BARI set to release three BT Brinjal varieties this year

The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) is set to release three varieties of Bt Brinjal this year and two other varieties by next year despite controversies regarding its production and harmful effects on human body, officials said.

The five varieties are Sing Nath, Chega, Islampuri, Dohazari and Khotkhotia. Of these, Sing Nath, Dohazari and Khotkhotia will be released this year for which the BARI has prepared all necessary documents.

Primarily, these Bt Brinjal seeds will be given to 200 farmers for pilot production.

In 2014-15 fiscal year, 19 demonstration plots of 108 farmers in 19 districts were prepared by BARI for BT Brinjal cultivation. The varieties are BARI BT 1 (Uttara), BARI BT 2 (Kajla), BARI BT 3 (Nayantara) and BARI BT 4 (ISD006).

The Bangladesh government first tried commercial production of Bt Brinjal on January 22, 2014 by distributing free seeds among 20 farmers in Gazipur, Pabna, Rangpur and Jamalpur districts.

The success of BT Brinjal cultivation was announced at a press conference on Tuesday. The BARI demonstrated the success through visual documentary and written statement at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) conference room in the city.

BARI director general Rafiqul Islam Mondol briefed the journalists on the occasion while director general of the seed wing of the agriculture ministry Anwar Faruque was present.

In the press meet, the BARI had claimed that all the farmers were successful in BT Brinjal farming except for a few cases who did not follow the guidelines properly.

Although they claimed that the production cost of BT Brinjal is lower than that of non-BT Brinjal, they, however, could not estimate the actual cost of production of both the varieties.

While answering questions, Anwar Faruque said explained why the government is promoting genetically modified (GM) agricultural products. BT Brinjal, despite its ban in India, the country of its origin and the Philippines, is a widely consumed vegetable in Bangladesh and it needs maximum spraying 150 to 180 times for containing pests during the total cultivation period.

He referred to the example of the US saying the country has already been cultivating various GM products including soybean, cotton, papaya, sugarbeat and potato.

In Bangladesh, the present government always tried to utilise new scientific inventions and technologies in agriculture. There was negative impression about hybrid crops also, he added. The government will soon introduce GM technology in potato.

Mr Anwar Faruque also said the government is not compelling the farmers to cultivate Bt Brinjal and its seeds can be produced by any private company.

At present, brinjal is cultivated in 2,00,000 hectares while Bt Brinjal is produced in only 10 hectares.

On September 29, 2013, responding to a public interest litigation, the High Court had directed the government to hold back the release of Bt Brinjal in the absence of an in-depth assessment of possible health risks.

Bangladesh has become the first country in South Asia to allow the cultivation of transgenic Bt Brinjal despite controversies.

Bt Brinjal was primarily developed by Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco) – partly owned by the US-based corporation Monsanto.

A moratorium was imposed on Bt Brinjal cultivation in India from February 9, 2010. It was a major setback for Mahyco and Monsanto. It is a little known fact in India that after a moratorium was declared there, Mahyco tried its luck in the Philippines and facing another road block, shifted its efforts to capture market in Bangladesh.
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