making sure that convicted criminals do not offend again.

7) It provides closure to surviving victims or loved ones.

8) It is a just penalty for a heinous crime.

9) The threat of death leads defendants to enter plea deals for life without parole or life with a minimum of 30 years—-the two other penalties, besides death, that the law allows for aggravated murder.

 

Arguments put forward by opponents of death penalty:

1) It has led to the execution of wrongfully convicted.

2) It is arbitrary and discriminates against minorities and the poor.

3) It does not deter criminals more than life imprisonment; life without parole is just as effective a way to prevent someone re-offending as executing them.

4) It encourages a “culture of violence” and its main motive is not justice but revenge.

5) Killing someone is always wrong and two wrongs can never make a right.

6) It violates basic human right, the right to live in this world.

7) It is more expensive than life imprisonment.

 

Discussion:

What is justice anyway?

 

 

“May the punishment fit the crime.”  This is definitely the best definition of justice that has ever existed or ever will exist. A desire for justice is one of the inherent qualities of most humans, and it prevents society from falling into a despotic chaos where the average, peaceful person would be subject to the anger, violence, and madness of criminals. A society’s law, and the justice that is dispensed by its hands, is ultimately what keeps the citizenry of that society safe at night if anything does. For the sake of society’s stability, fair and swift justice must always exist, and the complete removal of people who would destroy that society through crime is absolutely necessary. The death penalty serves this purpose better than any other form of punishment, as it ultimately ensures that a criminal can never harm another person again.

 

Morality of death penalty:

Abolitionists may contend that the death penalty is inherently immoral because governments should never take human life, no matter what the provocation. Death sentences are imposed in a criminal justice system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent. This is an immoral condition that makes rejecting the death penalty on moral grounds not only defensible but necessary for those who refuse to accept unequal or unjust administration of punishment. The legacy of racial apartheid, racial bias, and ethnic discrimination is unavoidably evident in the administration of capital punishment in America. Abolitionists contend that capital punishment is cruel and unusual. It is a relic of the earliest days of penology, when slavery, branding, and other corporal punishments were commonplace. Like those other barbaric practices, executions have no place in a civilized society. Opposition to the death penalty does not arise from misplaced sympathy for convicted murderers. On the contrary, murder demonstrates a lack of respect for human life. For this very reason, murder is abhorrent, and any policy of state-authorized killings is immoral. Executions give society the unmistakable message that human life no longer deserves respect when it is useful to take it and that homicide is legitimate when deemed justified by pragmatic concerns. A decent and humane society does not deliberately kill human beings. An execution is a dramatic, public spectacle of official violent homicide that teaches the permissibility of killing people to solve social problems — the worst possible example to set for society. We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing. Abolitionists oppose capital punishment not just for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes, but for what it does to all of us as a society. Increasing reliance on the death penalty diminishes all of us and is a sign of growing disrespect for human life. We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals, nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders. The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life. In the brutalization hypothesis, capital punishment may send a certain message that it is acceptable to kill in some circumstances, or that society has a disregard for the sanctity of life.

 

Let me discuss what retentionist may contend. The communities would plunge into anarchy if they could not act on moral assumptions less certain than death penalty for crimes such as mass murder, terrorism, rape with murder etc. The death penalty gives the guilty the befitting punishment for whatever wrong he has done and not treat him as an animal with no moral sense. Most abolitionists acknowledge that they would continue to favor abolition even if the death penalty were shown to deter more murders than alternatives could deter. Abolitionists appear to value the life of a convicted murderer or, at least, his non-execution, more highly than they value the lives of the innocent victims who might be spared by deterring prospective murderers. Also by abolishing death penalty, a murderer’s life has got more value than the value of the life of his innocent victim. Have you ever thought about how many criminals escape punishment and yet, the victims never have a chance to do that?  Are crime victims in the world today the forgotten people of our time?  Do they receive full measure of justice?  It can not be overemphasized that the human rights of victims and future victims are consistently ignored because many criminals are never caught and even when caught escape death penalty. A criminal on death row has a chance to prepare his death, make a will, and make his last statements etc; while most victims can never do it. There are many other crimes where people are injured by stabbing, rape, theft, etc. To some degree at least, the victim’s right to freedom and pursuit of happiness is violated. Opponents of death penalty show virtually no compassion for the victims of violent crime or concern for future victims, yet, they exhibit overwhelming support for those who violate our human rights and murder our loved ones. Opponents equate legal execution with murder, believing that if two acts have the same ending or result, then those two acts are morally equivalent. This is a morally untenable position. Is the legal taking of property to satisfy a debt the same as a car theft? Both result in loss of property. Are kidnapping and legal incarcerations the same? Both involve imprisonment against one’s will. Is killing in self defense the same as capital murder? Both end in taking human life. Are rape and making love the same? Both may result in sexual intercourse. How absurd. Opponents’ flawed logic and moral confusion mirror their “factual” arguments – there is often an absence of reality. The moral confusion of some opponents is astounding. Some equate the American death penalty with the Nazi holocaust. Opponents see no moral distinction between the slaughter of 6 million totally innocent men, women & children and the just execution of society’s worst human rights violators. There is a very common anti death penalty slogan: “Why do we kill people to show that killing people is wrong?” We don’t. Even with no sanction, most folks know that committing murder is wrong. We execute guilty murderers who have murdered innocent people. The difference between crime and punishment, guilty murderers and their innocent victims is very clear to most. The moral confusion exists when people blindly accept the amoral or immoral position that all killing is equal. The anti death penalty folks are looking at an act — “killing” — and saying all killings are the same. Only an amoral person would equate acts, without considering the purpose behind them.  Irresponsible editors & anchors, politicians & authors debate ‘live’ on television about abolition of death penalty of a criminal who raped & murdered an innocent woman. My blood starts boiling. I wonder how people watch such debate on television. I want to ask a question to various editors & anchors, what would you do if your wife or sister or daughter is brutally raped and then murdered?  Would you come on a television program and support abolition of death penalty?  People who talk of abolition of death penalty in such cases are misguided people and countries which have abolished death penalty ought to consider reinstating it. Let me put it differently. Had a murder not committed, the victim would still be alive and help his family/ nation/ society in many ways. Had a doctor not murdered, he would have saved many lives. Had a scientist not murdered, he would have made many discoveries & inventions. Had a leader not murdered, he would have made many good policies. So when a criminal murders someone, it is not only personal loss to victim’s family but it could be loss to society and the world.

 

It is assumed that an individual who commits a heinous crime must have been “damaged” by his environment. Hence, there are always mitigating factors that can be used to “explain” any crime. For example, child abuse is oftentimes used as a mitigating factor for heinous crime like rape & murder. Needless to say, millions of children are abused every year, and yet few end up becoming sadistic rapists and killers. As a matter of fact, several infamous serial killers have testified to the fact that their childhoods were bereft of any abuse. So a criminal can not manipulate his abuse in childhood as an excuse to escape death penalty. Everybody knows that poverty is a leading cause of crime. Does that mean that a poor person can say that I raped & murdered a woman because I did not have money to buy sex as rich people do?  Poverty can not be used as an excuse for crime nor to escape death penalty. Both environmental & genetic factors do influence criminality. Studies show that adopted children with a biological parent who is a criminal have an increased risk of engaging in criminal behavior. Also, other studies have found that certain genetic physical traits, such as gender, muscularity, and an extra Y chromosome, also increase the risk of criminality. Does that mean that a serial killer can escape death penalty on the ground that he committed crime due to genetic factors?

 

Arbitrariness of death penalty:

In my view, the biggest drawback of death penalty is the arbitrariness with which it is imposed. Arbitrariness starts from which country/ state you belong. It is arbitrary when someone in one county or state receives the death penalty, but someone who commits a comparable crime in another county or state is given a life sentence. Even if the death penalty punishes some while sparing others, it does not follow that everyone should be spared. The guilty should still be punished appropriately, even if some do escape proper punishment unfairly. Obviously, there remains a lack of uniformity in the capital punishment system. Some of the most heinous murders do not result in death sentences, while less heinous crimes are punished by death. Also, all murderers are never caught and out of those caught; only few will receive death penalty. Many factors other than the gravity of the crime or the culpability of the offender appear to affect death sentences including geography, race, gender, poverty, media hype, electoral politics, and access to adequate counsel. Of the 10.3 million violent crimes in 1993 in the U.S., only 100,000 of those victimizations or 1% resulted in an actual jail sentence. Only 6.2% of all violent crimes result in arrest. Statistically speaking, only about one out of every 300 murders actually results in an execution. Of all those convicted on a charge of criminal homicide, only 2 percent — about 1 in 50 — are eventually sentenced to death. Also, more than 98 percent of murder victims’ family will never see the murderer of their loved one sentenced to death, and more than 99 percent will not experience the murderer’s execution.  In a death penalty system in which approximately 2% of known murderers are sentenced to death, fairness mandates that the gravity of crime of a criminal who is sentenced to death should be comparable to the gravity of crime of another criminal who is also sentenced to death; and their gravity of crime should be worse than those who are not sentenced to death despite committing murders. Indian Supreme Court stated that death penalty should be imposed in rarest of rare cases but who is going to define rarest of rare case? I do not agree that a crime that shocks the conscience of a nation is a rarest of rare crime. When innocent people are dying due to hunger & tobacco smoking, and politicians & media watching hopelessly, such a nation has already lost its conscience. In fact, the human rights of victims are consistently ignored when one analyses the ratio of number of crimes committed to number of offenders brought to justice.

 

Now let me discuss race factor in death penalty. African Americans (blacks) have made up 41 percent of death row inmates in the US while they are only 12 percent of the general population. According to a 2003 Amnesty International report, blacks and whites were the victims of murder in almost equal numbers, yet 80 percent of the people executed since 1977 were convicted of murdering white victims. In 1990, the U.S. General Accounting Office reviewed the research on this issue and found that in 82% of the studies, race of victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving a death sentence, i.e., those who murdered whites were found to be more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks. Does that mean that if the victim is white & murderer is black, then, there is more chance of imposing death penalty than if the victim was black & the murderer white? The fact that blacks and hispanics are charged with capital crimes out of proportion to their numbers in the general population may simply mean that blacks and hispanics commit capital crimes out of proportion to their number. In fact, more white people are executed in the U.S. than black people. And even if blacks are disproportionately represented on death row, proportionately blacks commit more murders than whites. Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the use of statistical studies which claim racial bias as the sole reason for overturning a death sentence. After examining 42,500 criminal files in the nations 75 largest counties in the U.S., Patrick Langan concluded that there was no evidence…that, in the places where blacks in the U. S. have most of their contacts with the judicial system, that (the) system treats them more harshly than whites. From 1929-66, white murderers were more likely to be executed than black murderers (10.4 versus 9.7 per1000). This trend continues today. A study on the death penalty found that the death penalty was imposed on white and black murderers in proportion to the capital offenses committed by those race classifications.

 

Do poor offenders get death penalty more than rich offenders? There is some truth in it. Why do poor people get the death penalty? It has everything to do with the kind of defense they get. Money gets you good defense. That’s why you’ll never see an O.J. Simpson on death row. As the saying goes: ‘ Capital punishment means those without the capital get the punishment.’ A shocking two out of three capital convictions have been overturned on appeal because of police and prosecutorial misconduct, as well as serious errors by incompetent court-appointed defense attorneys with little experience in trying capital cases. How can we contend that we provide equal justice under the law when we do not provide adequate representation to the poor in cases where a life hangs in the balance?  “Approximately ninety percent of those on death row could not afford to hire a lawyer when they were tried.” A defendant’s poverty, lack of firm social roots in the community, inadequate legal representation at trial or on appeal–all these have been common factors among death-row populations. The death penalty isn’t reserved for the worst crimes, but for defendants with the worst lawyers. It doesn’t apply to people with money because money can buy best defence lawyers irrespective of the gravity of crime. When is the last time a wealthy person was on death row, let alone executed?  The quality of legal representation is related to the arbitrary application of the death penalty in a way that inadequate representation contributes to mistakes in capital sentencing. The National Law Journal, after a study of death penalty representation in the South of the U.S., concluded that capital trials are “more like a random flip of the coin than a delicate balancing of scales,” because the defense attorney is “too often . . . ill-trained, unprepared [and] grossly underpaid.” People who are well represented at trial do not get death penalty. For example, In Washington state, one-fifth of the 84 people who have faced execution in the past 20 years were represented by lawyers who had been, or were later, disbarred, suspended or arrested. The American Bar Association said the cost of the quality legal representation is substantial.  Ninety-nine percent of criminal defendants end up penniless by the time their case is up for appeal.

 

There is also overwhelming evidence that the death penalty is employed against men and not women. … It is difficult to understand why women have received such favored treatment since the purposes allegedly served by capital punishment seemingly are equally applicable to both sexes. Women account for about 1 in 10 (10%) murder arrests but the same women account for only 1 in 50 (2.0%) death sentences imposed at the trial level.

 

Can an innocent person get death penalty?

Abolitionist’s biggest argument is that death penalty once implemented is irreversible and if by mistake, a wrong person is executed, he can not be brought back to life once the mistake is discovered.  How do innocents end up on death row in the first place? Bad legal representation due to lawyers who have never tried a capital case. Others are wrongfully convicted for lack of DNA evidence or corrupt witnesses. Wrongful execution is a miscarriage of justice occurring when an innocent person is put to death by capital punishment. Newly available DNA evidence has allowed the exoneration of more than 15 death row inmates since 1992 in the U.S, but DNA evidence is only available in a fraction of capital cases. No system of justice can produce results which are 100% certain all the time. Mistakes will be made in any system which relies upon human testimony for proof. We should be vigilant to uncover and avoid such mistakes. Our system of justice rightfully demands a higher standard for death penalty cases. The risk of making a mistake with the extraordinary due process applied in death penalty cases is very small indeed. There is no proof that any innocent person has actually been executed since increased safeguards and appeals were added to our death penalty system in the 1970s. Even if such executions have occurred, they are very rare. Imprisoning innocent people is also wrong, but we cannot empty the prisons because of that minimal risk. If improvements are needed in the system of representation, or in the use of scientific evidence such as DNA testing, then those reforms should be instituted. However, the need for reform is not a reason to abolish the death penalty. Besides, many of the claims of innocence by those who have been released from death row are actually based on legal technicalities. Just because someone’s conviction is overturned years later and the prosecutor decides not to retry him, does not mean he is actually innocent. Most human activities like medicine, manufacturing, automobile,  air traffic, sports, not to mention wars & revolutions, can cause death of  innocent bystanders but that does not mean that we must stop all such activities  Nevertheless, advantages outweigh the disadvantages; human activities including the penal system with all its punishments are morally justified. In my view, it is next to impossible to convict an absolutely innocent person to death penalty in a democratic country with functioning democratic institutions with the due process of law right from the trial stage to the appeal stage.

 

Death penalty and deterrence:

Deterrence means death penalty to a murderer would deter/ discourage others to commit similar crime for the fear of death. Abolitionist would argue that death penalty does not deter crimes and show statistics in its support while retentionist would argue that death penalty does indeed deter crimes and show statistics in its support. Let us discuss both sides. The existence of a deterrence effect of death penalty to prevent future murder is disputed. States that have death penalty laws do not have lower crime rates or murder rates than states without such laws. And states that have abolished capital punishment show no significant changes in either crime or murder rates. The question of whether or not the death penalty deters murder usually revolves around the statistical analysis. Studies have produced disputed results with disputed significance. Some studies have shown a positive correlation between the death penalty and murder rates – in other words, they show that where the death penalty applies, murder rates are also high. This correlation can be interpreted in either that the death penalty increases murder rates by brutalizing society or that higher murder rates cause the state to retain or reintroduce the death penalty. However, supporters and opponents of the various statistical studies, on both sides of the issue, argue that correlation does not equal causation. There is 8 percent average murder rate per 100,000 people in the U.S (retentionist) but 5 percent: average murder rate per 100,000 people in countries that do not have a death penalty. Even in America, during the 1980s, death-penalty states averaged an annual rate of 7.5 criminal homicides per 100,000 of population while abolition states averaged a rate of 7.4. A recent study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology reported that 88% of the country’s top criminologists surveyed do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicide. Eighty-seven percent of them think that the abolition of the death penalty would not have a significant effect on murder rates and 77% believe that debates about the death penalty distract legislatures from focusing on real solutions to crime problems. Most of the criminologists assert that the best way to discourage murderers isn’t increasing the severity of punishment, but increasing the possibility of discovering the crime and condemning the culprit. If the crime is premeditated, the criminal ordinarily concentrates on escaping detection, arrest, and conviction. The threat of even the severest punishment will not deter those who expect to escape detection and arrest. If the crime is not premeditated, then it is impossible to imagine how the threat of any punishment could deter it. Most capital crimes are committed during moments of great emotional stress or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when logical thinking has been suspended. Impulsive or expressive violence is inflicted by persons heedless of the consequences to themselves as well as to others. Most homicides are spur-of-the-moment, spontaneous, emotionally impulsive acts. Murderers do not weigh their options very carefully in this type of setting. It is very doubtful that killers give much thought to punishment before they kill.

 

However, according to roughly a dozen recent studies in the US, executions save lives. For each inmate put to death, the studies say, 3 to 18 murders are prevented. The studies, performed by economists in the past decade, compare the number of executions in different jurisdictions with homicide rates over time and say that murder rates tend to fall as executions rise. The studies concluded that those who object to capital punishment, and who do so in the name of protecting life, must come to terms with the possibility that the failure to impose capital punishment will fail to protect life. Critics of the studies say they are based on faulty premises, insufficient data and flawed methodologies. There are more than 30 years of respected academic studies which reveal a general or systemic deterrent effect, meaning that there is statistical proof that executions produce fewer murders. However, such studies are inconclusive because there are also studies that find no such effect. Because such studies are inconclusive, we must choose the option that may save innocent lives. For, if there is a general deterrent effect, and we do execute, then we are saving innocent lives. But, if there is a general deterrent effect and we don’t execute murderers, we are sacrificing innocent lives. If we have made an error of judgement regarding general deterrence, then such error must be made on the side of saving innocent lives and not on the side of sacrificing innocent lives. This is a moral imperative. Even if there is an error of judgement regarding deterrence effect of death penalty, we have to choose between saving a life of a convicted murderer on one hand, and on the other hand, saving a life of an innocent person who may get murdered in future had death penalty indeed had deterrence effect.  Should we err on the side of caution and protect the innocent and honor the memories of those murdered or should we give murderers the opportunity to harm again?  The test for deterrence is not whether executions produce lower murder rates, but that executions produce fewer murders than if the death penalty did not exist. For example, the fact that the state of Delaware executes more people per capita (1/87,500) than any other state and has a murder rate 16 times lower than Washington, D.C. (5/100,000 versus 78.5/100,000) is not proof per se, that the death penalty deters murder in Delaware or that the lack of the death penalty escalates murders and violent crime in Washington, D.C., which has the highest violent crime and murder rates in the U.S.

 

There are four rational conclusions one can make regarding general or systemic deterrence.

(1) If the death penalty is not a deterrent and we execute, then we are executing our worst human rights violators.

(2) If the death penalty is a deterrent and we execute, then we are executing those criminals and saving innocent lives.

(3) If the death penalty is not a deterrent and we don’t execute, then we are not sacrificing innocent lives.

(4) If the death penalty is a deterrent and we don’t execute, then we are sacrificing innocent lives.

 

Regarding deterrence, it is necessary to err on the side of saving innocent life and not to err on the side of sacrificing innocent life. These are moral imperatives.

 

Crime rates in various nations showing lesser crimes in retentionist as compared to abolitionist nations: 

 

Since 1967, there has been one execution for every 1600 murders, or 0.06%. The average time on death row for those 56 executed – 11 years, 2 months in America. So there is an inordinate delay from the time of murder to the time of execution which range on average between 10 to 12 years in most democratic countries. Any punishment can be an effective deterrent only if it is consistently and swiftly employed. Capital punishment cannot be administered to meet these conditions. Considerable delay in carrying out the death sentence is unavoidable, given the procedural safeguards required by the courts in capital cases. It squanders the time and energy of courts, prosecuting attorneys, defense counsel, juries, courtroom & correctional personnel and also burdens the system of criminal justice. The sobering lesson is that we can reduce such delay and costs only by abandoning the procedural safeguards and constitutional rights of suspects, defendants, and convicts, with the attendant high risk of convicting the wrong person and executing the innocent. In order to prevent conviction of an innocent to death penalty, several safeguards & appeals exist which cause considerable delay in convicting guilty which causes deterrence effect to wane off. So the issue is inordinate delay which dilutes deterrence effect. Assume that all murderers would instantly die upon murdering, then murderers would kill only if they wished to die themselves. Murder plus suicide by an offender is an extremely small component of all murders. Therefore, if a swift and sure death penalty was universally applied to our worst criminals, it is logically conclusive that the death penalty would be a significant deterrent and that many innocent lives would be saved. In fact, swift and sure executions do result in deterrence.  The classical example is of some countries (e.g. Singapore, Saudi Arabia) which almost always carry out death sentences swiftly and therefore there is far less serious crime in these countries, which proves conclusively that death penalty is a deterrent, but only when execution is a virtual certainty and swiftly.

 

Many people believe that there should be a death penalty for the manufacturers of spurious medicines and food adulteration because both these malpractices are taking lives of innocent people and an exemplary punishment will deter future attempts.

      

It must of course be conceded that inflicting the death penalty guarantees that the condemned person will commit no further crimes. This is an incapacitative, not a deterrent effect of executions. The incapacitation effect saves lives – that is, that by executing murderers you prevent them from murdering again and do thereby save innocent life. The evidence of this is conclusive and incontrovertible.  6% of young adults paroled in 1978 in the U.S. after having been convicted of murder were arrested for murder again within 6 years of release. Murderers have so violated the human rights of their victims and of society that it should be a moral imperative that they never again have that opportunity. Obviously, those executed can’t murder again. A recent study examined the prison and post-release records of 533 prisoners on death row in 1972 whose sentences were reduced to life by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Furman. The research showed that 6 had committed another murder. There is no way to predict which convicted murderers will kill again. Repeat murders could be prevented only by executing all those convicted of criminal homicide. Abolitionists consider such a policy as too inhumane and brutal to be taken seriously and propose life imprisonment without parole instead.

 

Death penalty and retribution:

Abolitionists say that if someone deserves to die for committing a murder, families of victims whose murderers did not receive the death penalty may be hurt by the idea that their loved one was not worth the same level of retribution. Also, to kill the person who has killed someone close to you is simply to continue the cycle of violence by taking revenge. An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. Criminals no doubt deserve to be punished, and punished with severity appropriate to their culpability and the harm they have caused to the innocent. But severity of punishment has its limits — imposed both by justice and our common human dignity. Governments that respect these limits do not use premeditated, violent homicide as an instrument of social policy.

 

However, all punishment by its nature is retributive, not only the death penalty. The basis of punishment is not how successful it will be in rehabilitating the offender but rather whether it is fair with respect to the crime committed. In other words, the basis of punishment is justice. So, whether the punishment meted out will reform the criminal or deter other would-be offenders is not the issue before family members of the victim. The one question they always ask is: “Does this punishment fit the crime that has been committed? The issue is not rehabilitation but whether the punishment fits the crime. This is retribution. It is also often argued that death is what murderers deserve, and that those who oppose the death penalty violate the fundamental principle that criminals should be punished according to their deserts–”making the punishment fit the crime.”  Humans have evolved a repertoire of emotions that served as adaptive solutions to problems of evolutionary import. One of these emotions is the universal need for retribution.  In other words, our human nature is so predisposed to seek retribution that moral philosophers and theologians alike have tried in vain to restrain our drive to punish those who harm us. As a civilized society, we have agreed to “subcontract” our vigilante desires to the state. However, our need for the retributive justice does not suddenly disappear  just because we are a “civilized” people. In fact, in my view, abolition of death penalty is not a sign of civility but a sign of feebleness. Society is justly ordered when each person receives what is due to him. Crime disturbs this just order, for the criminal takes from innocent people their lives, peace, liberties, and worldly goods in order to give him undeserved benefits. Deserved punishment protects society morally by restoring this just order, making the wrongdoer pay a price equivalent to the harm he has done.  Retributivists are said to believe in three ideas: the guilty deserve punishment, only the guilty deserve punishment, and the punishment should be proportional to the offense. The ideas of retribution and proportionality have been around for much longer time. Victims of murder cannot avenge themselves, only the law and those closest to the victim can do this. A victim’s family feels, rightfully so, that they are obligated to attain justice for the victim. This isn’t justice in the traditional sense, but retribution. A just society requires the death penalty for the taking of a life. Justice, it is often insisted, requires the death penalty as the only suitable retribution for heinous crimes.

 

Death penalty versus life imprisonment:

It was assumed that life imprisonment was obviously more expensive than executions but contrary is the truth.  All experts agree that the cost of the death penalty amounts to a net expense to the state and the taxpayers. Or to put it differently, the death penalty is clearly more expensive than a system handling similar cases with life imprisonment.  Death Penalty is much more expensive than life imprisonment because the constitution requires a long and complex judicial process for capital cases. This process is needed in order to ensure that innocent men and woman are not executed for crimes they did not commit.  A murder trial normally takes much longer when the death penalty is at issue than when it is not. Litigation costs – including the time of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and court reporters, and the high costs of briefs — are all borne by the taxpayer. Florida, with one of the U.S.’ largest death rows, has estimated that the true cost of each execution is approximately $3.2 million, or approximately six times the cost of a life-imprisonment sentence. Anti-capital punishment campaigners in the U.S. cite the higher cost of executing someone over life in prison, but this, whilst true for America, has to do with the endless appeals and delays in carrying out death sentences that are allowed under the U.S. legal system where the average time spent on death row is over 12 years. Many opponents present, as fact, that the cost of the death penalty is so expensive (at least $2 million per case? on average), that we must choose life without parole (“LWOP”) at a cost of $1 million for 50 years.  Predictably, these pronouncements may be entirely false. On the other hand, JFA estimates that LWOP cases will cost $1.2 million – $3.6 million more than equivalent death penalty cases. Also, in developing nations like India & china, death penalty is cheaper than life imprisonment where criminal will stay whole life in prison on tax payers’ money. Anyway, life is cheaper in developing country than developed country not only with respect to cost of death penalty but also deaths due to starvation, accident, disasters or terrorism. The American company Union Carbide Corporation paid about 2000 dollars for each death claim as compensation in Bhopal industrial disaster in India. How much they would have paid if the same disaster occurred in America?  Interesting to note that it is probably a higher standard of living to be in prison in the U.S. than to be a free man in a developing nation like India. So cost should have no bearing in deciding life sentence instead of death penalty. Anyway, cost is born by people of a country and therefore people should have a say in deciding whether the offender should get death penalty or life sentence. Nonetheless, many opponents of capital punishment put forward life in prison without parole as a viable alternative to execution for the worst offenders, and surveys in America have shown that life without parole (LWOP) enjoys considerable support amongst those who would otherwise favour the death penalty. It is argued by some that LWOP is in fact a far more cruel punishment that death. They cited LWOP as a living death where they died a little every day.  One might be forgiven for asking what is the point of locking a person up to the day they die and one might wonder if it is indeed a far worse punishment than death.

 

However, LWOP cannot prevent or deter offenders from killing prison staff or other inmates or taking hostages to further an escape bid – they have nothing further to lose by doing so and there are instances of it happening in the U.S. According to one survey in the U.S., 7 prison-guards are murdered each year in prison-many presumably by lifers who, in a state where there is absolutely no capital punishment, have nothing to lose. What are we to say to prison guard’s families–”Well! If a murderer murders your loved one we will pile on another life sentence??”  Also, however good the security of a prison, someone will always try to escape and occasionally will be successful. If you have endless time to plan an escape and everything to gain from doing so, it is a very strong incentive. Also, we have no guarantee that future governments will not release offenders, who were imprisoned years previously, on the recommendations of various professional “do-gooders” who are against any punishment in the first place. Twenty or thirty years on it is very difficult to remember the awfulness of an individual’s crime and easy to claim that they have reformed. The most conclusive evidence that criminals fear the death penalty more than life without parole is provided by convicted capital murderers and their attorneys. 99.9% of all convicted capital murderers and their attorneys argue for life, not death, in the punishment phase of their trial. When the death penalty becomes real, murderers fear it the most. Criminals fear nothing more than death. Therefore, nothing will deter a criminal more than the fear of death… life in prison is less feared. Murderers clearly prefer it to execution — otherwise, they would not try to be sentenced to life in prison instead of death… Therefore, a life sentence must be less deterrent than a death sentence. Nonetheless, murderers do commit capital crimes because fear of death penalty is diminished as executions are neither swift nor sure in the U.S as well as in other democratic nations.

 

Few death row prisoners try to commit suicide and fewer succeed. Few death row prisoners insist that all appeals on their behalf be dropped. Few convicted murderers sentenced to life in prison declare years later that they wish they had been sentenced instead to death and executed. Few if any death row prisoners refuse clemency if it is offered to them. No doubt prison life can be made unbearable and hideous; no doubt death row can be managed by the authorities in an inhumane fashion. But none of this is necessary. No doubt not all life-term prisoners find ways to make their imprisonment something more than an inhumane endurance test. So it should hardly come as a surprise that the vast majority of friends of the death penalty as well as its opponents believe that death is worse than imprisonment. This is why its opponents want to abolish it—and why its supporters want to keep it. A great deal of crime is committed on a cost-benefit schema, wherein the criminal engages in some form of risk assessment as to his or her chances of getting caught and punished in some manner. If he or she estimates the punishment mild, the crime becomes inversely attractive, and vice versa. The fact that those who are condemned to death do everything in their power to get their sentences postponed or reduced to long-term prison sentences; in the way lifers do not, shows that they fear death more than life in prison. Most murderers commit murders not because they are not afraid of death penalty but because they believe that they will never be caught. This belief need to be shattered.

 

Abortion versus death penalty:

Common sense suggests that those who support abortion would also support death penalty and vice versa. But the truth is paradoxical. Those who oppose death penalty usually support abortion (liberals) and those who support death penalty usually oppose abortions (conservatives). Is this morally inconsistent? Let me give one example. If a woman forgot to take contraceptive pill and became pregnant, it is her choice to abort but whose mistake was it anyway. The unborn child is aborted because woman made a mistake. So why should innocent unborn child pay the penalty of woman’s mistake. Yes, it is woman’s right to choose; here’s a thought; choose not to have sex. We’ve known where babies come from for over 5,000 years. Taking a human life for the sake of convenience should not be anyone’s right anyway. Also, if the man wants the baby and the woman does not, the man has no say because it is assumed that women have been oppressed throughout history…therefore they cannot be held responsible for their actions and if they choose to abort the baby, so be it, it is their choice. Men on the other hand, being the alleged oppressors, have no choice notwithstanding the fact that both man & woman contribute almost equally to the genetic makeup of an embryo. People must also understand difference between abortion and miscarriage. Abortion is deliberately causing the death of a baby; miscarriage is the accidental death of the baby on its own.

 

The person who is on death row awaiting execution is there as a result of his/her own criminal actions. The unborn child who is aborted dies from the action of another. The child has not done anything warranting such a harsh penalty. The distinction is an innocent life versus a convicted life. Assuming the legal system is working properly, the death sentence is justified as retribution for the criminal’s act. An unborn baby is aborted because her mother sees her as a burden, not because of any act of the baby.  The death penalty is essentially a state decision. Abortion, on the other hand, puts the individual in the position of imposing the death penalty on the unborn child. The death penalty is a system’s response to volitional acts, abortion an individual’s response to mere existence. When civilization reserves the death penalty for mass murderers and serial killers, that punishment becomes a moral act. Society must protect its citizens from irredeemable evil. Pro-life means advocating the legal protection to human embryos and fetuses, especially by favoring the outlawing of abortion on the ground that it is the taking of a human life, but can we extend the same rationale to save a life of a serial killer on death penalty row? Abortion supporters cannot lump serial killers with innocent unborn. It is outrageous and preposterous to compare an innocent unborn child with a serial murderer or terrorist. There is absolutely no equivalency between capital punishment for crimes, and abortion. As for abortion versus death penalty, every citizen has signed a social contract that they forfeit their lives if convicted of certain crimes. If you commit an uncivil act, the law necessitates a penalty to keep social order. The innocent baby committed no such act.  People who support abortion says that it is woman’s right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy or not but many people insist that abortion is wrong because it terminates a human life. This life is valuable and deserves a chance to live. Therefore, a pregnant woman should not have the option of killing the embryo unless there is a medical indication for termination of pregnancy or pregnancy caused by rape.

 

Do we believe in the basic premise that either all life is sacred (as in the case of the death row inmate & unborn child) or none of it is?  The answer to this question will solve the puzzle of abortion versus death penalty. Those who believe that all lives are sacred will oppose death penalty and oppose abortion. Those who believe that no life is sacred will support abortion and support death penalty. Those who believe that all lives are not equally sacred would either be a conservative or a liberal. Conservative believes that a mass murderer is an evil human and deserves death penalty while an unborn child is innocent and must not be aborted.  Liberal believes that we have no right to take life of a criminal no matter whether he has taken life of another innocent human and a woman has a right to abort her unborn child.

 

So where do you stand? Think over it.

 

THE MORAL OF THE STORY:

1) Life and death are the words used by humans to describe certain processes or conditions but human intelligence is not evolved enough to define or understand it.

2) For all practical purposes, brain death means death of a human being no matter whether it occurs either due to primary brain injury or secondary to cessation of circulation & breathing.

3) The death of a human embryo is equivalent to death of a human being because even 3 weeks old embryo does have a developing living brain-tissue no matter whether it possesses consciousness of the degree of a newborn.

4) With due respect to all religions, I humbly state that the soul does not exist and there is no afterlife.

5) It is immoral to abolish death penalty for heinous crimes in a democratic country with functioning democratic institutions.

6) Swift, certain, consistent and non-arbitrary death penalty is the best way to deter future would-be-offenders from committing heinous crimes.

 

Dr.Rajiv Desai. MD.

November 11, 2010.

 

Postscript:

I will also die one day. I am only a human.

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GENETICALLY MODIFIED

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GM):

 

Prologue:

A year 2006 study of the global impact of GM crops, published by the UK consultancy PG Economics and funded by Illinois-Missouri Biotechnology Alliance concluded that globally, the technology reduced pesticide spraying by 286,000 tons in 2006, decreasing the environmental impact of herbicides and pesticides by 15%. On the other hand, a year 2009 study published by the Organic Center stated that the use of genetically engineered corn, soybean, and cotton increased the use of herbicides by 383 million pounds, and pesticide use by 318.4 million pounds. Whom to trust?  This is the paradox about GM food. There are thousands of studies and research works on GM whose conclusions contradict each other. People are caught in the cross-fire between pro-GM lobby and anti-GM lobby. I do not know the truth but I will try to educate people on the most controversial issue of 21’st century.

 

Abbreviations & synonyms:

Genetically modified = GM = genetically engineered

Genetically modified organism = GMO

Modern biotechnology = gene technology = recombinant DNA technology = genetic engineering.

 

The term genetically modified food is a misnomer and the correct terminology is that the food-crops are genetically modified. An herbicide (weed killer) is a substance used to kill unwanted plants growing near food-crops. Pest means an insect which feeds on plants/crops useful for humans. Organic foods are devoid of any genetically modified (GM) ingredients and derived from organic farming. Organic farming means you work with nature to manage your soil, insects, plant resistance and so on through natural processes, rather than through genetic engineering or chemical treatment and only pure fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides are used and in the case of cattle, only natural feed is given to them, so that you will be assured that you get only natural meat/milk.  

 

Introduction:

Man has been “genetically modifying” everything from food to dogs for many centuries; but in the past, the only tool has been selective breeding. For example, if you wanted to create a breed of corn with resistance to a certain fungus, you would plant a plot of corn and see how individual plants did with the fungus. Then you would take seeds from the plants that did well, plant them, look at their performance against the fungus… and so on over the years until you had created a strain of corn plant that had very high resistance to the fungus in question. Using selective breeding techniques, people have created everything from variegated roses to giant pumpkins to strains of wheat with twice the yield and very high disease tolerance. For centuries, humans have altered plants and animals by selective reproduction (breeding, hybridizing). As a result, we have a wide range of domestic animals and plants grown for food and for a variety of non-food use (such as for fibers and decorative purposes and as a source of fuel). These efforts involve human actions working with existing natural processes for selection of traits. These traits are in the genes, so there are some differences in the genes of the original and modified versions of the plants and animals. Since the late 19th century, knowledge of the principles of heredity gave farmers new tools for breeding crops and animals. They selected individual organisms with beneficial characteristics and developed hybrid crops.

 

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism (plant/ animal/ microorganism etc) whose genetic material (DNA) has been altered using genetic engineering techniques by either adding a gene from a different species or over-expressing/ silencing a preexisting native gene. Genetic material can be artificially inserted either by physically inserting the extra DNA into the nucleus of the intended host with a very small syringe/a gene gun, by using the ability of Agrobacterium (bacteria) to transfer genetic material to plants, and the ability of lentiviruses (viruses) to transfer genes to animal cells. Such bacteria/ viruses are then called vectors. Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMO). These GM foods could be derived from either plant kingdom (e.g. tomatoes) or animal kingdom (e.g. salmon fish).

 

Genetic material in an organism can be altered without genetic engineering techniques which include mutation breeding where an organism is exposed to radiation or chemicals to create a non-specific but stable change, selective breeding (plant breeding and animal breeding), hybridizing and somaclonal variation. However, these organisms are not labeled as GMO.

 

Barring few RNA viruses, every living organism has DNA in the nucleus of its cell. This DNA is derived from biological parents in the case of sexual reproduction or from precursor cell in case of asexual reproduction. A section of DNA coding for one particular protein is called a gene. Genes are the pieces of DNA code which regulate all biological processes in living organisms. The entire set of genetic information of an organism is present in the nucleus every cell and is called the genome. Every gene codes for a specific protein which gives a specific trait to the organism like how we appear and what characteristics we have. In the same way, animals & plants have genes too. Genes decide the colour of flowers, and how tall a plant can grow. Like humans, the characteristics of a plant will be transferred to its children through the plant seeds, which grow into new plants. In conventional breeding half of an individual’s genes come from each parent, whereas in genetic engineering one, several specially selected genes are added to the genetic material. Moreover, conventional plant breeding can only combine closely related plants. The genetic modification will do one of two things: either add new sections of DNA to the genes of a particular plant/animal to code for new proteins, or remove stretches of DNA so that a particular protein is not produced. People believe that there is a fundamental difference between genetic modification via selective breeding and genetic engineering techniques. However in fact, given two strands of DNA, created from the same original strand, one by selective breeding and another by modern genetic engineering techniques, it is impossible to tell which is which. The changes caused by selective breeding have been just as radical as genetic modifications. Wheat for example, was cultivated through selective breeding, from an almost no-yield rice-type crop into the super-crop as it is today. We must remember that all DNA is made up of the same four fundamental molecules regardless of which organism the DNA came from originally. It is also worth noting that DNA from all organisms are very similar. Human DNA is 99% the same as chimpanzee DNA and about 50% the same as grass DNA. Consequently, the addition of DNA from one organism into the DNA of another is like adding ‘Lego Bricks’ to one another to create a desired final structure. Indeed such processes occur all the time in nature in sexual reproduction. When a scientist genetically modifies a plant, they insert a foreign gene in the plant’s own genes. This might be a gene from a bacterium resistant to pesticide, for example. The result is that the plant receives the characteristics trait held within the genetic code. Consequently, the genetically modified plant also becomes able to withstand pesticides. Spontaneous changes, radiation, chemicals and traditional processing can also alter the characteristics of a plant or animal. Spontaneous alteration of genes takes place naturally and sometimes with no effect. A spontaneous alteration can lead to the development of both positive and negative characteristics. The method is not particularly good if the intention is to create specific changes. Radiation and chemicals can be used in order to effect gene alteration. Both elements are sometimes used in plant processing. With genetic engineering it is possible to transfer genes from one species to another. This is because all genes, be they human, plant, animal or bacterial are created from the same material (DNA). Genetic scientists therefore have a huge amount of genetic characteristics to choose from. One of the main differences between conventional and genetically modified crops is that the former involves crosses either within species or between very closely related species. GM crops can have genes either from closely related species or from distant species, even bacteria and viruses.

 

Genes are the blueprints for every part of an organism. Genetic engineering is the process of artificially modifying these blueprints. By cutting and splicing DNA, genetic engineers can transfer genes specific to one type of organism into any other organism on earth. Genetic engineering means selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species. Direct genetic modification is a relatively new process based on a set of technologies that alter the genetic makeup of living organisms, including animals, plants, bacteria, or fungi by inserting genes rather than using cross-breeding and selection techniques. The purpose of the modification of the genes is to derive certain benefits. A specific DNA from a different source is inserted into the genome of an organism giving it a new gene or trait which then becomes GMO. The general principle of producing a GMO is to add new genetic material into an organism’s genome. This genetic engineering was made possible through the discovery of DNA and the creation of the first recombinant bacteria in 1973 and in 1978 a company announced creation of an E.coli. strain producing the human protein insulin. GMOs are used in biological and medical research, production of pharmaceutical drugs, experimental medicine (e.g. gene therapy), and agriculture (e.g. golden rice). The end product we use may be part of the genetically modified organism itself (e.g., the beans of the soy plant) or something produced by the modified organism (for example, a drug produced by fermentation using modified bacteria or fungi).   The term GM foods is most commonly used to refer to crop plants created for human or animal consumption using genetic engineering in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content. The enhancement of desired traits has traditionally been undertaken through breeding, but conventional plant breeding methods can be very time consuming and are often not very accurate. Genetic engineering, on the other hand can create plants with the exact desired trait very rapidly and with great accuracy. For example, plant geneticists can isolate a gene responsible for drought tolerance and insert that gene into a different plant. The new genetically-modified plant will gain drought tolerance as well. Not only can genes be transferred from one plant to another, but genes from non-plant organisms also can be used. The best known example of this is the use of Bt. genes in corn and other crops (e.g. brinjal). Bt. Stands for Bacillus Thurigniensis, a soil bacterium which synthesizes a crystal (Cry) protein. In the insect gut, the protein breaks down to release toxin, which kills the insect. These Cry genes are known as Bt. genes which are inserted into a plant through genetic engineering. This allows the plant to produce its own toxin which it not normally produces. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt.) is a natural soil bacterium that destroys the digestive tracts of certain very pesky insects, like the Colorado Potato Beetle and the European Corn Borer. It is one of the safest insecticides known and has been used in spray form by organic farmers for years. Biotech companies have engineered crops–corn, cotton, canola, and potatoes–with a Bt. gene so that Bt crops express the toxin in every cell of the plant.

 

Transgenic organisms, a subset of GMOs, are organisms which have inserted DNA that originated in a different species. Just like we have transgenic plants (crops), we also have transgenic animals. For example, transgenic cattle were created to produce milk containing particular human proteins, which may help in the treatment of human emphysema. Transgenic animals in agriculture are larger sheep that grow more wool, in medicine are cows that produce insulin in their milk and in industry are goats that produce spider silk for materials production. Transgenic chickens are now able to synthesize human proteins in the “white” of the eggs. Transgenic science is working for development of organs for xeno-transplantation. Transgenic pigs have been developed which lack surface glycoprotein which are antigenic for humans.

 

The GM salmon-fish is created by inserting a growth gene from the Chinook salmon and a gene “promoter” from the ocean pout, another type of fish. The resulting GM salmon grow to market weight about twice as fast as ordinary non-GM Atlantic salmon, though they don’t get larger overall. To safeguard the environment, the eggs will be treated in such way that all fish that grow from them will be sterile females. That means they will not be able to reproduce, nor will they come into contact with males to reproduce and the treated eggs will be sold in market. FDA panel says not enough evidence to verify safety of genetically modified salmon. The outcry over FDA even considering genetically modified salmon for human consumption has almost overshadowed another GM animal that’s up for approval i.e. the Enviropig. Researchers have genetically engineered a pig that creates fewer pollutants in its waste by combining the pig’s genes with those from mouse and E. coli DNA. Pig manure is loaded with toxins like phosphorus, because pigs have trouble digesting the stuff. The Enviropig can digest dietary phosphorus around 50% more efficiently than the average pig, which means less phosphorus in its waste which was injuring and killing fish & other marine life.

 

GM foods have caused a great political divide, especially between the United States and Europe. The FDA bases its position on the philosophy of “substantial equivalence.” For the purposes of regulation, if a GM food product has the same composition, nutritive value, functional characteristics, and organoleptic properties (taste, smell, and mouthfeel) as a conventional product, then that GM food is considered to have substantial equivalence. The argument for substantial equivalence is that genetic alterations (to date) have been minor and tightly targeted – genetic insertions involve only one or a few genes, and the plant is substantially equivalent to the original in all other characteristics. The counter argument is that while GM foods are equivalent in many ways to their non-GM counterparts, they differ in the most fundamentally important way: their DNA and when a plant is inserted with a gene, its important natural genes can be inadvertently turned off, permanently tuned on, deleted, reversed, scrambled, moved, fragmented or changed. Also, the FDA subscribes to a definition for genetically modified food that is broadly outside the scope of everyone else’s understanding: “‘Genetic modification’ means the alteration of the genotype of a plant using any technique, new or traditional.” While the public uses the terms ‘genetically modified’ and ‘genetically engineered’ interchangeably to mean the DNA was directly manipulated, the FDA does not.   

 

The first commercially grown genetically modified food crop was a tomato submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for testing in 1992. Following the FDA’s determination that the FlavrSavr (GM tomato) was in fact a tomato, did not constitute a health hazard, and did not need to be labeled to indicate it was genetically modified; was released it into the market in 1994, where it met with little public comment. The FDA provides a list GM foods which include GM corn, soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, canola, and sugar beets, most of which are fed to animals or used as ingredients in processed foods. The FDA has approved production of GM varieties of plums, cantaloupe, papaya, squash, radicchio, tomatoes, and potatoes. The 3 most common genetically modified foods are soybeans, rapeseed and corn. Of all the soybeans grown in the world 46% are genetically modified. 11% of the rapeseed and 7% of the corn is genetically modified. Examples of these GM plants include tomatoes & cantalopes that have modified ripening characteristics, soybeans & sugarbeets that are resistant to herbicides, and corn & cotton plants with increased resistance to insect pests. Genetically modified (virus resistant) papayas are approved for consumption both in the US and in Canada. The ubiquity of soybean derivatives as food additives in the modern American diet virtually ensures that all U.S. consumers have been exposed to GM food products. Also, half of the refined sugar in the US is genetically modified, coming from GM sugar beets. GM corn is used as a fodder and it is also incorporated in bread, corn chips and breakfast cereals. Animal products have also been developed and GM salmon fish is waiting FDA approval. In addition, various genetically engineered micro-organisms are routinely used as sources of enzymes for the manufacture of a variety of processed foods. These include alpha-amylase from bacteria, which converts starch to simple sugars, chymosin from bacteria or fungi that clots milk protein for cheese making, and pectinesterase from fungi which improves fruit juice clarity. Genetically modified bacteria are used to produce the protein insulin to treat diabetes. Similar bacteria have been used to produce clotting factors to treat hemophilia, and human growth hormone to treat various forms of dwarfism. Gene therapy uses genetically modified viruses to deliver genes that are used to treat genetic disorders such as severe combined immunodeficiency, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and muscular dystrophy. GMO can be scientifically detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique.

 

 

 

Food Properties of the genetically modified variety Modification Percent Modified in US Percent Modified in world
Soybeans Resistant to glyphosate or glufosinate herbicides Herbicide resistant gene taken from bacteria inserted into soybean 93% 77%
Corn Resistant to glyphosate or glufosinate herbicides. Insect resistance via producing Bt proteins, same previously used as pesticides in organic crop production. New genes, some from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, added/transferred into plant genome. 86% 26%
Cotton (cottonseed oil) Pest-resistant cotton Bt crystal protein gene added/transferred into plant genome 93% 49%
         
Hawaiian papaya Variety is resistant to the papaya ringspot virus. New gene added/transferred into plant genome 80%  
Tomatoes Variety in which the production of the enzyme polygalacturonase (PG) is suppressed, retarding fruit softening after harvesting. A reverse copy (an antisense gene) of the gene responsible for the production of PG enzyme added into plant genome Taken off the market due to commercial failure. Small quantities grown in China
Rapeseed (Canola) Resistance to herbicides (glyphosate or glufosinate), high laurate canola New genes added/transferred into plant genome 93% 21%
         
Sugar beet Resistance to glyphosate, glufosinate herbicides New genes added/transferred into plant genome 95% (2010) 9%
Rice Genetically modified to contain high amounts of Vitamin A (beta-carotene) “Golden rice” Three new genes implanted: two from daffodils and the third from a bacterium Forecast to be on the market in 2012  

  

Growing of GM crops:

 Listing the GM crop acreage in million hectares in year 2003 

Between 1997 and 2009, the total surface area of land cultivated with GMOs had increased by a factor of 80, from 17,000 km2 (4.2 million acres) to 1,340,000 km2 (331 million acres). In 2009, countries that grew 95% of the global transgenic crops were the United States (46%), Brazil (16%), Argentina (15%), India (6%), Canada (6%), China (3%), Paraguay (2%) and South Africa (2%). The Grocery Manufacturers of America estimate that 75% of all processed foods in the US contain a GM ingredient. In the US by 2009/2010, 93% of the planted area of soybeans, 93% of cotton, 86% of corn and 95% of the sugar beet were genetically modified varieties. Genetically modified soybeans carried herbicide-tolerant traits only, but maize and cotton carried both herbicide tolerance and insect protection traits. In 2009, 84,000 km2 of land was used to harvest GM cotton in India (87 percent of cotton produced in India was based on GM cotton). Governments around the world are hard at work to establish a regulatory process to monitor the effects of and approve new varieties of GM plants. Yet depending on the political, social and economic climate within a region or country, different governments are responding in different ways.

 

 

Future applications of GMO:

These include drugs in food, bananas that produce human vaccines against infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B, cows that are resistant to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), fruit & nut trees that yield years earlier, foods no longer containing properties associated with common intolerances, and plants that produce new plastics with unique properties.

 

Why GM food anyway?

On our planet, 18% of the land mass is used for agricultural production. This fraction cannot be increased substantially. It is absolutely essential that the yield per unit of land increases beyond current levels given that the human population is still growing, and will reach about nine billion by 2050; 70,000 km² of agricultural land is lost annually to growth of cities and other non-agricultural uses. Consumer diets in developing countries are increasingly changing from plant-based proteins to animal protein, a trend that requires a greater amount of crop-based animal feeds. Population growth and diet upgrading will require the world food supply to increase at least 250 percent from its current quantity. Although forests could be cleared to obtain needed land, a better approach is to find ways of getting greater crop yield from existing land. Biotechnology can increase the quantity of the harvest by addressing the factors that traditionally deplete crops such as pests, weeds, drought and wind. Plants from biotechnology can deal with these hardships and dramatically increase the percentage of crops that survive and are harvested each year.

 

Roughly 95% of the world’s farmers live in developing countries. Most of these people engage in small-scale, community-based agriculture. Looking back at history, at the time of the first green revolution when increased irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides and hybrid seeds began to be used in a big way in the 60s, the dangers that could be posed were known then too. But again there was no alternative. Poor nations were literally surviving from “ship to mouth” as it was called then with food imports literally being rushed to ration shops to ward off impending starvation. The dangers that fertilizers, chemical pesticides and such were not and could not be avoided but systemic famine and mass starvation became history. It is not that fertilizers and pesticides were good; it is just that the alternative is worse. Nonetheless the area with the greatest need for increased agricultural production was Africa, where the green revolution was largely a failure. Today again, agricultural production had stagnated and the spectacular yield growth recorded in the post-Green Revolution years has receded into history and we are facing population explosion, and more & more agriculture land is converted into housing land for humans. Under such circumstances do we really have the choice to avoid genetically modified foods on our dining table?

 

Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger in the world. One out of six persons goes hungry everyday worldwide. The question is whether GM can solve world hunger problems, or even if that would be the best way to address the issue. Several scientists argue that in order to meet the demand for food in the developing world, a second green revolution with increased use of GM crops is needed. Others argue that there is more than enough food in the world and that the hunger crisis is caused by problems in food distribution and politics, not production and then there are those who consider over-population the real issue here, and that food production is adequate for any reasonable population size. Some scientists believe that GM offers both faster crop adaptation and a biological, rather than chemical, approach to yield increases. On the other hand, many scientists believe that in a nearly 20 year record, genetically engineered crops have not increased yields substantially of food and livestock feed crops in the United States. Hunger is fundamentally a social, political, and economic problem, which GM technology cannot address. The fact is that hunger has grown in India in absolute terms where some 320 million people go to bed hungry every night. Two years back, India had a record food grain surplus of 65 million tons. If 65 million tons surplus could not feed the 320 million hungry, how will GM food remove hunger? Indian Supreme Court recently observed that instead of decaying food grains due to improper storage, it may be distributed to the poor freely. In reality, GM food diverts precious financial resources to an irrelevant research, comes with stronger intellectual property rights, and is aimed at strengthening corporate control over agriculture. Had more attention being given to sustainable farming systems, India would have created a unique model of agriculture where farmers are not forced to commit suicide, where the land is not polluted, and where water is not poisoned. According to the United Nations World Food Program, there is currently more than enough food produced to feed everyone on the planet an adequate and healthy diet. The reason that approximately 800 million people go hungry everyday worldwide is that they don’t have access to food by either being able to afford it or grow their own. 3 billion people in the world today struggle to survive on less than 2 dollars per day. 70 % Indian people survive on less than rupees 20 (half dollar) per day. It is interesting to note that population explosion exists due to political negligence and the same politicians are opposed to GM crops. There is no logic. On one hand you do not want to control population and on the other hand you do not want to find alternate way to satisfy hunger no matter whether it is through better food distribution system or alleviating poverty or GM food.

 

Better dead than GM fed?

In the year 2002, there was food crisis in Southern Africa affecting Angola, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as large numbers of people in Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland. It was estimated that across the entire region, 9.4 million people required immediate food assistance. However when Americans sent food aid through the World Food Program (WFP) a United Nations body; it was rejected by  south African nations on the ground that it contained GM food and African people are not guinea pigs for American experiment, notwithstanding the fact that American people also eat GM food. Americans reacted by saying that African leaders who refuse to accept food aid due to fears of genetically modified products are committing crimes against humanity by starving people to death and should be put on trial. The US said that it cannot provide guaranteed GM-free maize because there is no requirement in place to separate GM and non-GM grains in the US. Africans said that allowing GM food aid would pollute the core of Africa’s crop diversity. Every story has two sides but here on one side there is death due to starvation and on other side alleged health risk and crop contamination.   

 

GM crop yield:

The big criticism leveled against organic farming is that it leads to lower yield than other practices and requires more agricultural land to be viable which in turn could lead to deforestation and habitat loss. It is generally perceived that GM crops increased net yield in all cases. GM crops grow quickly, but production costs are low. For instance, corn with modified genes can be pest-resistant, produce twice as much corn and reduce production expenses by half. However many studies contradict this basic assumption. At best, GM crops have performed no better than their non-GM counterparts, with GM Soybeans giving consistently lower yields for over a decade. Controlled comparative field trials of GM/non-GM Soya suggest that 50% of the drop in yield is due to the genetic disruptive effect of the GM transformation process. Similarly, field tests of Bt. insecticide-producing maize hybrids showed that they took longer to reach maturity and produced up to 12% lower yields than their non-GM counterpart. A recent study by the Soil Association shows that GM crops do not increase yield. A more recent review of 40 soybean varietal trials in the north central region of the US found a mean 4% yield drag in GM soybeans. Even comparing the top 5 varieties from each, GM still yielded 5% less than conventional soybeans.  8,200 university research trials comparing the performance of different varieties of soybeans show that yields of genetically engineered herbicide resistant soybeans are lower than comparable conventional varieties. The Union of Concerned Scientists summarized numerous peer-reviewed studies on the yield contribution of genetic engineering in the United States. This report examined the two most widely grown engineered crops–soybeans and maize. Unlike many other studies, this work separated the yield contribution of the GM gene from that of the many naturally occurring yield genes in crops. The report found that GM herbicide tolerant soy and maize did not increase yield at the national aggregate level.

 

Labeling of GM food:

The United States and Canada do not require labeling of genetically modified foods. However in the European Union, Japan, Malaysia and Australia governments have required labeling so consumers can exercise choice between foods that have genetically modified or organic origins. In January 2000, an international trade agreement for labeling GM foods was established. More than 130 countries, including the US, the world’s largest producer of GM foods, signed the agreement. The policy states that exporters must be required to label all GM foods and that importing countries have the right to judge for themselves the potential risks and reject GM foods. Labeling of GM foods and food products is also a contentious issue. On the whole, agribusiness industries believe that labeling should be voluntary and influenced by the demands of the free market. If consumers show preference for labeled foods over non-labeled foods, then industry will have the incentive to regulate itself or risk alienating the customer. Consumer interest groups, on the other hand, are demanding mandatory labeling. People have the right to know what they are eating- argue the interest groups, and historically industry has proven itself to be unreliable at self-compliance with existing safety regulations. However, labeling GM food would be extremely challenging because non-GM food would be sold at a premium in high-income retail outlets, while virtually all others would be labeled GM. There are many questions that must be answered if labeling of GM foods becomes mandatory. First, are consumers willing to absorb the cost of such an initiative? Secondly, what are the acceptable limits of GM contamination in non-GM products? The EC has determined that 1% is an acceptable limit of cross-contamination, yet many consumer interest groups argue that only 0% is acceptable. Thirdly, what is the level of detectability of GM food cross-contamination? Scientists agree that current technology is unable to detect minute quantities of contamination, so ensuring 0% contamination using existing methodologies is not guaranteed. Finally who is to be responsible for educating the public about GM food labels and how costly will that education be? Food labels must be designed to clearly convey accurate information about the product in simple language that everyone can understand. This may be the greatest challenge faced be a new food labeling policy: how to educate and inform the public without damaging the public trust and causing alarm or fear of GM food products.

 

Safety of GM food:

Different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods. Experts estimate more than 1 trillion meals containing ingredients from GM crops have been consumed over the last decade with no reliable documentation of any food safety issues for people or animals. In the United States all GM food must be tested for nine years before its release onto the market. In fact, testing has been so successful that in the 30 year history of GM food that not one single person has died due to genetic modification. A 2008 review published by the Royal Society of Medicine noted that GM foods have been eaten by millions of people worldwide for over 15 years, with no reports of ill effects. Another a 2004 report from the US National Academies of Sciences stated: ‘To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.’ The question of the safety of genetically modified foods has been reviewed by the International Council of Science (ICSU), which based its opinion on 50 authoritative independent scientific assessments from around the world. Currently available genetically modified crops – and foods derived from them – have been judged safe to eat, and the methods used to test them have been deemed appropriate. Millions of people worldwide have consumed foods derived from genetically modified plants (mainly maize, soybean, and  rapeseed) and to date no adverse effects have been observed. The lack of evidence of negative effects, however, does not mean that new genetically modified foods are without risk. The possibility of long-term effects from genetically modified plants cannot be excluded and must be examined on a case-by-case basis. Animal feeds frequently contain genetically modified crops and enzymes derived from genetically modified micro-organisms. There is general agreement that both modified DNA and proteins are rapidly broken down in the digestive system. Two studies on the possible effects of feeding genetically modified feeds to animals found that no residues of recombinant DNA or novel proteins have been found in any organ or tissue samples obtained from animals fed with GM plants.

 

Advantages of GMO:

1) Pest resistance: Crop losses from insect pests can be staggering, resulting in devastating financial loss for farmers and starvation in developing countries. Farmers typically use many tons of chemical pesticides annually. Consumers do not wish to eat food that has been treated with pesticides because of potential health hazards. Also run-off of agricultural wastes from excessive use of pesticides & fertilizers can poison the water supply and cause harm to the environment. An example of genetic modification for pest (insect) resistance is the introduction of a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thurigiensis into the genes of a crop plant; the selected gene codes for a protein that is toxic to certain insects. The genetically modified plants then produce the protein; making them resistant to pests like the European corn borer or Cotton Boll Worm (the genes also protect potatoes and rice from destructive insects). By using this technology, the yield of plants is higher (since fewer are damaged by insects) and the use of insecticides against these pests can be reduced. Growing GM foods such as Bt. corn can help eliminate the application of chemical pesticides and reduce the cost of bringing a crop to market. Other example- Scientists have transferred a gene to the rapeseed plant which enables the plant to resist a certain pesticide. When the farmer sprays his genetically modified rapeseed crop with pesticides, he can destroy most of the pests without killing the rapeseed plants. GM technology has also resulted in 172,000 tons less pesticide use by growers and 14 per cent reduction in the environmental footprint associated with pesticide use.

 

2) Herbicide tolerance: For some crops, it is not cost-effective to remove weeds by physical means such as tilling, so farmers will often spray large quantities of different herbicides (weed-killer) to destroy weeds, a time-consuming and expensive process that requires care so that the herbicide doesn’t harm the crop plant or the environment. Herbicide tolerance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from a bacterium conveying resistance to some herbicides. Crop plants genetically-engineered to be resistant to one very powerful herbicide could help prevent environmental damage by reducing the amount of herbicides needed. One of the best known herbicide tolerant GM food crops is the “roundup ready” soybean, introduced into commerce in 1997.  The herbicide (weed killer) is called “Roundup,” a form of glyphosphate. This genetic modification allows soybean farmers to get rid of weeds with Roundup while the soybeans are not adversely affected by it. A farmer can control weeds by spraying Roundup right over the GM crop. The GM crop completely ignores the herbicide, but the weeds are eliminated. Otherwise, soybean crop yields would be lowered by the growth of weeds, or less desirable chemicals would need to be used to control competition by weeds (glyphosphate is not carcinogenic, does not affect reproduction and development of animals, does not accumulate in the body, and is not acutely toxic in its dilute form). A farmer grows GM soybeans with herbicide tolerance which then only requires one application of weed-killer instead of multiple applications, reducing production cost and limiting the dangers of agricultural waste run-off. Herbicide tolerance is available for all of the major GM crops, including soybean, maize, rapeseed, and cotton. Herbicide tolerance and insect resistance (Bt) often are introduced simultaneously to a crop in one transformation event. This is called trait stacking (e.g. insect resistant/herbicide tolerant maize).

 

3) Disease resistance: There are many viruses, fungi and bacteria that cause plant diseases. Plant biologists are working to create plants with genetically-engineered resistance to these diseases. Virus resistance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from certain viruses which cause disease in plants. Virus resistance makes plants less susceptible to diseases caused by such viruses, resulting in higher crop yields (e.g. Hawaiian papaya resistant to papaya-ringspot-virus).  

 

4) Environment friendly: GM crops lead to development of “Friendly” bioherbicides and bioinsecticides; conservation of soil, water, and energy; bioprocessing for forestry products and better natural waste management. A major UK study looked at varieties of sugar beet and winter rapeseed which had been engineered to make them tolerant of specific herbicides. The novel crops were compared with non-GM cereals grown in rotation. It was found that GM crops are no more harmful to the environment than conventional plant varieties. A study found that GM crops have also made significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over 10 million tons. This is equivalent to removing five million cars from the road every year. Less deforestation needed to feed the world’s growing population. This decreases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which in turn slows global warming. Also, GM bacteria have been used to clean up oil spills and there are ideas of using them to help the environment by neutralizing harmful chemicals. Scientists said it could be possible to genetically alter plants and trees to enhance the processes by which plants sequester carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into long-lived forms of carbon that can be stored inside the plants – and, ultimately, in the soil. Such genetically modified trees and plants could capture billions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere annually and reduce the impacts of global warming.    

 

5) Nutrition: Malnutrition is common in third world countries where impoverished peoples rely on a single crop such as rice for the main staple of their diet. However, rice does not contain adequate amounts of all necessary nutrients to prevent malnutrition. If rice could be genetically engineered to contain additional vitamins and minerals, nutrient deficiencies could be alleviated. For example, blindness due to vitamin A deficiency is a common problem in third world countries. Researchers have created a strain of “golden” rice containing an unusually high content of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene gives carrots their orange colour and is the reason why genetically modified rice is golden. For the golden rice to make beta-carotene three new genes are implanted: two from daffodils and the third from a bacterium. The rice can be considered a particular advantage to poor people in underdeveloped countries who survive on rice from morning to evening. Also, genetically-engineered rice could help improve the shelf-life of a cholera vaccine without need for refrigeration. A new genetically-modified potato has 1.6 times the protein of normal potatoes and way more amino acids. The potatoes are modified by enhancing the expression of the seed protein Amaranth Albumin 1, which boosts the overall protein and amino acid contents of the crop. If genetically modified salmon is marketed in US, it will lower salmon prices and increase consumption of salmon, an exceptionally good source of omega-3 fatty acids linked to lower risk of heart disease. It is estimated that the resulting increase in omega-3 intake will prevent between 600 and 2,600 deaths per year in the United States.      

 

6) Desirable quality: GM technology allows greater precision in selecting characteristics and reduces risk of random occurrence of undesirable traits. GM crops have enhanced taste & quality and reduced maturation time. The genetically modified tomato produces less of the substance that causes tomatoes to rot, so remains firm and fresh for a long time. GM animals have increased resistance, productivity, hardiness, and feed efficiency and better yields of meat, eggs, and milk.  

 

7) Cold tolerance: Unexpected frost can destroy sensitive seedlings. An antifreeze gene from cold water fish has been introduced into plants such as tobacco and potato. With this antifreeze gene, these plants are able to tolerate cold temperatures that normally would kill unmodified seedlings.

 

8) Drought/salinity tolerance: As the world population grows and more land is utilized for housing instead of food production, farmers will need to grow crops in locations previously unsuited for plant cultivation. Creating plants that can withstand long periods of drought or high salt content in soil and groundwater will help people to grow crops in formerly inhospitable places.

 

9) Pharmaceuticals: Researchers are working to develop edible vaccines in tomatoes and potatoes. These are even diseases that we have found vaccines for, but the vaccines cannot easily be administered because of things like lack of refrigeration and high cost. One of the ways scientists are trying to get around this problem is by creating genetically modified plants that contain vaccines. The recombinant human insulin produced by GM bacteria E.coli. is used by millions of diabetic patients daily for 30 years without any side-effects of GM technology. By placing human genes for insulin into the bacteria, a process known as transfection, these bacteria & all its progeny can be induced to produce human insulin.     

 

10) Phytoremediation:  Not all GM plants are grown as crops. Soil and groundwater pollution continues to be a problem in all parts of the world. Plants such as poplar trees have been genetically engineered to clean up heavy metal pollution from contaminated soil.

 

11) Saving species: Prevention of loss of species to endemic disease. For example- the Cavendish dessert banana which is subject to two fungal diseases that has struck Africa, South America and Asia, but could be reprieved by GM development of a disease resistant version.

 

12) Bio-fuels: With rising oil prices, ever-increasing demands for fuel, and (paradoxically) growing concern about carbon emissions, the bio-fuel industry is set to boom. GM crops designed for this purpose can help to keep up with demand.

 

13) Landmine detection: Scientists have developed a GM tobacco plant that turns red/brown when it is exposed to TNT (explosive) content in soil. This plant is used to detect unexploded landmines, and is set to help with land clearing for agriculture in mine-ridden countries such as Angola.

 

14) Halo effect: New study shows genetically modified plants provide halo effect to non-modified plants, helping prevent infestation. Bt. corn that’s been genetically engineered to resist attacking borers produces a “halo effect” that provides huge benefits to other (non-GM) corn planted nearby, a new study finds. Since the borers that attack the genetically modified crops die, there are fewer of them to go after the non-GM version resulting in increased crop yield of non-GM corn.      

 

Criticism of GM:

Environmental activists, religious organizations, consumer activists, public interest groups, professional associations & scientists and government officials have all raised concerns about GM foods and criticized agribusiness for pursuing profit without concern for potential hazards and the government for failing to exercise adequate regulatory oversight. It seems that everyone has a strong opinion about GM food. Most concerns about GM foods fall into three categories: environmental hazards, human health risks, and economic concerns.

Environmental hazards:

1) Unintended harm to other organisms: Last year a laboratory study was published in nature showing that pollen from Bt. corn caused high mortality rates in monarch butterfly caterpillars. Monarch caterpillars consume milkweed plants, not corn, but the fear is that if pollen from Bt. corn is blown by the wind onto milkweed plants in neighboring fields, the caterpillars could eat the pollen and perish. Although the Nature study was not conducted under natural field conditions, the results seemed to support this viewpoint. Unfortunately, Bt. toxins kill many species of insect larvae indiscriminately; it is not possible to design a Bt. toxin that would only kill crop-damaging pests and remain harmless to all other insects. Although some researchers have said that this study is flawed, the potential risk of harm to non-target organisms will need to be evaluated further. Inserting a gene from a snowdrop into a potato made the potato resistant to greenfly, but also killed the ladybirds feeding on the greenfly. And lacewings, a natural predator of the corn borer and food for farmland birds, died when fed on pest insects raised on GM maize.

 

2) Reduced effectiveness of pesticides/herbicide: Many people are concerned that insects will become resistant to Bt. or other crops that have been genetically-modified to produce their own pesticides. In China and India, Bt. cotton was initially effective in suppressing the boll weevil. But secondary pests, especially mirids and mealy bugs, that are highly resistant to Bt. toxin, soon took its place. The farmers suffered massive crop losses and had to apply costly pesticides wiping out their profit margins. Also, genes from the genetically modified rapeseed crop could be transferred to the pests. The pests then become resistant to the crop spray and the crop spraying becomes useless. GM crops do not decrease herbicide use. The most commonly grown herbicide-resistant GM crops are engineered to be resistant to Roundup (common herbicide). But wide spread use of Roundup has led to the appearance of numerous weeds resistant to this herbicide. Roundup resistant weeds are now common and include pigweed, ryegrass, and marestail. As a result in the US, an initial drop in average herbicide use after GM crops were introduced has been followed by a large increase as farmers changed their farming practices and weeds developed resistance to herbicide. The appearance of resistant weeds has led to farmers being advised to use increasingly powerful mixtures of herbicides and not Roundup alone. The uses of herbicide-resistant crops lead to a threefold increase in the use of herbicides, resulting in even greater pollution of our food and water with toxic agrochemicals. An analysis of 8,200 university research trials revealed that farmers planting GM (Roundup Ready) soybeans are using two to five times as much of the herbicide as farmers growing conventional varieties.  

 

3) Gene transfer to non-target species: Another concern is that crop plants engineered for herbicide tolerance will cross-breed, resulting in the transfer of the herbicide resistance genes from the crops into the weeds. These “superweeds” would then be herbicide tolerant as well. Other introduced genes may cross over into non-modified crops planted next to GM crops. How to solve this problem? Genes are exchanged between plants via pollen. Two ways to ensure that non-target species will not receive introduced genes from GM plants are to create GM plants that are male sterile (do not produce pollen) or to modify the GM plant so that the pollen does not contain the introduced gene. Another possible solution is to create buffer zones around fields of GM crops. Gene transfer to weeds and other crops would not occur because the wind-blown pollen would not travel beyond the buffer zone. Estimates of the necessary width of buffer zones range from 6 meters to 30 meters.

 

4) Irreversible propagation: GM plants cannot be recalled and as living organisms, they will multiply passing any damaging traits from generation to generation. Artificially induced characteristics and inevitable side-effects will be passed on to all subsequent generations and to other related organisms. Once released, they can never be recalled or contained. The consequences of this are incalculable.

 

5) Co-existence: GM and non-GM crops cannot co-exist in agriculture. Experience in North America has shown that “coexistence” of GM and non-GM crops rapidly results in widespread contamination of non-GM crops. Contamination occurs through cross-pollination, spread of GM seed by farm machinery, and inadvertent mixing during storage. For example, GM rice grown for only one year in field trials was found to have widely contaminated the US rice supply & seed stocks and contaminated rice was found as far away as Africa, Europe, and Central America. Also, cross pollination can occur at quite large distances. New genes may also be included in the offspring of the traditional organic crops miles away. This makes it difficult to distinguish which crop field is organic and which is not; posing a problem to the proper labeling of non-GMO food products. Also, GM crops could damage vulnerable wild plant & animal populations and harm biodiversity.      

 

6) Creation of New or Worse Viruses: One of the most common applications of genetic engineering is the production of virus-tolerant crops. Such crops are produced by engineering components of viruses into the plant genomes. Such plants however pose other risks of creating new or worse viruses through two mechanisms: recombination and transcapsidation.

 

Human health risk:

Many previous technologies have proved to possess adverse effects unexpected by their developers. DDT for example, turned out to accumulate in fish and thin the shells of fish-eating birds like eagles and ospreys. And chlorofluorocarbons turned out to float into the upper atmosphere and destroy ozone, a gas that shields the earth from dangerous radiation. What harmful effects might turn out to be associated with the use or release of genetically engineered organisms? An article in Science magazine said it all: “Health Risks of Genetically Modified Foods: Many Opinions but Few Data”.  In fact, no peer-reviewed publications of clinical studies on the human health effects of GM food exist. Even animal studies are few and far between. Currently, toxicity in food is tested by chemical analysis of macro/micro nutrients and known toxins. To rely solely on this method is at best inadequate and at worst dangerous. Better diagnostic methods are needed, such as mRNA fingerprinting, proteomics and secondary metabolite profiling.

 

1) Allergenicity: Many children in the US and Europe have developed life-threatening allergies to peanuts and other foods. There is a possibility that introducing a gene into a plant may create a new allergen or cause an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals. A proposal to incorporate a gene from Brazil nuts into soybeans was abandoned because of the fear of causing unexpected allergic reactions. Already, one genetically engineered soybean was found to cause serious allergic reactions. An example is transferring the gene for one of the many allergenic proteins found in milk into vegetables like carrots. Mothers who know to avoid giving their sensitive children milk would not know to avoid giving them transgenic carrots containing milk proteins. The problem is unique to genetic engineering because it alone can transfer proteins across species boundaries into completely unrelated organisms.

 

2) Unknown toxicity: In 1989, a disastrous epidemic broke out in the US that caused 37 deaths and disabled 1.500 permanently in a disease called the “Eosinophilia-Myalgia-Syndrome” (EMS). It was caused by a highly poisonous substance in the food supplement tryptophan, which had been produced by genetically engineered bacteria. The FDA allowed to sell this genetically engineered product without testing because the company had been selling tryptophan produced by non-genetically engineered bacteria for quite some time without ill effects. It was later shown that the genetically engineered tryptophan contained a highly toxic contaminant. It comprised less than 0.1% of the total weight of the product, yet that was enough to kill people. This contaminant was identified as a dimerization product of tryptophan-two molecules of tryptophan chemically linked together. Based on fundamental chemical and biochemical principles, scientists have deduced that this compound was generated when the concentration of tryptophan within the bacteria reached such high levels that tryptophan molecules or their precursors began to react with each other. Thus, it appears that genetic manipulations led to increased tryptophan biosynthesis, which led to increased cellular levels of tryptophan and precursors. At these high levels, these compounds reacted with themselves, generating a deadly toxin. Being chemically quite similar to tryptophan, this toxin was not easily separated from tryptophan, and contaminated the final commercial product at levels that were highly toxic to consumers. However, the biotech industry maintained that the disaster was not caused by genetic engineering but by an “impurity” in the process. Also, large amounts of tryptophan, whether or not it was made using genetic engineering, can cause EMS.

 

3) Unknown effect on human health: There is a growing concern that introducing foreign genes into food plants may have an unexpected and negative impact on human health. Studies on animals are disturbing. A Russian study found that when hamsters were fed on GM soybeans, the second-generation GM soy-fed hamsters had a five-fold higher infant mortality rate, compared to the 5 percent normal death rate that was happening in the controls and nearly all of the third generation hamsters were sterile. However, the critic of the study said that the scientist did not conduct a biochemical analysis of the feed. Without it, we don’t know if some rogue toxin had contaminated the soy flour. Stability of the transferred gene is questionable. Unintentional hidden effect of the inserted gene is to be assessed. When genetic engineers insert a new gene into any organism there are “position effects” which can lead to unpredictable changes in the pattern of gene expression and genetic function. The protein product of the inserted gene may carry out unexpected reactions and produce potentially toxic products. There is also serious concern about the dangers of using genetically engineered viruses as delivery vehicles (vectors) in the generation of transgenic plants and animals. This could destabilize the genome, and also possibly create new viruses, and thus dangerous new diseases.  Some experts believe that genetic modification may enhance natural plant toxins in unexpected ways. When a gene is switched on, besides having the desired effect, it may also set off the production of natural toxins.

 

4) Gene transfer: Genetically Modified DNA does jump species. Gene transfer from GM foods to cells of the human body or to bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract would cause concern if the transferred genetic material adversely affects human health. Many genetically modified crops were created using antibiotic-resistance genes as markers. Therefore, in addition to having the desired characteristics, these genetically modified crops contain antibiotic-resistance genes. If these genes were to transfer in the digestive tract from a food product into human cells or to bacteria, this could lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. DNA does not always fully break down in the alimentary tract. Gut bacteria can take up genes & GM plasmids and this opens up the possibility of the spread of antibiotic resistance.  Human volunteers fed a single GM Soya bean meal showed that GM DNA can survive processing and is detectable in the digestive tract. There was evidence of horizontal gene transfer to gut bacteria. Horizontal gene transfer of antibiotic resistance and Bt. insecticide genes from GM foods into gut bacteria is an extremely serious issue. This is because the modified gut bacteria could then become resistant to antibiotics or become factories for Bt. insecticide. While Bt. in its natural form has been safely used for years as an insecticide in farming, Bt. toxin genetically engineered into plant crops has been found to have potential ill health effects on laboratory animals. Most genetically engineered plant foods carry fully functioning antibiotic-resistance genes. The presence of antibiotic-resistance genes in foods could have two harmful effects. First, eating these foods could reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics to fight disease when these antibiotics are taken with meals. Antibiotic-resistance genes produce enzymes that can degrade antibiotics. If a tomato with an antibiotic-resistance gene is eaten at the same time with an antibiotic, it could destroy the antibiotic in the stomach. Second, the resistance genes could be transferred to human or animal pathogens, making them impervious to antibiotics. If transfer were to occur, it could aggravate the already serious health problem of antibiotic-resistant disease organisms. Now scientists advise that genes which determine resistance to antibiotics that are critical for treating humans should not be used in genetically modified plants.

 

5) Outcrossing: The movement of genes from GM plants into conventional crops or related species in the wild (referred to as “outcrossing”), as well as the mixing of crops derived from conventional seeds with those grown using GM crops, may have an indirect effect on food safety and food security. This risk is real as was shown when traces of a maize type which was only approved for animal-feed use appeared in maize products for human consumption in the United States of America. Several countries have adopted strategies to reduce mixing, including a clear separation of the fields within which GM crops and conventional crops are grown.

 

6) Nutrition: GM foods are not more nutritious than non-GM foods. GM Soya had 12—14% lower amounts of cancer-fighting isoflavones than non-GM Soya. Rapeseed engineered to have vitamin A in its oil had highly reduced vitamin E and altered oil-fat composition. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton had declared, “If we could get more of this golden rice which is a genetically modified strain of rice especially rich in vitamin A, out to the developing world, it could save 40,000 lives a day, people that are malnourished and dying. It was declared that there was no time to lose. One month delay = 50,000 blind children per month. The fact is that the figures showed Golden Rice produced only small amounts of this vitamin A precursor. Worse still, after the rice was cooked, the amount of beta-carotene was reduced by another 50 per cent. According to WHO giving out Vitamin A supplements, fortifying existing foods with vitamin A, and teaching people to grow carrots or certain leafy vegetables are, as things stand, more promising ways to prevent blindness than Golden Rice. However a new strain of golden rice developed in the year 2005 produces a higher amount of beta-carotene.

 

7) Toxic metal: Some of the new genes being added to crops can remove heavy metals like mercury from the soil and concentrate them in the plant tissue. Such products pose risks of contaminating foods with high levels of toxic metals if the on/off switches are not completely turned off in edible tissues. There are also environmental risks associated with the handling and disposal of the metal-contaminated parts of plants after harvesting.

 

8) Cancer risk: A genetically-altered growth hormone that could be injected into dairy cows to enhance milk production resulted in an increase of IGF-1 from 70 % to 1000 %. This IGF-1 is linked to colorectal, breast and prostate cancer in humans.

 

9) Various diseases potential: A large number of studies and incidents have implicated GM foods in a wide variety of health problems including accelerated aging, immune dysfunction, insulin disorders, organ damage and reproductive disruption. Animals consuming crops that have been genetically modified to produce the pesticide Bt. (approved for human consumption in the United States) have died by the thousands, while animals grazing on a non-GM version of the same crops remained unharmed. Upon autopsies, researchers have found black patches in the animals’ livers and intestines, internal bleeding and other signs of Bt. poisoning. Farm workers in India have begun developing allergic reactions upon handling Bt. corn, similar to the effects experienced by people exposed to Bt. spraying.

 

10) Stealth GMO in animal feeds: Even though European Union (EU) regulations on GM crops and foods are the strictest in the world, scientific studies have found that “stealth GMOs” in the form of animal feed that not only affect the health of animals but also health of  humans who eat the milk, eggs, and meat of these animals. Also, milk and meat from GM-fed animals may be less wholesome. Laboratory studies show that GM feed can disturb animals’ body functions and make them sick. GM DNA in feed is taken up by the animal’s organs. Small amounts of GM DNA appear in the milk and meat that people eat. The effects on the health of the animals and the people who eat them have not been researched. Also, the use of GM animal feed is hidden from consumers. As products are not labeled, consumers have no way of knowing that they are eating milk, eggs and meat from GM-fed animals and that they are probably eating GM material in these products.   

 

Economic concerns:

Traditionally, farmers in all nations saved their own seed from year to year. However, allowing to follow this practice with genetically modified seed would result in seed developers losing the ability to profit from their breeding work. Therefore, genetically-modified seed are subject to licensing by their developers in contracts that are written to prevent farmers from following this traditional practice. Genetic engineering turns the seeds themselves into “intellectual property,” so that the farmers using the seeds don’t legally own them. Agri-biotech companies make profit in selling GM seeds and hence the need for making patents. Bringing a GM food to market is a lengthy and costly process, and of course agri-biotech companies wish to ensure a profitable return on their investment. Many new plant genetic engineering technologies & GM plants have been patented, and patent infringement is a big concern of agribusiness.  Consumer advocates are worried that patenting these new plant varieties will raise the price of seeds so high that small farmers and third world countries will not be able to afford seeds for GM crops, thus widening the gap between the wealthy and the poor. Access and Intellectual Property would include domination of world food production by few companies and increasing dependence on industrialized nations by developing countries. The use of genetically modified beets (and other crops) took away the organic farmer’s choice to grow only organic food. How so? Because when the farmer across the road or on the next plot of land from the organic farmer chose to grow genetically engineered beets, the crop would then flower and cross pollinate with the organic beets. If you’re marketing your product as organic (non-GMO), and it’s contaminated, you can lose your markets. You can lose your certification.

 

Discussion:

Let me put forward views of lead scientists on the subject of GM food who are far more competent than me.

 

An international scientific report, GM Soy: Sustainable? Responsible?  was compiled by nine senior international scientists with wide-ranging expertise including molecular genetics, molecular embryology, biosciences, agriculture, biology and ecology. This important report presents the findings of more than 100 peer-reviewed studies on GM soy and the herbicide glyphosphate, often sold as “Round Up”. More than 95 per cent of GM soy is engineered to tolerate Round Up. The report says that the cultivation of GM soy endangers human and animal health, increases herbicide use, damages the environment, reduces biodiversity, and has negative impacts on rural populations. The monopolistic control by agribusiness companies over GM soy technology and production endangers markets, compromises the economic viability of farming, and threatens food security. The report says that herbicide Roundup used on genetically modified (GM) Roundup Ready crops is linked to human cell death, birth defects, cancer and miscarriages.

 

Dr Michael Antoniou, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Pathology at Guy’s Hospital says, “The generation of genetically engineered plants and animals involves the random integration of artificial combinations of genetic material from unrelated species into the DNA of the host organism. This procedure results in disruption of the genetic blueprint of the organism with totally unpredictable consequences. The unexpected production of toxic substances has now been observed in genetically engineered bacteria, yeast, plants, and animals with the problem remaining undetected until a major health hazard has arisen. Moreover, genetically engineered food or enzymatic food processing agents may produce an immediate effect or it could take years for full toxicity to come to light. We should not lull ourselves into a false sense of security; we should not think that by regulating something which is inherently unpredictable and uncontainable it automatically becomes safe!”

 

Professor Gordon McVie, head of the Cancer Research Campaign:” We don’t know what genetic abnormalities might be incorporated into the genome (the individual’s DNA). I’m more worried about humans than about the environment, to be honest. One of the problems is that because it’s a long-term thing, you need to do long-term experiments.”

 

Professor James (the main architect of the UK Food Standards Agency) has commented on genetically engineered food:  “There is… a need to develop more effective and appropriate screening methods to alert companies and government agencies to the unexpected consequences of the often random insertion of genetic traits into plants.” Professor James has also remarked that the current regulatory system is open to challenge simply because “we are making all sorts of judgments with so little evidence at hand.” 

 

Professor Arpad Pusztai, world-leading nutritional science expert, formerly of the Food, Gut, and Microbial Interactions Group, Rowett Research Institute says that we are putting new things into food which have not been eaten before. The effects on the immune system are not easily predictable and I challenge anyone who will say that the effects are predictable. 

 

Dr Ian Gibson MP, former Dean of Biology at the University of East Anglia, has called for a ban on GM foods until longer term safety testing has taken place. He has also expressed concern about the inclusion of GM ingredients in school meals: “There is an awful lot unknown about hazards of new (GM food) crops and until it is fully tested we should not be subjecting people to risks, least of all young children.”

 

Professor Richard Lewontin, professor of genetics, Harvard University, ‘we have such a miserably poor understanding of how the organism develops from its DNA that I would be surprised if we don’t get one rude shock after another.’

 

Dr Suzanne Wuerthele, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toxicologist, “we are confronted with the most powerful technology the world has ever known, and it is being rapidly deployed with almost no thought whatsoever to its consequences.”  

 

Now let me put up areas of scientific convergence & divergence on human health effects of GM foods.

Issue    

Scientific Convergence Scientific Divergence Gaps in Knowledge
Safety of currently available GM foods for human consumption Currently available GM foods are considered safe to eat.

No evidence of any adverse effects from consumption to date. 
 
 
 

 

Post-market surveillance is difficult due to confounding effects of diversity of diets and genetic variability in populations. Long-term effects unknown, both for GM and for most other foods.How to conduct post-market surveillance?
Future products (e.g. foods with modified nutritional content) Need to be assessed on case-by-case basis to ensure pre-market safety, before new foods are brought to market. Extent of safety analysis should be proportionate to risk. Product and/or process may be assessed.
 
Unintended effects possible, either through conventional plant breeding or gene technology.
Methods of food safety assessment Case by case analysis required, using scientifically robust techniques. Current safety assessment methods, largely based on comparison of a limited number of compounds, may not be adequate to assess more complex products, which are not substantially equivalent to present foods.  Whole food analysis is possible, but requires further R&D to validate new techniques and interpretation of data. Need to know how much change in food content is nutritionally significant. 
Health benefits Many GM crops are now grown with less pesticide, thereby reducing exposure to chemical pesticides.In the future, crops may be used to produce new pharmaceutical/medicinal compounds (e.g. vaccines). Future GM crops may have improved nutritional content (e.g. vitamin A rice).Need to ensure quality control of new products and keep pharmaceutical products out of the food chain. This may be difficult. Availability of nutritionally significant levels of vitamins and minerals in GM foods needs to be demonstrated. Need to demonstrate new crop management practices for novel products, to ensure they can be kept out of the food chain and adequately regulated.

 

   Examples of the potential ecological benefits and risks of selected GM crops.

GM modification Benefits Risks
Herbicide resistance in maize, cotton, other crops. Reduce herbicide use. Increase opportunities for reduced tillage systems. Increase herbicide use. Reduce in-field biodiversity that may reduce the ecological services provided by agricultural ecosystems.
Maize with Bt toxin. Reduce pesticide use. Kill fewer nontarget organisms than alternatives such as broad-spectrum pesticides. Promote development of Bt resistance, which will eliminate Bt as a relatively safe pesticide. Kill nontarget caterpillars and butterflies, such as monarchs (Pimentel 2000).
Virus resistance in small grains due to coat proteins. Reduce insecticide use to control insect dispersers of pathogens Facilitate the creation of new viruses Move genes into nonagricultural ecosystems where the subsequent increase in fitness of weedy species could eliminate endangered species.
Terminator or other sterilizing traits in crops and ornamentals. Prevent the movement of traits to non-target species. Prevent the movement of introduced species to other ecosystems Prevent farmers from developing their own seed supplies adapted to local conditions
Synthesis of vitamin A or other nutrients. Improve nutrition of people who depend heavily on rice. Disrupt local ecosystems if an ecologically limiting nutrient or protein is produced.
Nitrogen fixation by non-legumes. Reduce energy used in fertilizer production and application Add to excess N leaching from agriculture, degrading human health and reducing biodiversity.

   

What was expected from GM food?

1) Benefit the environment by reducing use of herbicides and insecticides.

2)  Help farmers.

3) Solve the food crisis & feed the hungry by increasing crop yield.

4) Produce more nutritious food.

5) Above all, it is claimed that they were safe to eat.

Till today from whatever I have discussed so far, none of the above mentioned expectations have been met unequivocally by any set of standards or data. This is a fact. An accumulating body of scientific evidence and on-the-ground experience with GM crops over the last ten years shows that this technology has failed to live up to any of these promises. On the contrary, GM crops have been scientifically proven to increase chemical inputs over the long term. They have been shown to deliver yields that are no better, and in some cases even worse than conventional varieties.

 

The international bestseller ‘Seeds of Deception’: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods you’re eating by Jeffrey M. Smith is a frightening exposé of how unscrupulous bio-tech companies will stop at nothing to dominate the global food market. ‘Seeds of Deception’ includes narrative of scientists offered bribes to support pro-GMO studies or threatened if they oppose any research, how government employees are harassed or fired and how the European Union successfully opposed having unlabeled genetically modified products in the food stream.

 

Let me discuss Bt. Brinjal controversy in India. The Bt. brinjal is a transgenic brinjal created by inserting a crystal gene (Cry1Ac) from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into the brinjal’s genome. The Bt. brinjal has been developed to give resistance against pests. Bt. brinjal is expected to reduce the pesticide usage in cultivation by 80% and increase crop yield substantially. However, Bt. cotton has already been declared a farce with crop failures and mass suicides of farmers in India. The government of India has put on hold, cultivation of Bt. Brinjal in India. The proponents of Bt. Brinjal say that “this Brinjal is necessary not because there is a crisis in Brinjal production but this will reduce the use of chemicals which kill the insects attacking Brinjal. These chemicals are more poisonous than what you can imagine. So minimizing the use of these chemicals is both nature and man friendly. GM soybeans have been eaten for over a decade now and no one has suffered any adverse effect. The Bt. gene of Bt. brinjal is perfectly safe for higher mammals and humans, and is only toxic to a specific group of insect larvae known as Lepidopterans. Bt. spray has been use for over 60 years without any deleterious effects, and anyone who is suggesting today that it might affect humans is willfully ignorant of scientific facts. Bt. brinjal is a necessity and an environmentally alternative. Let farmers decide if they want to grow it.” Six Indian scientists have found no evidence that the protein (toxin) synthesized by Bt. brinjal (Cry1Ac) is unsafe. The same Bt. protein present in another food crop has been consumed elsewhere in the world with no evidence of any scientifically established negative effect. However, studies found that animals consuming GM crops producing the pesticide Bt. toxin have died by thousands, while animals grazing on a non-GM version of the same crops remained unharmed. Upon autopsies, researchers have found black patches in the animals’ livers and intestines, internal bleeding and other signs of Bt. poisoning. So where do we draw a line?  We live in a world full of contradictory scientific studies where science has become a hostage to bias either in favour of GM food or against GM foods. Moreover, the scientific quality of what has been published is, in most instances, not up to expected standards. Finally, the scientific evidence available to date, while encouraging, does not support the conclusion that genetically modified crops are intrinsically safe for health or the environment.

 

Let’s also not pretend that everything we eat or wear is “natural” as it was from time immemorial or pristine pure. Everything we eat or drink or do has undergone modifications. Why don’t we all grow beards without even trimming them if we are so hung on not changing what nature has given us. All our food is the result of the efforts of breeders over the centuries. Millions of Americans are eating GM food directly or indirectly for many years without any health hazard. The GM-worries is not entirely based on biology, ethics, or true fear of the crops; sometimes this is a mechanism to control trade. For example, if France wanted to reduce its import of soybeans from the U.S. and rely more on its own farmers, its government can restrict the use of GM soybeans, in which case it is difficult for the U.S. (where 85% of the soy crop is GM) to ship any to them. So, when fears about GM products are expressed, one should examine some of the motivations behind them. Also, even a cultivated crop variety created by conventional cross breeding can contain excessive levels of naturally occurring toxins. If a tomato containing fish genes is dangerous to fish-allergic people and that is why we must restrict selling it, then absolutely all products containing natural fish must be taken out of market just to make sure that those people don’t get allergic reactions. Not to mention we must withdraw dairy products, peanuts and so on. Also, if allergy is the reason to ban GM food, then, ban all pharmaceutical drugs right from penicillin to aspirin because all of them can cause allergic reaction in a susceptible individual. Both GMO and traditional crops must correspond to the same health & environmental quality standards and legislation must give no privilege to one or another. Also, the media have created a story about nothing due to headlines such as ‘Frankenfood’. The world has massive stockpile of nuclear weapons but not a single TV channel talks about the danger posed by it because it does not increase their TRP. However, when it comes to GM foods, all TV channels portray it as ‘frankenfood’ or monstrous food. Simply because people are scared they assert that there is not enough testing whereas the opposition have shown that there is. It is often claimed, for example, that those allergic to nut protein died upon eating soybeans beans to which nut DNA had been added. This is simply not true – this possible problem was picked up in testing and the product was never released on the market. All deaths from those eating GM foods were shown to have resulted from poisons accidentally introduced in food production, which were nothing to do with genetic modification. Adding or removing genes from natural varieties does not make the rest of their DNA identical. Also, the terminator gene prevents cross breeding between GM and non-GM plants. This allows foods to be properly labeled and so the consumer can choose whichever type of food they want. By banning GM food, that choice is taken away from the consumer. The question of whether GM crop varieties should be allowed to be patented or not is separate from the debate on whether GM food is itself a good or a bad thing. We do not want to control population and there is water plus land shortage for crop cultivation, then, we must find alternate way to survive even if GM crops may be risky. Yes, it is true that our present data base is woefully inadequate but it can improve. The American experience with genetically modified food crops while encouraging, does not justify complacency about potential risks and we must not be complacent. Yes, it is also true that we need more and better testing methods before making GM foods available for human consumption. We need more science and not less. Also, science cannot declare any technology completely risk free but the society will have to decide when and where genetic engineering is safe enough. Genetically modified crops promise to increase the productivity of poor farmers in the developing world, but so do other agricultural technologies. Besides investing in GM crops, one must also invest in organic farming, integrated pest management, water management, or crop breeding. The widest study ever conducted on the subject found that agroecological (non-GM) approaches resulted in an average crop yield gain of 79 per cent. The study covered 286 projects in 57 developing countries, representing a total surface of 37 million hectares.  

 

DNA as Biological Internet:

A Russian scientist has managed to intercept communication from a DNA molecule in the form of ultraviolet photons – in other words, light. It is well known that if you use UV light to destroy 99 percent of a cell including its DNA, you can almost entirely repair the damage in a single day just by illuminating the cell with the same wavelength at a much weaker intensity. This phenomenon is known as photorepair. It’s well known that plants use energy from sunlight to make food, but plants are not the only living beings that have a complex relationship with, and need for light. When we eat plant foods, the light waves or photons, in the plants are taken in and stored by your body. Biophotons are the smallest physical units of light, which are stored in, and used by all biological organisms – including your body. The purpose of these biophotons is much more important than many have realized. It turns out they may very well be in control of virtually every biochemical reaction that occurs in your body – including supporting your body’s ability to heal. Every human body emits biophotons (light) on a daily basis, in concentrations that rise and fall with your body clock and the rhythmic fluctuations of your metabolism over the course of the day. It is known in biology that every cell in your body has over 100,000 biochemical reactions per second, all of which must be carefully timed and sequenced with each other. For a long time it was proposed that this occurred through a “mechanical” concept whereby molecules bumped into each other by chance but now researchers believe this cellular dance is not random at all, but rather controlled by biophotons. The molecules of these 100,000 biochemical reactions per second, send out specific frequencies of electromagnetic waves (biophotons) which not only enable them to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ each other, as both photon and phonon modes exist for electromagnetic waves, but also to influence each other at a distance and become ineluctably drawn to each other. Researchers proved that biophotons (light) in your body is stored by, and emitted from your DNA. The DNA inside each cell vibrates at a frequency of several billion hertz (which is unfortunately the same range at which modern cell phone communication systems also work). The vibration is created through the coil-like contraction and extension of your DNA -which occurs several billion times per second – and every time it contracts, it squeezes out one single biophoton; a light particle. That photon contains all the information on everything going on in your DNA at that moment. One single biophoton can carry more than four megabytes of information, and relays this information to other biophotons it crosses in the biophoton field outside your body. All the photons that are emitted from your body communicate with each other in this highly structured light field that surrounds your body, and which is the actual carrier of your long-term memory. This light field also regulates the activity of your metabolic enzymes. The information transfer on biophotons is bidirectional, which means your DNA sends information out on a photon, and on the same photon the information of all the biophotons from your body is broadcast back to your cells, and to your tubulin, which are light conductive molecules in your connective tissue. The tubulin in turn, receives the information-carrying light impulse and conducts it at the speed of light throughout your body, where it is translated inside each cell into activating or inactivating certain metabolic enzymes. Researchers found that the light emissions from cancer patients had no such rhythms and appeared scrambled, which suggests their cells were no longer communicating properly. Likewise researchers found that multiple sclerosis patients were taking in too much light, leading to a similar confusion on a cellular level. So various diseases occur when biophoton emissions are out of synchrony. The human DNA is a Biological Internet (emitting/receiving information in the form of biophotons) and superior in many aspects to the artificial one used by us. The latest scientific research directly or indirectly tries to explain phenomena such as clairvoyance, intuition, spontaneous and remote acts of healing, self healing, affirmation techniques, unusual light-auras around people (namely spiritual masters), mind’s influence on weather-patterns and much more. In addition, there is evidence for a whole new type of medicine in which DNA can be influenced and reprogrammed by words and frequencies without cutting out and replacing single genes. Only 10% of our DNA is being used for building proteins. The other 90% are considered “junk DNA.”  Researchers however are convinced that nature was not dumb and joined linguists & geneticists in a venture to explore these 90% of “junk DNA.” Their results, findings and conclusions are simply revolutionary! According to them, our DNA is not only responsible for the construction of our body, but also serves as data storage and in communication. I have already proved in my article on ‘Matchmaking’ that it is the DNA which wants to mate with a suitable DNA to procreate a better DNA. Suitable DNA means dissimilar DNA because if DNA mates with similar DNA, it would procreate similar DNA and not better DNA. This is a scientific evidence of consciousness of human DNA. The corollary to this logic would mean that every DNA in every living organism has consciousness albeit the degree of consciousness varies from bacteria to humans. The organisms of lower species have much lesser consciousness than organisms of higher species. Since it has been scientifically proved that human DNA is in fact a ‘biological internet’, the corollary would mean that DNA of other species must also be also functioning as ‘biological internet’ albeit with much lesser capacity/complexity than human DNA.

 

When genetic scientists are inserting a gene (DNA) from another species in a living organism and creating a GMO, what happens to Biological Internet? What happens to Biophotons? What happens to the vibration of DNA? What happens to the DNA consciousness? We have no answers because we are stupid. We run for short term goals without understanding the implications of long term effects. We believe that we know everything but in fact we are ignorant of our ignorance.

  

THE MORAL OF THE STORY:

1) There is insufficient data available to comment on safety of GM food.

2) GM controversy has become hostage to bad science. The world needs better & more science.  

3) World hunger is due to population explosion, poverty, bad economic policies, conflicts & mismanagement of food stock/supply and not due to reduced food production, and therefore GM food will not solve the problem of world hunger.

4) GM technology is as good or as bad as nuclear technology and if the world can live with massive stockpile of nuclear weapons, why not GM technology? Think over it.

5) Every DNA in every living organism has a consciousness & functions as a biological internet and therefore every GMO created by genetic engineering must have a different consciousness & different biological internet. Whether this different consciousness & different biological internet of GMO can live in harmony with innate consciousness & innate biological internet of a natural organism is a matter of debate.

Dr.Rajiv Desai. MD.

October 10, 2010 (10-10-10)

 

Postscript: Most people in the world would not know that October 2010 is the first ever non-GMO Month and October 10 is a special non-GMO Day (10-10-10). The intention is to raise awareness on genetically modified organisms in food supply.

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MATCHMAKING

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

MATCHMAKING:

 

Prologue:

When I was waiting for Indian premiere train Rajdhani Express on a railway station in the month of march, year 2000 to meet my fiancee ; I received a telephone call from her and she told me that no need to come to meet her in her hometown as she has changed her mind and she will return the engagement ring. Since it was too late to cancel the train ticket, I decided to continue journey and boarded train to reach her hometown to meet her. Her family told me that they like me and she changed her mind due to her impulsive behavior but now she is willing to marry me. So I let go her intemperate outburst and went ahead with the marriage. The marriage broke down in one year when I was abroad and the rest is history. It was my mistake to ignore warning sign. Having a trauma of a broken marriage myself and having suffered tremendously due to broken marriage, I know the importance of finding a suitable life partner more than most matchmakers in the world.

 

I will not discuss relationship between parents & children or between siblings, in-laws, employees and colleagues. Also, I will not discuss homosexual matchmaking.

 

Relationship is association between two individuals of opposite sex based on love, liking or social commitment. Friendship implies a common ground between individuals and consists of mutual liking, mutual understanding, mutual compassion, trust, respect, and unconditional acceptance. However, the distinction between friendship and relationship is blurred when two individuals of opposite sex are found together frequently. It is difficult to believe that two individuals of opposite sex meet each other frequently but they are not seeing each other. Boyfriend means a woman’s regular companion with whom she has romantic and/or sexual relationship. Girlfriend means a man’s regular companion with whom he has romantic and/or sexual relationship. The boyfriend-girlfriend relationship is closer than friendship.

 

About one third to one fourth of the world’s population is below 18 years and as they grow up, all of them will need to find a partner in either intimate relationship or live-in relationship or marriage. Marriageable age (marriage age) is the age at which a person is allowed to marry legally, either as of right or subject to parental or other forms of consent. It varies from country to country but most of Europe & America have marriage age of 18 years for males and 16 years for females. In India, it is 21 years for males and 18 years for females. The marriage age should not be confused with the age of consent.

 

Matchmaking:

Matchmaking is any process of introducing two people to each other for the purpose of marriage. In cultures where arranged marriages are the rule, the astrologer often claimed that the stars sanctified matches that both parents approved of, making it quite difficult for the possibly-hesitant children to easily object. Clergy probably played a key role in most Western cultures, as they continue to do in modern ones, especially where they are the most trusted mediators in the society. Both astrologers and clergy are traditional professional matchmakers. Traditional non-professional matchmakers include family members, friends, co-workers, neighbours etc. The best matchmaker is a matchmaker who knows both people very well and who is brutally honest about it. Modern matchmaking services include online dating service, online matchmaking service, online matrimonial sites, marriage bureau etc which can actually find people who are compatible. Internet matrimony sites have millions of member and therefore, the number of prospects that you found interesting and who could be a good match for you is large, much larger than the potential people you can contact through your friend, social and relative circle. Traditional matchmaking usually bypasses dating while modern matchmaking usually includes dating. We all know some couples who seem so mismatched that we wonder how they ever got together, yet who have learned to enjoy each other and live together happily. Still others, by contrast, appear to be the perfect pair until we hear they’re splitting up or getting a divorce. Matchmaking protocol must have high degree of sensitivity & specificity in arranging a suitable match to prevent false positive & false negative match. False positive match means the couple apparently looks made for each other but will break soon. False negative match means the couple apparently looks a mismatch but the relationship will be long lasting. However, many people prefer to go to dances & socials rather than matchmaking services. These events present an immediate opportunity to meet several different potential partners and to determine for yourself if any of them are likely matches.The matchmaking circle is an exclusive social club for women focusing on friendship, fun & the joys of being single while searching for a special man by empowering women by increasing their dating odds. Luck is a sign of imperfection in life and therefore at the end of a day, everybody needs good luck to find a suitable life partner.  

 

Astrology and horoscope:

Astrology is a belief which holds that the relative positions of celestial bodies (planets & stars) can provide information about personality, human affairs, and other terrestrial matters. A practitioner of astrology is called an astrologer. Astrology is generally considered a pseudoscience or superstition by the scientific community. However, good astrologers are good psychologists and people need them to solve problems/stresses in their lives. The word horoscope is derived from Greek words meaning “a look at the hours”. The horoscopic astrological tradition deals with two dimensional diagrams of the heavens or horoscopes, representing the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, the astrological aspects, and sensitive angles at the time of an event, which is usually the moment of a person’s birth characterized by precise time of birth on a specific date at a specific place because the alignments of the heavens at that moment were thought to determine the nature of the subject in question and predicts  subject’s future based on the relative positions of the planets. However, since the advent of elective caesarean section (CS) for the delivery of a child, the time of birth has become pawn in the hands of the obstetrician who may perform CS today or tomorrow as per his convenience or convenience of the pregnant mother and therefore time of birth has lost its significance and hence worthlessness of horoscope. Nonetheless, people believe that marriages are made in heaven and astrologer will help them to find the best life partner. Horoscope Matching is very deep and intensely rooted in Hindu society. Before entering in to marriage relationship, an astrologer is referred to for his analysis of the horoscopes of the boy & the girl and matching them. It is done to ensure a harmonious, balanced and healthy marriage relationship including longevity, compatibility, health, child birth, separative tendencies and financial stability. Astrological compatibility consideration is not only a mere ancestral practice but is a way to get the knowledge regarding the nature, features, love and the social communication attributes of the people. According to Hinduism, marriage between two individuals is a blessed relationship while Christians believe that marriage is a gift from God that should not be taken for granted and Islam considers marriage as a contract between a man and a woman. However, in the culture of Hindu marriage, there are wrong traditions like Dowry (demanding money/ gift), Satipratha (committing self-immolation after husband’s death) and childhood marriage.

 

What is the most important decision of your life?

Not choosing your career. Not making money. Not solving the menace of terrorism. Not saving the world from economic recession. Not solving energy/water crisis. The most important decision of your life is to find a suitable life partner. A strong, healthy relationship can be one of the best supports in your life. Good relationships improve your life in all aspects, strengthening your health, your mind and your connections with others as well. However, it can also be one of the greatest drains if the relationship is not working and wrong relationship may lead to health problems, economic ruin, substance abuse, infidelity, STD, career destruction, etc. A novel government scheme in the Netherlands is offering unemployed Dutch women a €1,400 ($2,382) for fashion and beauty makeover so they can find a solvent husband and get off welfare. Dutch know from national statistics that people in a relationship have better health, more happiness, make more money and live longer lives.

 

The trillion dollar question is; how to find a perfect life partner?

 The hardest thing for many people nowadays seems to find their best life partner. I can solve mysteries of universe but I cannot find a suitable life partner for me. Both men and women use physical attractiveness as a measure of how ‘good’ another person is. How long will relationship last if it is based merely on looks?  There is no such thing as the perfect person because we all have flaws but the hallmark of matchmaking game is matching complementary flaws. The word ‘flaw’ is used in matchmaking context and not otherwise. For example, if I am a very angry personality and I marry a very cool woman, then, even though too much anger and too much coolness are flaws, it matches well and the relationship will be successful. Another example, if I am a very greedy person and I marry a philanthropist woman, then, even though too much greediness and too much generosity are flaws, it matches well and the relationship will be successful. However, some flaws can be deadly to a long-term happy relationship and must be avoided. For example; sexual promiscuity, alcoholism, domestic violence etc must be avoided.

 

Marriage is a wonderful thing and every person wants to find a suitable life partner for themselves as it is a very serious lifetime decision for both partners. Marriage is not only about two personalities, but it is about two families and in some cases cultures joining together as one. Marriages are said to be made in heaven; but once a boy or girl reaches the marriageable age, the parents or the children themselves look for someone with whom they can share their life. Marriage is a long journey where a couple faces many ups and downs and grows together. To lead a happy and satisfied married life, there are many ways to find a suitable life-partner right from traditional method of getting help from family/ relatives/ friends, placing advertisement in newspaper, enrolling at marriage bureau, register on internet matrimonial sites, online dating, online matchmaking, socializing with college friends etc. Remember, it is the matter of whole life and a wrong decision can ruin the entire life of many people. Physical features like appearance and attractive figures may be a factor for sudden attraction but in long run that is not important. Choose a suitable life partner who is not only beautiful on the outside but also within, one who will stick by your side for the rest of your life and be able to have a better understanding of you. Choose a life partner who is able to look into your eyes and can honestly say that you’re the right choice for him or her. Choose a partner who looks at you with affection and kindness in his/her eyes. Choose an optimistic person because optimism is the facilitator of all the emotional intelligence competencies and optimists live longer, enjoy better health, heal more quickly, and accomplish more. Usually choosing a life partner is a matter of subjectivity rather than objectivity and there is a similarity of subjectivity among individuals brought up in the same culture. Every person is a combination of virtues and vices in various proportions, but how much you understand about the real nature of your partner is more important. Ask yourself if you can respect this person for his/her religious beliefs, his/her life goals, and the values that he/she spends time on. If the answer is no then move on. First step in matchmaking is to define your life partner. You need to know what kind of partner you want to share your life with and what kind of life you want the two of you to share. You need to make positive efforts to find suitable partner rather than looking out for your prospective partner when you are in social situations. Most women do more research to find a good gardener or builder than a life partner. However, there is no way to understand that your partner will be a suitable spouse. No matter how hard you try to understand what it would be like to be married to someone, it’s not the same as actually being married to that person. So the best thing is to get into as many real-life situations with your partner as possible, and see how the two of you get along in whether good situations or bad. The more you see and interact with a person, the more likely he/she is to become your intimate partner. The old way of dating and mating simply doesn’t work anymore and therefore most singles are using trial and error method in search for love. It is typical in our society to feel a conflict between what we want to do (our heart) and what we feel is practical (our mind).  Remember the golden rule, in event of clash between your heart and your mind, be true to yourself and do what your mind says. If you can’t be happy with the person the way he/she is now, don’t get married. Don’t expect him/her to change for you. People do change, but there is no guarantee and therefore decide if you can accept your prospective partner’s idiosyncrasies. Remember, first impression is not the correct impression and not the last impression. Love at the first sight is not enough to sustain life long relationship. Also remember, a one sided relationship is not a relationship at all, it’s a speculation and therefore do not waste time in coercing a reluctant partner because even though coercion may work, the marriage will ultimately breakdown. The most important issue before any type of marriage is that a key fact is left out during the process of the marriage, only to be learned afterwards. An example might be if one of the spouses has a medical condition that is not disclosed before marriage. Although the marriage may not have occurred had that condition been disclosed prior to marriage, it is very difficult to leave afterwards and there may be no legal recourse.   

 

Arranged marriage:

Arranged marriage is a marriage arranged by someone other than the couple getting wedded usually avoiding the process of courtship or dating. Today, arranged marriage is still practiced in South Asia, the Middle East and East Asia to some extent. Although matchmaking primarily based on economic factor is harshly criticized, such considerations are often significantly influence the rank order of a potential spouse. Factors taken into account at the time of matchmaking before arranged marriage are family reputation, vocation, wealth, religion, any disability, horoscope matching & caste in Indian culture, diet (veg/nonveg), age & height, language, urban/rural background, education etc. A recent survey of people between 14 and 34 years old by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies found that 65 per cent believed the final decision on marriage should be taken by parents. In India, you don’t just get married to the person; you get married to the whole family. That’s why arranged marriage works better in India because your parents choose a person from the same kind of culture, with the same priorities.

Proponents of arranged marriage say that individuals can be too easily influenced by the effects of love to make a logical choice. Modern arranged marriages, in contrast to classical ones, are not based on proscriptions but on pragmatic considerations. Arranged marriages may reduce the unhealthy stress of competing for female attention in humans. Arranged marriages are often said to be more stable than love marriages, since matchmaking is done on several dimensions of compatibility, instead of on a whim. Defenders often cite the high divorce rates of love-marriages (50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce) as compared to arranged marriage (divorce rate of 5 to 7 %). Parents can be trusted to make a match that is in the best interests of their children. Proponents hold that parents have much practical experience to draw from and not be misguided by emotions and hormones.

Opponents of arranged marriage say there are times when the choosers select a match that serves their interests or the family’s interests and not necessarily for the couple’s pleasure and find this naturally unacceptable. A forced mismatch, based on the values important to the arranger, may spoil life of two individuals. Coercion to marry is commonly considered a violation of fundamental human rights in most Western societies. A study found that love marriage is more effective for the promotion of accumulation of wealth and societal growth.

 

Dating:

Dating means any social activity that connects two individuals of opposite sex with the aim of each assessing the other’s suitability as a partner to establish a relationship which may result in marriage. There is a certain wisdom in lengthy courtships and if it lasts three, four, five, six or seven years, they feel like there is something there to support a marriage that will last. The longer the period of dating, the greater is the probability of successful marriage. Research shows that elements that lead to divorce reveal themselves during dating and therefore longer is the duration of dating; greater is the likelihood of mismatch becoming evident and therefore the marriage that is doomed to fail in future can be prevented in time. Traditional dating activities include social meeting or entertainment or a meal. Traditional dating may be arranged by a third party, who may be a family member, acquaintance, or professional matchmaker. Modern dating avoids third party but by mutually consenting partners and includes internet dating. Online dating or Internet dating is a dating system which allows individuals to make contact and communicate with each other over the internet, usually with the objective of developing a personal romantic or sexual relationship and may lead to marriage in future. A dating system is any systematic means of improving matchmaking via rules or technology where the objective of the meeting, be it live or phone or chat based, is to go on a live date with someone, with usually romantic implications. Dating system includes video dating, phone dating, online dating and speed dating. Blind date means where the people involved have not met each other previously and match could have been arranged by mutual friends, relatives or by a dating system. Virtual date means prospective partners meet each other over computer to break the ice before meeting personally.

Researchers estimate that in a single year, about 120,000 people are married as a result of meeting online, through an online dating service. And worldwide, more than 20 million people visit at least one online dating service each month. A survey in the year 2006 found that while 52 percent of the 16 million people who have used online dating sites had mostly positive experiences, 29 percent report mostly negative experiences. Most said that many online daters lie about their marital status. Nonetheless, it appears that twenty years from now, it would be silly to look for loving partner without looking for it online. Internet has become a meeting ground to meet your better half. After successful dating, if you do not want to marry, then, consider live-in relationship.  

Safety Tips for Online Dating resulting in a personal meeting:

Those who are meeting their online dates for the first time need to take certain sensible precautions.

Online dating should not become date-rape, fraud, stalking, identity theft, duped by scammers, sexual violence or sexual blackmail.

1) Meet in a public place for the first date. If preferred, meet in a public place for the second and third dates as well.

2) Ask to see several photos before meeting anyone.

3)  No secrecy. Tell a friend about the planned meeting or date. Make a plan to call the friend after the date, or have the friend call during the date; to be sure everything is working out as expected.

 

Matchmaking dating:

Matchmaking dating is confused with traditional online dating but it is in a completely different ball game all together. It does have its roots in online dating but has become a separate category altogether. Matchmaking dating is when someone else looks for people for you to date. Relationships involve people and no matter how scientific database with computer software is in matching up people, it is the people who are best at matching people. While online dating sites allow unlimited fantasizing, matchmakers encourage clients to take their heads out of the clouds. Their focus is on quality over quantity. They are not out to promote casual dating or dating just for fun. Their primary focus is to establish a system that is primarily based on people that is effective and affordable. Matchmaking dating begins like online dating but after the initial information is uploaded, the client actually meets a matchmaker. After the interview the matchmaker takes care of the rest. Matchmakers want to see the relationships they produce last long. They want to see them be fulfilling, enjoyable and mature. Matchmaking dating has proven to be the most effective way to date in the 21’st century. It is highly professional, effective and scientifically based.

 

Anonymous matchmaking:

When two people want to initiate first steps in a relationship, neither person takes action because of shyness, fear of rejection, or other societal pressures or constraints. What is needed is a safe, simple, confidential, and non-judgmental way for people to reveal their true feelings and interests without risk of embarrassment or rejection. This is achieved by anonymous matching. Anonymous matching is a matchmaking method facilitated by computer databases, in which each user confidentially selects people they are interested in dating and the computer identifies and reports matches to pairs of users who share a mutual attraction. The anonymous approach gives you a safe way to back out in a well mannered way, in case you find that the other individual does not correspond to the qualities sought after.

 

All the love experts agree that your own identity comes first. You need a firm sense of yourself before you can function successfully in a romance. Good relationships don’t just appear out of the blue but you have to work in order for it to be called a good relationship. Remember, you didn’t choose to love a carbon copy of yourself, but a live human being with distinct needs and wants of their own. Matchmakers say 4 out of 100 marriages fail in India while in America 50 out of 100 marriages fail.There was a time when marriage was regarded as a divine union of two souls for life. The reality today is that couples do not hesitate to seek divorce at the slightest provocation. The present-day couples believe that it is better to end a relationship than carry on with the burden of a dead relationship for life. Both the partners have their professional careers to manage and don’t have the time and patience to make attempts to revive the relationship. Many marriages fail because couples in a relationship are unwilling to ‘give up’ on things that make them who they are. Couples who engage in a live-in relationship are more likely to split up than those who are tied into the holy matrimony.  

 

Mature women routinely fall prey to manipulative lovers who are past masters in the game of seduction, with no desire for commitment or emotional attachment whatsoever. Love is a wonderful feeling but with little or no commitment, it is relegated to an amusing pastime and no more. The human biological chase game has the male species looking for a female to pursue and the female waiting to be wooed, eventually only to procreate. However, men and women may use these natural instincts to bait and bed multiple partners depending on personality and circumstances. One must demand time, respect, love, transparency and commitment, if stability is what one is looking for. A person will usually have several relationships over the course of their life. With each relationship, a person is learning; learning what is needed to maintain a relationship and how to deal with problems. A relationship in which you get back just after a break-up is known as a rebound relationship. The key ingredient of rebound relationship is the fact that your ‘ex’ is still thinking of you. Rebound relationship does not work into a long-lasting relationship and tend to have a high failure rate of 8 out of 10 cases failing. I do not recommend rebound relationship for matchmaking.

 

Who suffers more when the relationship breaks?

It has been assumed that women are more vulnerable to the emotional rollercoaster of relationships than men but contrary to popular belief, the ups and downs of romantic relationships have a greater effect on the mental health of young men than women, according to a new study published in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. For young men, their romantic partners are often their primary source of intimacy; in contrast to young women who are more likely to have close relationships with family and friends. Even though men sometimes try to present a tough face, unhappy romances take a greater emotional toll on men than women. This contradicts the stereotypic image of stoic men who are unaffected by what happens in their romantic relationships. Also, Women express emotional distress with depression while men express emotional distress with substance abuse problems. Therefore, even though men may look stronger and braver than women, men suffer the most when a relationship is rocky. It is only natural that men are weaker than women in many areas; the fact that men have a shorter lifespan than women indicates that in a sense, women are more durable than men. A study tested blood pressure in 44 women and 26 men who were recently separated or divorced to see how their blood pressure responded to the difficult events. Men increased their blood pressure significantly in midst of emotional trauma while women did not show any change. Another study from the National Center for Health Statistics reported in the British Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine that widowed & divorced men are at a much higher risk of death from coronary heart disease than their counterparts widowed & divorced women, in most age groups. So for a man having coronary risk factors, rocky marriage is an additional coronary risk. However, another study found that the presence of at least one loving, compassionate word or phrase during an argument between a couple can lower a woman’s risk of heart disease. So the matchmaker must be extra-cautious in finding out suitable match for a person having coronary risk factor.

 

Non-romantic sexual relationship:

A study found that a quarter of the respondents became sexually involved while casually dating and a fifth did so as friends or acquaintances. This is because a major shift toward non-romantic sexual partnerships where people becoming sexually involved when they are just casually dating or not dating at all. In the survey of 783 heterosexual adults, one in 10 men and women reported that both they and their partner had slept with other people. Overall, 17% of men and 5% of women acknowledged that they had been with someone else. The biggest risk with non-romantic sexual relationship is increased susceptibility to acquire STD including HIV. So while matchmaking, past history of prospective spouse’s non-romantic sexual relationship does matter because risk of acquiring STD including HIV is high.

 

What qualities will you look for in your prospective partner for long-lasting relationship and successful marriage?

I am enlisting several qualities and factors required for successful long lasting relationship, to be present in both prospective partners who want to tie a matrimonial knot.

1)  Compatibility:

Compatibility deals with the ease in which two people make adjustments towards each other. More often than not, couples who are compatible get to adjust to one another and this compatibility issue helps the couple to get along with each other really well.

2) Commitment:

 If you lose commitment to the relationship or one another, then, this could be a big relationship problem. Losing commitment to one another is like losing the trust, and love that you have given to one another. Intentionality is an EQ competency that means saying what you mean and meaning what you say. It also means being accountable for the motives behind your actions.

3) Personality:

 Of course, looks matter but personality is much more than looks. Understanding your own personality type and the personality type of the other person involved in the relationship will bring a new dynamic to the situation, which will allow better understanding and communication. “Opposites attract” (complementarity) has been batted around for centuries and in fact, it’s very true when it comes to love relationships. We naturally are drawn towards individuals who have strengths which we are missing. When two opposites function as a couple, they become a better-rounded, functioning unit. Introvert attracted towards extrovert. Angry man attracted towards a cool woman. Complementary partners preferred closer interpersonal relationship than non-complementary ones. Couples who reported the highest level of loving and harmonious relationship were more dissimilar in dominance than couples who scored lower in relationship quality. On the other hand, people frequently settle down with individuals who are on their same wave-length (similar preferences). Principles of similarity and complementarity seem to be contradictory on the surface but in fact, they agree on the dimension of warmth. Similarity seems to carry considerable weight in initial attraction, while complementarity assumes importance as the relationship develops over time.

4)  Money:

So many rich bollywood actresses and European fashion models were interested in me but things did not work out as I did not have substantial money. Money problems can start very early in a relationship. It can start with simple things such as paying for a date, to the wedding costs, to paying for the luxurious life style of a rich spouse. My ex-wife was so much greedy for money that she coerced me to leave government job and travel abroad to make more money. Most couples experience some tension over money. In fact, money is the single leading cause of fights among engaged people and couples in their marriage, according to a study in the University of Denver. So money matters. The rich should avoid marrying the poor and vice versa.

5)  Mutual respect:

 Respect in a relationship means that each person values who the other is and understands; and would never challenge; the other person’s boundaries. The relationship will be successful if there is mutual respect and they appreciate their differences.

6)  Substance abuse (alcohol/tobacco):

A recent national study found that approximately 21% of Americans experienced at least one alcohol-related problem in the prior year, and roughly 1 in 3 Americans engaged in risky drinking patterns. The negative effects of drinking exert a toll, not only on the drinker, but also on their partner and other family members. Recent data suggest that approximately one child in every four (28.6%) in the United States is exposed to alcohol abuse or dependence in the family.

Family problems that are likely to co-occur with alcohol problem include: Violence, Marital conflict, Infidelity, Jealousy, Economic insecurity, Divorce, Fetal alcohol effect etc. Thus, drinking and family functioning are strongly and reciprocally linked. Not surprisingly, alcohol problems are common in couples that present for marital therapy and marital problems are common in drinkers who present for alcohol treatment.

My personal experience as a doctor is shocking when I see a recently engaged couple where the future husband is alcoholic and admitted in a hospital with alcoholic liver disease and the young prospective bride is looking after him. I did not have courage to tell young woman to break engagement and felt pity for her bleak future. Also, a smoking life partner is not only going to ruin his health but also ruin the health of his wife by the way of passive smoking. For heaven’s sake, please do not marry an alcoholic or a smoker.

7) Trust:

There’s no way you can have a healthy relationship if you don’t trust each other. Jealousy is cited as one of the most frequent causes of the breakup of romantic relationships. Finding members of the opposite sex attractive is fine, but avoid straying, even emotionally. However, couples in loving relationships who trust each other, can even survive an affair; without anger or bitterness.

8)  Sex:

Some people say that sexual desire is a primitive biological instinct of humans and we should not get hijacked by sexual attraction. I believe the contrary. If you are not sexually attracted towards your prospective partner, don’t marry. Remember, sex brings the couple closer together, releases hormones that help their bodies both physically & mentally healthy, and keeps the chemistry of a couple healthy.

9)  Resolve rows:

 Remember, if you get into a heated exchange; it takes between 20 to 30 minutes to calm down the physiological arousal of anger. If your partner is willing to resolve dispute next day, choose him because by that time, anger has cooled down and both may recognize good qualities of each other. Remember, anger management matters and better the anger management is; greater is the intimacy of relationship. Avoid argumentative and stubborn life partner.

10)  Past:

 Remember, those who forget past have no future. So knowing past is important. But making a mountain out of mole from past mistake is not wise. Also, all have skeletons in their cupboards and so don’t go for witch hunting. A matchmaking company surveyed 144 adult females and found that 62 percent of respondents said they would “never tell the truth” if asked about the number of past relationships. Speaking about ex-boyfriends to a current partner still amounts to a taboo in a society that is never generous to women with many dating experiences. However, it’s a bit different for men where having many girlfriends in the past could mean they are sexually competitive. So there is a double standard as far as past sexual promiscuity is concerned between men and women. Many traditional men are crazy to find a virgin wife. The truth is that virginity of a future wife is not a gateway to a successful marriage. It is not uncommon to find a woman who had sex with another man losing her virginity but vows to remain faithful to her husband. Also, even though virginity is a virtue, there are many virtues more important in life than virginity. History of past abusive relationship does matter and one should avoid trusting a prospective spouse who had past abusive relationship. If you are marrying someone who has children from previous marriage, then, meeting the kids and getting to know them is an indispensable part of such a relationship. You have to be quite sure that the kids are okay with you before proceeding further.   

11) Equality:

 Things get bad really fast when a relationship turns into a power struggle, with one person fighting to get his or her way all the time. Also, men are still not entirely comfortable with the independent modern woman. Husbands can share in the house work and wives can pitch in with the finances. Both partners should equally share the decision-making power. Avoid marrying a person who is too dominant to consider equality.

12) Good communication:

Justice should not only be done but also appear to be done. In the same way, loving somebody is not enough but you should learn how the person communicates love and likes to receive love. If you’re not sure what he or she means, then, speak honestly and openly so that the miscommunication is avoided in the first place. Many problems in relationship are due to miscommunication. Go for a person who is excellent in communication.

13) Compromise:

Healthy relationships are built on compromise. However, it takes work on each person’s part to make sure that there is a reasonable exchange. You are more likely to get your needs met if you respect what your partner needs, and compromise when you can. Run for a person who believes that marriage is a sacrifice. A give and take. An uncompromising life partner will be a liability. Compromise doesn’t mean you should feel like you’re losing out on being yourself. 

14)  Expect ups and downs:

Events like job loss or severe health problems can affect both partners and make it difficult to relate to each other. Different people cope with stress differently, and misunderstanding can rapidly turn to frustration and anger. Flexibility is essential to adapt to the change that is always taking place in any relationship, and it allows you to grow together through both the good times and the bad times. A partner who is flexible enough to endure ups and downs is most welcome.

15) Time & support:

 Go for a person who is willing to spend quality time with you and support you either in good times or bad times.

16)  Partner’s family:

 Go for a person who is willing to listen to your family respectfully, let them know that he cares about what they think and what they would do. There is no point marrying a person who is going to humiliate your family members as you will always be torn between your spouse and your family.

17)  Friends:

Giving up your personal friends should not be a requirement of being in a relationship. Neither should it be assumed that your partner will like your personal friends as much as you do, so insisting that your friends should be their friends might not be reasonable.

18)  Lie:

 Relationship can survive on lies provided lies are not caught. Woman must think twice before lying about her virginity to future spouse. Most people approach the topic of lying and infidelity somewhat reluctantly; driven by their curiosity or by a recent, unexpected discovery. And to make matters more complicated, detecting infidelity is never as easy as people think. Not only can it be difficult to investigate a spouse, but doing so also raises a host of relational, ethical, and legal concerns which are important to consider before starting monitoring a spouse. Avoid marrying a person if you believe that person has a habit of lying.

19) Expectations:

 Unspoken and unacknowledged expectations take a large toll in relationships. In having expectations, you’re expecting your partner to be a certain way in order to believe they love and care about you. If you don’t get what you expect, you conclude all kinds of negative things about the relationship that may not be true. You will have a better chance of leading a good life with someone who has the matching expectation.

20)  Behavior:

Choosing a partner who is polite, serene, caring and understanding will have a good impact towards your romantic relationship.

21) Physical compatibility:

This is a very important quality for couples to possess. Couples who are physically incompatible can have a tumultuous relationship despite getting all other factors right.

22)    Discussion:

Initiate open discussion with prospective spouse about children (if, when, how many), child-rearing, money, work, religion, where to live, and relationships with extended family. The purpose of these discussions is to uncover any fundamental differences between you and your prospective spouse so that you can decide whether you want to marry the prospective partner.

 

PEOPLE CAN SEE THAT MATCHMAKING IS NOT EASY AND YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER ALL ABOVE POINTS BECAUSE A BAD DECISION CAN RUIN YOUR LIFE.

 

Unhealthy relationship:

A relationship is unhealthy when it involves mean, disrespectful or abusive behavior including verbal, physical and emotional abuse. When a person in relationship uses verbal insults, mean language, nasty putdowns, gets physical by hitting or slapping, or forces someone into sexual activity, it’s an important warning sign of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only and that is to gain and maintain total control over you. The most telling sign is fear of your partner. If by any chance, you feel fear of your prospective spouse, break the relationship immediately. Remember, love and fear are mutually exclusive. If you fear someone, you don’t love him and no need to go for marriage. Shocking statistics shows that nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser. Another study by Oklahoma State University found that 90% of the women were interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with a man who was already in romantic relationship with another woman. What is wrong with young women?  It is time the women change their attitude in relationship. Interesting to note that out of 100 domestic violence situations, approximately 40 cases involve violence by women against men. So abuse in relationship is not one sided but two-sided.

 

SCIENCE OF MATCHMAKING:

Scientists have conducted experiments on strangers falling in love in front of their eyes. There are 3 steps in simulated matchmaking.

1) Find a complete stranger.

2) Reveal to each other intimate details about your lives for half an hour.

3) Then, stare deeply into each other’s eyes without talking for four minutes.

The above study found that many of subject couples felt deeply attracted after the 34 minute experiment and two of these subjects later got married.

So there is something beyond everything we discussed so far. What is it?

Scientists say that human social interactions are shaped not just by words and gestures, but also several other hidden factors such as smell, proximity and even temperature that influence how we relate with others. A study found that when the room was warmer, participants rated the character as more sociable compared with when it was colder. When subjects were sitting next to each other (each at a computer), they rated the individuals in the narratives as being more sociable compared with when the subjects were sitting a few computers apart. The scientists also claimed that a person’s smell can also influence his or her relationship with others. A study in Rice University has compiled a growing body of evidence that humans can indeed communicate through odours, as animals are well known to do. Smell is the most primitive of human senses, and pheromones, present in underarm perspiration, are detected by a small organ composed of a few small pits a few centimeters up the nose. The emotional reaction they provoke can, quite literally, be a ‘turn on’. Another study showed women’s brains respond differently to men’s sweat depending on the circumstances under which the sweat was produced. According to a new study couples can smell each others feelings of fear, happiness and sexual arousal. Familiarity with a partner enhances detection of emotional cues in that person’s smell.

 

Psychologists have shown it takes 4 minutes to decide if you are attracted to someone.

Research has shown this has little to do with what is said, rather

  • 55% is through body language
  • 38% is the tone and speed of their voice
  • Only 7% is through what they say.

So it is not what you say is important as far your love for partner is considered but your body language.

In the newly-emerging science of brain chemistry, researchers are beginning to identify the biochemical processes behind various emotions including attraction, passion, and love. With an irresistible cocktail of neuro-chemicals, our brain entices us to fall in love.

 

There are 3 stages of love namely lust, attraction and attachment. Each stage might be driven by different hormones and neuro-chemicals.

Stage 1: Lust (libido)

This is the first stage of love and is driven by the sex hormones; testosterone in men and estrogen in women. In one study, 66 percent of women and 59 percent of men reported the relationship ended after the first kiss. It was chemical and physical. When asked what was wrong about the kiss, they couldn’t say. But they just didn’t like the other person. Saliva has testosterone and estrogen. When you kiss, you’re having a chemical experience and most of the brain gets involved. Also, a woman is more vulnerable to fall in love just before ovulation, about two weeks before her period because a woman has a cyclical production of sex hormones as compared to men. 

Stage 2: Attraction (romantic love)

This is the amazing time when you are truly love-struck and can think of little else. Scientists think that three main neurotransmitters are involved in this stage; norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. Norepinephrine excites us, while dopamine makes us feel happy. These love chemicals are controlled by a substance which is called PEA or phenylethylamine and it is PEA which controls the transition from lust to love and Phenylethylamine (commonly dubbed the `love molecule’) is released from the brain by deceptively simple actions like the meeting of the eyes or touching of the hands. A very interesting thing is that chocolate is known to have very high level of this chemical and that is the reason why it is considered a perfect gift for your sweetheart. A landmark experiment in Pisa, Italy showed that early love (the attraction phase) really changes the way you think. Newly smitten lovers often idealize their partner, magnifying their virtues and explaining away their flaws making love blind. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter underlying pleasure in general and is released from environmental triggers like a good conversation or a kiss on the lips. Remember, novelty drives up dopamine. If you’re on the edge and want to fall in love, or want her to fall in love with you, novelty can push the brain. That’s why vacations are so romantic. That initial giddiness that comes when you are first falling in love includes a racing heart, flushed skin and sweaty palms. Researchers say this is due to the dopamine, norepinephrine and phenylethylamine you are releasing. Remember, memory stimulates these neurotransmitters in brain and therefore if the relationship is not going well, stimulate the memory of the partner by wearing the dress you wore on first date or revisit the place you went to on your first date. Another study found that people in love have lower levels of serotonin and also, those neural circuits associated with the way we assess others are suppressed. These lower serotonin levels are the same as those found in people with obsessive-compulsive disorders, possibly explaining why those in romantic love “obsess” about their partner. 

Stage 3: Attachment (long partnership & parenting)

Attachment is the bond that keeps couples together long enough for them to have and raise children. Scientists think there might be two major hormones involved in this feeling of attachment; oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone released by men and women during orgasm. It probably deepens the feelings of attachment and makes couples feel much closer to one another after they have had sex. The theory goes that the more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes.  Oxytocin and dopamine are complementary in the bonding and love. Dopamine furnishes the kick, oxytocin makes process of a particular mate appealing, in part by triggering feelings of comfort. You need both acting on the reward circuitry at ideal levels to stay in love. There’s evidence that these two neurochemicals stimulate each other’s release, so if one is low, it affects levels of the other. Oxytocin also seems to help cement the strong bond between mother & baby and is released during childbirth. It is also responsible for mother’s breast automatically releasing milk at the mere sight or sound of her young baby. In experiments on animals, if scientists block either oxytocin or dopamine, mothers will ignore their pups.Vasopressin is another important hormone in the long-term commitment stage and is released after sex. So it is possible to fall in love with someone just because you had sex with them, because with orgasm, you get a flood of oxytocin and vasopressin that can cause you to feel attached to the person and one night stand can become life time relationship. Friendships are also built on oxytocin, and can be quite deep bonding but the change from friendship into sexual relationship is an excellent example of the neurochemical shift.  

 

So scientifically speaking, the above mentioned 3 processes of love-making has become a play of neuro-chemicals and hormones in the limbic system of our brains. The limbic system (mammalian brain) is largely the same in all mammals and has been around for millions of years and is the seat of emotions, desires, drives, impulses, love and lust. However, because these processes are independent, these three systems can work simultaneously and with dangerous results. So you can feel deep attachment for a long-term spouse, while you feel romantic love for someone else, while you feel the sex drive in situations unrelated to either partner. This independence means that it is possible to love more than one person at a time, a situation that leads to jealousy, adultery & divorce and also to the possibilities of promiscuity and polygamy, with the likelihood of extra children, and thus a bigger stake in the genetic future that these behaviors bring. These four neurochemicals; dopamine, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen are determinants of specific personality types and their mate attraction patterns. Dopamine-dominants are people who are curious, novelty seekers, creative, liberal, optimistic, spontaneous, mentally flexible and irreverent. Serotonin-dominants are calm, conscientious, conventional, loyal, protective, persistent, cautious, fact-oriented and community-minded. Testosterone-dominants are logical, decisive, exacting, analytical, ambitious, competitive, tough-minded, rank-oriented and emotionally contained. Estrogen-dominants are intuitive, imaginative, introspective, have verbal and people skills, are curious about self and others, and are emotionally expressive. In romantic love attraction, it is not likeness or opposing traits that determine attraction, but the prominent neurochemical within each individual that dictates the choice. Dopamine and serotonin dominants are likely to select people like themselves, while testosterone dominants select their opposites- estrogen dominants. The stages of love vary somewhat between the sexes resulting in notable differences in their choices. Men are more attracted to youth and beauty, while women are more attracted to money, education and position. Interesting to note that even though release of neuro-chemicals in our brains for love-making is genetically determined; social & cultural factors and learning play big roles because humans learn from their sexual and social experiences. Hence, it cannot be overemphasized that love is not just a response to raging hormones under genetic control but in addition, our rational processes learned from past experiences of environment have something to do with it too.     

 

So love, in all its glory, is just a chemical state with genetic roots and environmental influences.

We believe we are choosing a partner but the truth is that we may merely be the happy victims of nature’s lovely plan.

 

And then, there are drugs which may also help people to fall in love, or perhaps fix broken relationships by altering neuro-chemicals in brain. Besides romantic love, oxytocin has also been implicated in social bonds and trust in general and indeed experiments have shown that people are more trusting while under the influence of nasally administered oxytocin. There is a possibility that oxytocin may become a drug for date-rape. In India, oxytocin has been used on young girls to stimulate early puberty and these young girls develop feelings of love, trust and sexual arousal so that they can be used as prostitutes. Common antidepressants SSRIs inhibit the reuptake of serotonin, allowing it to remain in the synapses longer resulting in increased serotonin effects which can jeopardize your ability to form long-term attachments. Ecstasy is the street name for the psychoactive drug 3,4- MethyleneDioxy-N-MethylAmphetamine or MDMA. It belongs to the class of amphetamines and has the potency to function as a stimulant and its psychotic effects are far more consistent than any other drug studied and the sense of euphoria that it evokes is emphatically unique. Ecstasy or MDMA is known to impact the function of Serotonin Transporter protein (SERTs) by blocking the reuptake of the neurotransmitter, thereby, depleting its level. There is a surge in user’s sensitivity to pleasure and a feeling of intimacy is invoked, creating in them a compelling craving for touch. Today the manufacture, sale or possession of MDMA is banned in several countries as research on animal models revealed its toxic effect on the brain. Scientists are researching on the novel concept of ‘love vaccine’ which can stop you from falling in love with the wrong person by suppressing oxytocin & vasopressin in brain with the help of drugs.

 

Brain imaging studies in romantic relationship:

  

MRI scan images highlighting the areas of the brain involved in feeling love.

 

 

Pain empathy responses associated with imagining a loved one as compared to stranger.

 

A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study found that an estrogen-like compound triggers blood flow to the hypothalamus in men’s brains but not women’s and the testosterone-like compound stimulates blood flow to the same brain region, but only in women and researchers say that these are human pheromones found in the sweat of men and women. Another study used fMRI on 17 people who were intensely “in love” and found that activation specific to the beloved occurred in the right ventral tegmental area and right caudate nucleus, dopamine-rich areas associated with mammalian reward and motivation. In another clinical trial, couples who had been married for at least 21 years were shown pictures of their spouses and two of their friends while researchers studied their fMRI brain scans. Their scans were then compared to younger couples’ who had just fallen in love and had previously taken the same test. When the older couples were shown pictures of their spouses, certain parts of the brain that are associated with romantic love were activated, just as they had been in those who had just fallen in love. And interestingly, the older couples’ scans also showed activity in the area of the brain associated with deep attachment. The good news is that romantic love and deep attachment aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Brain scanner might go from being research tools to something that anyone could use to find out how well they were loved. Research has shown that there are certain areas of the brain linked with being in love with someone. It is possible that our feelings for our partner are somehow stored in our brain. Researchers have found that when individuals are shown pictures of their loved ones, areas of the brain with a high concentration of receptors for dopamine are activated showing increases blood flow to these areas which is associated with states of euphoria, craving and addiction. High levels of dopamine are also associated with norepinephrine, which heightens attention, short-term memory, hyperactivity, sleeplessness and goal-oriented behavior. In other words, couples in this stage of love focus intently on the relationship and often on little else. Moreover, fMRI images of the brains of these individuals showed that the brain pattern for romantic love overlapped patterns for sexual arousal, feelings of happiness, and cocaine-induced euphoria. This overlap and, at the same time, unique pattern indicates the complexity of the emotions that comprise romantic love. These results did not occur when the individuals were shown pictures of non-romantic loved ones or strangers. Also, the activated regions associated with intense romantic love were mostly on the right side of the brain, while the activated regions associated with facial attractiveness were mostly on the left. So romantic love and attraction towards a beautiful face are two different phenomena. The fMRI images showed more activity in the ventral pallidum portion of the basal ganglia in people with longer romantic relationship & bonding and it is in this region where receptors for the hormone vasopressin exist. The other specific brain areas involved in love-making are the medial insula, the anterior cingulated, frontal lobe, septal areas and finally the amygdala. It is your partner’s brain that enables her to act or say those things that trigger your brain to respond with these chemicals of attraction and attachment.

 

Only about three percent of mammals are monogamous, mating and bonding with one partner for life and humans are not one of these naturally monogamous mammals. However, the hormone vasopressin released after mating makes a man indifferent to all other women except his perceived life partner and hormone oxytocin cements intimate bonding with life partner. Oxytocin production is derived from both emotional and physical cues. A lover’s voice, his/her certain look, or even a sexual fantasy can trigger the release of oxytocin and sexual intercourse certainly releases oxytocin. After good work by vasopressin & oxytocin, chemical reward is created by endorphins which calm and reassure with intimacy, dependability, warmth, and shared experiences. Married couple becomes addicted to the endorphins and marital serenity. It is the absence of endorphins that make long-time partners yearn for each other when apart. Absent endorphins also play a part in grief from the death of a spouse. Another study found that circulating levels of nerve growth factor is elevated among subjects in love suggesting an important role for this molecule in the `social chemistry’ of human beings. Nerve growth factor is known to induce the release of the hormone vasopressin, and vasopressin in turn is known to play a pivotal role in the formation of social bonding. A landmark study on monkeys found that cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) oxytocin levels were persistently reduced in rhesus monkeys with significant social deficit and oxytocin levels were positively related to the expression of affiliative social behaviors. 

 

So scientifically speaking, matchmaking will need production of vasopressin, oxytocin and endorphins in the brains of prospective partners for the relationship to last long. Corollary to this logic means that if the couple is able to generate these neuro-chemicals & hormones in their brains at the time of their togetherness, the relationship will be cemented and long lasting despite obvious mismatch from all other points. It would also mean that if the couple is unable to generate these neuro-chemicals & hormones in their brains at the time of their togetherness, the relationship will break despite obvious perfect match from all points of view. Togetherness does not necessarily mean physical togetherness but also mental togetherness. For example, the partners may be away by 5000 miles but they think about each other, look at each others photographs or fantasize about each other in their mind, all of which can release these neuro-chemicals & hormones in their brains cementing their relationship even though they are miles apart.

 

In the novel concept of ‘fear brain cells’ and ‘comfort brain cells’; fear cells cause increased production of cortisol—the adrenal hormone which, when in excess, feeds the chemistry of energetic depletion, fear, agitation, and anger. The comfort cells, by contrast, produce oxytocin and dopamine—the brain hormones that bring love, compassion, and enlightenment.

 

Fear – Cortisol Love – Oxytocin
Aggression Anti-stress hormone
Arousal, Anxiety, Feeling stressed-out Feeling calm and connected, Increased curiosity
Activates addictions Lessens cravings & addictions
Suppresses libido Increases sexual receptivity
Associated with depression Positive feelings
Can be toxic to brain cells Facilitates learning
Breaks down muscles, bones and joints Repairs, heals and restores
Weakens immune system Faster wound healing
Increases pain Diminishes sense of pain
Clogs arteries, Promotes heart disease and high blood pressure Lowers blood pressure, Protects against heart disease
Obesity, Diabetes, Osteoporosis  

 

I have already discussed earlier that fear of the partner is the most important sign of abusive relationship and neurochemically, it is proved that fear (cortisol) and love (oxytocin) are contrasting each other. Never marry a person whom you fear. The corollary to this logic is the neurochemical difference between consensual sex and rape. During consensual sex, oxytocin is released after sex to cement bonding but during rape, fear is the predominant emotion and not love; and therefore victim woman will release cortisol in blood during & after rape instead of oxytocin. This fact can be used in a criminal trial of rape where the offender is defending rape on the ground of consensual sex. The police must collect blood of the rape victim immediately after rape and determine blood levels of cortisol and oxytocin. If cortisol is elevated and oxytocin level normal, it would suggest rape. If cortisol level is normal and oxytocin level is high, it would suggest consensual sex. More studies are required on this subject to help rape victims.

 

Of all the species only humans are interested in mating at almost anytime rather than certain times of the year. The human male is always ready for the sexual encounter and almost any female is viewed as a potential sexual partner. This is not true for the human female, who also harbors the genetic pool of the species and is trying to select best genes by selecting the best man so that the offspring have best genetic make-up and all this started to happen  millions of years ago so that the process in “hard wired” in the brain, old and fixed. So it is a woman who knows how to test a man and a man who knows how to deal with these tests that produce the strongest offspring. This is why patch-up sex is so good after a fight in a relationship. The woman has proven herself strong by testing the guy and the guy has proven himself strong by dealing with it. Evolution then rewards them with great sexual pleasure because they know each other to be strong and great for mating. Evolutionary theory also suggests that people whose physical features suggest they are healthy are seen as more attractive. The theory suggests that a healthy mate is more likely to possess genetic traits related to health that would be passed on to offspring. It is to our advantage to choose a partner with the best possible genes as these genes will be passed on to our children and ensure they are healthy. Since nature’s goal is to perpetuate the species, it encourages us to mate with others who have immune systems different from our own because it creates babies with a wider variety of immune system genes, and therefore, more robust immune systems and in other words, healthier babies. Nature also discourages inbreeding and the associated health consequences, and it enables us as a species to adapt to changing diseases and unfavorable environments. That is why we have noticed that we are not sexually attracted to our brother, sister, mother, or father. That is because they are all part of our immediate gene pool, and we all probably have very similar immune systems. Nature does not want you to mate with them, because the health of your baby and the longevity of our species would suffer. When we are attracted to a different person, it could be because we subconsciously like their genes. The proof of this theory is in ‘sweaty T-shirt’ experiment of the year 1995 in which women were asked to sniff the T-shirts of similarly aged men and rate their body odours and it was found that women preferred the scent of men who had immune systems dissimilar to their own and vice versa proving subconscious DNA matching. So when it comes to choosing a partner, we are at the mercy of our subconscious under disguise of a conscious decision. This subconscious matchmaking is based on neurochemistry of our brains which in turn is guided by genetic factors under influence of the environment. So it is the DNA which wants to mate with a suitable DNA to procreate a better DNA. Suitable DNA means dissimilar DNA because if DNA mates with similar DNA, it would procreate similar DNA and not better DNA.

 

DNA dating:

DNA based dating system is a dating service that finds compatible matches for you based on your DNA. The DNA analysis at DNA dating site helps you find a partner with matching physical chemistry. Physical chemistry is based on the immune system. When they say that two people have “chemistry”, they are saying that prospective partner’s immune system genes are perfectly matched with each other. By perfectly matched, they mean different enough to procreate more robust immune system in the offspring. Aside from healthier children, DNA dating sites says that finding a partner with a different immune system will also lead to a more satisfying sex life, less cheating in the relationship, a higher rate of fertility and, if you’re a woman, a higher rate of orgasms.

 

Now let us discuss genetic disorders which can be prevented by pre-marital genetic screening/ testing. Ideally, prospective life partner should undergo genetic screening and inform prospective spouse about their susceptibility to a disease that may be transmitted to their children. Also, if there is a risk, then, take a genetically responsible decision with regard to their future spouse or about having children. Some people feel that incorporating genetic criteria might seem inappropriate if you have taken decision to share your life with someone you love. Many countries already conduct genetic screening where individuals who wish to marry must present documentation of thalassemia screening to obtain a marriage license. The term “genetic testing” denotes a genetic test done on an individual on voluntary basis, while “genetic screening” implies large-scale, public health initiatives. Pre-marital genetic testing is obligatory in orthodox-Jewish community where some recessive genetic diseases such as Tay-Sachs are prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews  who make up more than 80 percent of world Jewry and are believed to be descended from about 1,500 Jewish families dating back to the 14th century and where intra-community arranged marriages are the norm and therefore screening of young adolescents is a must for a panel of 10 recessive diseases that are lethal or severely debilitating (Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis, Gaucher disease type I, Canavan disease, familial dysautonomia, Bloom syndrome, Fanconi anemia, glycogen storage disease type 1a, mucolipidosis type IV, and Niemann-Pick disease type A). I am sure that in a country like India where intra-caste arranged marriage is a norm, various genetic diseases are flourishing and since diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, epilepsy and mental disorders do have genetic influences, these diseases have become common in Indian population possibly due to multiplication of ‘bad genes’. I am also sure that if inter-caste marriages are supported by Indian population, then, not only many diseases will become less common but caste system will be abolished. If the genetic makeup of a person becomes a common knowledge, then problems occur with discrimination, employment and insurance and therefore genetic test should be confidential and only the necessary people such as individual, family, physician and counselor should know the results of genetic tests. Scientists believe that a single breast & ovarian cancer causing gene does exist and the doctor could now tell who the carrier is.

Would you marry a woman who is a carrier of breast cancer gene?

 

Premarital tests:

A pre-marriage medical checkup is a good idea for both parties involved and whilst possibility of HIV may raise eyebrows in our culture, it is essentially good for the health of the future couple and therefore matchmaking does involve testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) including HIV. When a woman having Rh –ve blood group marries a man with Rh +ve blood group, then, there are chances that their 2nd child may be born with hemolytic disease.

Instead of horoscope matching, I strongly recommend following tests by both partners before marriage.

1)  HIV test

2)  Tests for other STD including syphilis

3)  Hemoglobin level in blood

4)  Rh blood grouping

5)  Hepatitis B screening

6)  Thalassemia and sickle cell anaemia testing

7)   Rubella test

8)  In a country like India, chest X-ray for tuberculosis

I know that people will not like my matchmaking pre-marital testing but it is in the interest of future couple and their children.     

 

Consanguineous marriage:

A marriage is said to be consanguineous when the union is between two people, genetically related by descent, from a common ancestor. All human societies prohibit the mating of first degree relatives, namely the mating between parents & children and brothers & sisters (incest). In Europe and North America, the marriage between close relatives is strongly discouraged by social convention. In most African societies, consanguineous marriages are not allowed. In contrast, in countries like Japan, India, Pakistan and the Middle East, up to 30% of marriages are consanguineous and are even encouraged as in Japan. Each human body cell carries nearly 50 to 100,000 of genes as pairs, usually a pair for each trait. Of these about 4 to 8 are undesirable and faulty but as they are weak/ recessive and do not manifest the defect. The reason being that the other member of the pair is normal & powerful/ dominant and thus suppresses the deleterious effects of the faulty one. For any of those 4 to 8 genes to have an impact, they need to be in identical pairs, which mean that each parent has to contribute one member of the pair. In consanguineous marriages, the ancestors are common, like for example in a first cousin mating, the grandparents are. In this instance, the chances of a pair of these identical unfavorable genes meeting is far greater than in an unrelated marriage and therefore the probability of producing a child with a serious birth defect or mental retardation is 3 to 4 % in non-consanguineous marriage while this figure doubles in first cousin mating and triples in uncle-niece and aunt-nephew mating. So the products of consanguineous marriages tend to produce an increase of the various types of genetic disorders such as birth defects, mental retardation, deafness, blood cancer, depression, blindness, Down syndrome, and hemophilia etc. Also, many pregnancies do terminate prematurely as abortions/ miscarriages, which in itself are signs of an unhealthy pregnancy. Also, another study found a strong association of consanguinity with poverty and low education. So according to me, consanguineous marriage must be banned legally & socially worldwide.

 

Future matchmaking:

If I am to be a matchmaker in the 22’nd century, what would I do?

First, I will ask blood tests of prospective partners to determine their HIV status, rule out other STD, check for inherited genetic disorders and match physical compatibility.

Second, I will ask for brain scans of  prospective partners when they are together to know whether specific brain regions associated with romance & attachment do lit up or not.

Third, I will check levels of oxytocin, vasopressin, endorphins etc neurotransmitters & hormones in the cerebrospinal fluid (fluid in which brain floats) of prospective partners at the time of their togetherness to determine neuro-chemical support for long lasting bonding.

Fourth, I will correlate immune system genes from DNA samples of both prospective partners for the future offspring to have more robust immune system.

Then, I will give a result of matchmaking whether prospective partners should indeed get married or not.

By that time, astrologers and clergy would be jobless and horoscope would have become obsolete.

 

THE MORAL OF THE STORY:

1)      Non-coercive arranged marriage with premarital dating does have a significant role in the world where love marriage is a rule.

2)      Consanguineous marriage must be banned by all civilized nations.

3)       Duration of dating period is directly proportional to success of future marriage.

4)       Love and fear are mutually exclusive and therefore never marry a person whom you fear.

5)      Premarital testing of both prospective partners must be done to determine HIV status & other STD as well as inherited genetic disorders.

6)      Adjustment is a key to a successful marriage.

7)      Neurochemical reactions in the brains of a couple determine how long the relationship last irrespective of all other factors and these neurochemical reactions are guided by genes (DNA) of the couple under influence of the environment.  

 

Dr.Rajiv Desai. MD.

July 10, 2010 

Postscript:

Did my previous marriage break up due to DNA mismatch?

Neurochemical reactions in our brains determine how we behave with each other and these neurochemical reactions are guided by our DNA under environmental influence. DNA mismatch will produce mismatched neurochemical reactions in the brains of life partners resulting in irreconcilable differences which break up a marriage. This theory needs more research.

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