Citizens' Issues
Even the crows don’t touch GM corn anymore...

For the last two years or so, all the crows in the Defence Colony-Jangpura flyover area absolutely refuse to even touch the corn spread out on the roadside for birds by people, while the pigeons continue to gobble them up. One does not see squirrels nearby either—but the crows stand out by their steadfast refusal to touch the corn
 
For a couple of years now, I have observed, along with the people who spread corn and other grains, both coarse as well as otherwise, by way of birdseed on the Defence Colony-Jangpura flyover in New Delhi, that the crows have stopped eating corn when spread. They used to go for it, along with other grains, but now wait for the more expensive ‘jowar’ (millet, sorghum) or ‘bajra’ (pearl millet).
 
Crows are supposed to be extremely intelligent creatures, and for years I have been laying out water in assorted bowls for them as well as for other birds and creatures, as a result of which they tend to let me get quite close before shying away. Theory is that a few generations of crows in the neighbourhood are now comfortable with my presence, and some will let me come within a metre if I don’t make sudden moves and keep my arms very visible.
 
Very rarely, I have also been successful, especially during the summers, in getting them to pick up pieces of biscuit or ‘roti’ from my hands. Of late, however, they appear to lose interest in the biscuits and take the rotis away, to dip them in water and then eat them. They’ve also become more aggressive with attacking smaller birds at the water baths.
 
However, for the last two years or so, all the crows in the neighbourhood absolutely refuse to even touch the corn spread out on the roadside for birds by people, while the pigeons continue to gobble them up. One does not see squirrels nearby either—but the crows stand out by their steadfast refusal to touch the corn. This is being repeated for effect—because crows used to be the biggest pests in corn fields at one time.
 
This is very amazing, because crows are natural scavengers, and would usually eat almost anything. It is not as though they are over-fed or selective—drop any other kind of waste food, and they will go for it with great gusto. But a single phone call to a friend who is a farmer, and plants Monsanto’s “DEKALB” brand seeds, re-confirms that the crows don’t disturb his fields anymore either.
 
And here’s the latest on why the crows may not be eating genetically modified (GM) corn any more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/12/monsantos-gmo-corn-linked_n_420365.html
 
Not a very recent article, it has been around for a while, but gains importance again in this context. Please take a close look at this photo, and see how the crows are simply not going anywhere near the corn spread on the pavement: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vm2827/6580715503/in/photostream
 
Look closely, and you will see the crows lined up on the vertical wire just centimetres away from the corn, but steadfastly refusing to eat it. While the pigeons gobble away.
 
Please come to the Defence Colony/Jangpura flyover in Delhi, any morning, and take a look. And then let us know—should we be worried, if even the crows won't eat it?

(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved actively in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves. Mr Malik had a career in the Merchant Navy which he left in 1983, has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, a love for travel, and an active participation in print and electronic media as an alternate core competency, all these and more.)

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COMMENTS

Pawan Duggirala

4 years ago

Nice observation.Liked reading the arguments below even more.This time, when I sign off and go home,I will have to avoid vegetables that look too good. Not that, I see them too often.

Pawan Duggirala

hello

4 years ago

Crows cant make a living in DELHI

too much SCAM from DELHI
they dont even care for CROWS to make a living (funny side of the story)

Proloy Coomar Pramanik

4 years ago

Have you attempted spreading out non-GM corn on the same stretch of road, and seen that the crows in that locality do agree to partake of them? Without this necessary control experiment, the conclusions drawn are unwarranted and specious. If the experiment shows that the crows refused to eat even regular, non genetically modified corn, then I don't know how one could assert that crows have stopped eating GM corn specifically.

And was any ill-effect observed on the pigeons who did eat the GM corn? Did the pigeons die off...? Or are we suggesting that whether GM crops are good or not be decided based on the relative brain sizes of pigeons and crows? Whatever the crows do agree to eat, could that be considered safe for human consumption too?

REPLY

Proloy Coomar Pramanik

In Reply to malQ 4 years ago

If this version of Occam's Razor were to be considered "scientific", then a falling feather would certainly be experiencing a smaller gravitational acceleration due to the earth than a falling stone. Because, it's quite evident to everyone, be they of whatever persuasions, that a feather does indeed reach the ground much later than a stone. This razor is outstandingly parsimonious with respect to truth and a spirit of scientific inquiry.

This is without prejudice to the merits of your reported observations. I welcome them. But, conclusions drawn without cross-examination or objective scrutiny lie in the domain of impulsive oversimplification, not simplicity.

Unfortunately, I live in Hyderabad, not Delhi. So my knowledge of the Delhi wholesale markets is not something I can be called proud of. But, if indeed the population of Delhi is only getting to eat GM corn now (which even crows refuse to eat), and if I could assume that this has been the case for some length of time, then I'd actually feel a degree of confidence that GM may not be all that bad. I know you've already provided links that suggest that the harm from GM may be long-term (like, say, slow arsenic poisoning). But there is something called as Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF). When hard-disks are said to have an MTBF of 50000 hrs of operation, it's not that any such hard disk has actually been operated for 50000 hrs and seen to survive. What's done is to spin about 500 disks continuously for 100+ hrs each, all together, and finding that not a single disk failed within 100 hrs (and proportionately further). While this approach may not look absolutely convincing, it's surprisingly significant statistically, especially after applying some coefficients, and matches closely with the manufacturers' warranty replacement experience over the actual lifetime of the disks in operation. Therefore, if say 10000 Delhi-ites have been consuming consuming GM corn for one year, and say, 250 of them developed some weirdo symptoms lately, then the MTBF because of GM corn could be roughly considered to be 40 years (assuming that nothing other than GM corn was instrumental in the appearance of the symptoms).

We are all free to hold our own opinions and preferences. I respect that. But it isn't the same as freedom to draw any conclusion as one pleases. Conclusions, in so far as they are meant to represent an assertion of a fact (if not irrefutable, at least a strongly evidenced one), have to be based on common agreement. However, to fully respect people's right to exercise choice, I strongly advocate very explicit marking of such products as GM ones. This should be statutory. Those who wish to take the risks (for reasons best understood by them) can buy and consume, those who don't wish, can refrain. (The pigeons and crows, unfortunately, were denied that right to informed choice -- but looks like they figured that out regardless. ;-) ).

malQ

In Reply to Proloy Coomar Pramanik 4 years ago

Dear Proloy Coomar Pramanik, thank you for writing in, and grateful.

I have simply placed my observations, surveyed various competing hypotheses, and then applied what is called Occam's Razor (lex parsimonae), which is a valid as well as time-tested and scientific option that has survived the ages available to all of us.

But you have asked a valid question on GM corn vs non-GM corn in Delhi. Please guide me on where I can purchase normal non-GM corn in Delhi's wholesale markets, lately, and oblige.

The way I see it, this is our shared courtyard, and we are all eligible to draw any conclusions basis skill-sets and parameters drawn. Ergo, QED, and good luck - and once again, thank you for writing in.

Regards/VM

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