Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute claimed on Sunday that  genetically modified BT brinjal has no detrimental effects on human health, bio-diversity and environment though it said it carried out no research on the controversial food crop. 

BT brinjal, or bacillus thuringiensis brinjal, is a transgenic brinjal by injecting the soil bacterium bacillus thuringinsis into the genome of various brinjal cultivars.

Bacillus thuringiensis, commonly used as a pesticide was discovered by Japanese biologist Shigetane Ishiwata in 1901.

In the backdrop of huge opposition to commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal,  BARI called a news conference at  Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council at Farmgate for what it said, ‘dispelling misgivings bout Bt brinjal.’ The news conference turned noisy with  BARI officials getting involved in heated debates with affected Bt brinjal farmers and reporters over the controversial food crop.

BARI director general Rafiqul Islam Mandal said Bt brinjal farming was introduced in Bangladesh to save the crop from the deadly fruit and shoot borer paste attacks.

He said that the objective had been achieved. He said farmers would be able to collect Bt brinjal seeds from their own farms as it was not a hybrid crop.

He said that there would be no need for the farmers to depend on select seed companies for Bt brinjal seeds. Nor they have to pay royalties to anyone, he said.

He also said that there would be no adverse effects on the environment and farmers’ health as the Bt brinjal cultivation requires limited pesticides.

He said that farmers would get desired outputs.

Several Gazipur farmers, who were given the controversial Bt brinjal saplings for cropping disagreed with the BARI director general and said they would not cultivate the genetically modified crop again as it totally ruined them. 

But some of the farmers from Mymensingh and Pabna who also grew Bt brinjal, with saplings they had received from BARI, said they had a good harvest.

Haidul Islam and several other farmers from Saitalia village in Sripur upazila, Gazipur, said their Bt brinjal plants died in 10 to 15 days after they had planted the saplings.

BARI director general said that the saplings died as they could not plant the Bt brinjal saplings in time. Several farmers said that Bt brinjal tastes  bitter. 

Asked whether BARI conducted any research to find out whether Bt brinjal would harm human health, the BARI director general became furious and asked reporters to set up their laboratories to carry out the research as Bangladesh had no laboratories to conduct such research. 

Did Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association and Unnayan Bikalper Nitinirdharoni Gobeshona conduct any such research, he shot back. How then they oppose Bt brinjal cultivation, he demanded to know. ‘We shall carry out the research next year only after we get an accredited laboratory,’ he said. 

Environmentalists have been asking the authorities not to introduce Bt brinjal cultivation after its cropping ‘failed’ in many areas.

The government introduced Bt brinjal cultivation in Bangladesh in the backdrop of controversy surrounding the genetically modified crop in India.

India where Bt brinjal seeds were developed imposed a moratorium on its cultivation in 2010. Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech found itself in the centre of controversies for developing BT brinjal seeds in India. Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech, is a 50:50 joint venture between US based Monsanto Holdings P Ltd, a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation and Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company.

Bangladesh is the first country to encourage its farmers to grow Bt brinjal.

Countries that are parties to the Convention on Biodiversity and have  ratified the Cartagena Protocol are committed to the safe handling of living modified organisms and genetically modified organisms, said scientists. The Cartagena Protocol provides a broad framework of biodiversity especially focusing on trans-boundary movement of genetically modified organisms and also covers seeds that are intended for food, feed or used in food processing. 

Originally Pubslished: NewAge