Agri Business

Bt brinjal gets Bangladesh nod for commercial cultivation

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on October 31, 2013 Published on October 31, 2013

BL01_AGRI_BRINJAL

Environmentalists ask Govt to maintain vigil at border





Bangladesh has approved the commercial cultivation of transgenic Bt brinjal, becoming the first country in South Asia to cultivate the genetically modified food crop.

This has triggered concerns among environmentalists in India, who have urged the Government to take all steps to safeguard food and seed supply, apart from bio-diversity.

“Four Bt brinjal varieties (Bt begun-1, 2, 3 and 4) have been approved by the Government for limited scale cultivation with some conditions,” said Md Rafiqul Islam Mondal, Director General of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), in an e-mailed response to Business Line.

“The strategy for commercialisation and locations are not yet finalised. We will finalise them as per the instruction of the National Committee on Biosafety,” he said.

BARI had developed these Bt brinjal varieties incorporating Indian firm Mahyco’s proprietary gene construct technology.

Mahyco had transferred its Bt brinjal technology to BARI way back in 2005-06 through a USAID-funded and Cornell University-managed ‘Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project’. Bt brinjal contains a foreign ‘Cry1Ac’ gene derived from a soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt.

This gene synthesises a protein toxic to the fruit and shoot borer (FSB), a destructive pest.

The gene gives the crop a “built-in” resistance to FSB, reducing reliance on spraying pesticides.

border security

Meanwhile, the Coalition for GM Free India has written to Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan urging her to take all measures to stop any illegal or unintentional transfer of Bt brinjal or seeds through the border with Bangladesh.

Further, India should ensure that it officially shares all its analysis on Bt brinjal, the basis for its moratorium decision and urge Bangladesh not to release this GM food crop, they said.

India should explore all options under the Cartagena Protocol to ensure that Bangladesh puts in place all measures and mechanisms that would ensure that our diversity here is protected from any trans-boundary movement of this GM food crop, said the letter.

“Since the India-Bangladesh border is porous, we demand ban import/transfer of crops, fruits, seeds/food of Brinjal and related species/genus/family, which have remotest possibility of contamination directly or indirectly through Bt Brinjal,” the coalition said.

Published on October 31, 2013
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