Bangladesh allows commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal
The Government of Bangladesh has given nod to the commercial cultivation of transgenic Bt brinjal, making it the first South Asian country to cultivate the genetically modified food crop.
As per Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), the government has approved four Bt brinjal varieties (Bt begun-1, 2, 3 and 4) for limited scale cultivation with some caveats. These varieties had been developed by BARI using Indian firm Mahyco’s proprietary gene construct technology. Mahyco had transferred its Bt brinjal technology to BARI in 2005-06 through a USAID-funded and Cornell University-managed ‘Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project’.
What is Bt brinjal?
Bt brinjal is a genetically modified transgenic variety of brinjal. It contains a foreign ‘Cry1Ac’ gene derived from a soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This gene synthesises a protein toxic to the fruit and shoot borer (FSB), a damaging pest. The gene endows the crop a “built-in” resistance to FSB, reducing dependence on spraying pesticides.
India’s concerns over Bt Brinjal
There are apprehensions among the environmentalists in India who fear that, given the porosity of Indo-Bangladesh border, the transgenic crop could leak into India’s environment. They have requested the Government to take all measures to safeguard food and seed supply, apart from bio-diversity. Requests have also been sent to Environment Ministry to take all steps to prohibit any illegal or unintentional transfer of Bt brinjal or seeds through the border with Bangladesh. Environmentalists have written to the Ministry urging THE Indian government to explore all options under the Cartagena Protocol to ensure that Bangladesh takes all measures to ensure that our diversity here is safeguarded from any trans-boundary movement of this GM food crop.