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Bt Brinjal Fails Two Years Running Risks Spreading Disease PDF Print E-mail
Posted by Joan Russow
Monday, 20 April 2015 09:21

by Dr Mae-Wan Ho

Bt brinjal varieties planted all over the country die from disease prematurely or fail to fruit, and fail to protect against target pest; a moratorium must now be imposed as a matter of utmost urgency to prevent the spread of new disease to indigenous varieties




Bt brinjal force-commercialized in 2014 resulting in disastrous crop failures

Genetically modified (GM) Bt brinjal was introduced to Bangladesh and rapidly approved for commercial growing despite widespread protest. Brinjal (eggplant or aubergine) is one of Bangladesh’s most important crops both for home consumption and export, making the cultivation of Bt brinjal a huge environmental, health and economic risk. More seriously, the region is a centre of origin and genetic diversity for brinjal, and should be protected from genetic contamination according to the UN Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. India had imposed a moratorium on its cultivation after fierce opposition from civil society groups, top scientists, state governments, as well as citizens and environmental organizations. The cultivation in Bangladesh has drawn similar controversy, with 100 civil society organisations writing to the country’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in protest (see [1] Don’t Grow Bt BrinjalSiS 61). A pilot scheme for commercial cultivation was introduced in 2014, and brought disastrous results, with at least 9 out of 20 farmers reporting crop failures ([2] Bangladeshi Bt Brinjal Pilot Scheme FailedSiS 63).

Bt brinjal strains were distributed to Bangladeshi farmers and grown again in 2015; and the crops failed yet again, even more dismally, according to the United News of Bangladesh, which sent a reporter to investigate [3]. He found that the plants have either “died out prematurely or fruited very insignificantly compared to local varieties”. Spot visits to 12 brinjal fields in the districts of Manikganj, Narsingdi and Comilla over the month February to March 2015 found hardly any living or properly fruiting plants.

United News of Bangladesh correspondent documents extensive crop failures

The strains BARI Bt Brinjal 2 (Bt-Nayantara) and BARI Bt Brinjal 3 (Bt-Kajla) were cultivated by four farmers at Pouli village in Manikganj Sadar under the supervision of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI). The fields belonging to Afzal Hossain and Md Mannaf were half-barren.

“We’ve removed most of the plants after those had died about 15 days ago. The officials [BARI officials] told us to do so to prevent the spread of the disease. Despite that the rest of the plants are dying out in numbers every day,” said Mannaf’s wife Lovely Begum.

In two other fields cultivated by the brothers Boltu Miah and Abul Hossain in the same village, only a few plants have died so far, but the fruiting of the plants is nowhere near satisfactory, said Lal Chand, father of the two brothers.

The same two Bt brinjal varieties were also cultivated by three farmers at Dhanua village in Shibpur upazila of Naringdi. All ended in misery.

Md Abul Hayat, a respected and successful local farmer, said, “Most of the saplings (of Bt brinjal) have died. The plants are prone to diseases. The officials said it’s due to bacterial attack and prompted by irrigation and soil-type.”

“If irrigation and soil-type had been a problem, why the local brinjal plants on my other field had not been affected?” he asked pointing to a brinjal field next to his Bt brinjal one.

Only a month ago, most of the plants in Hayat’s Bt brinjal field were looking good. The officials came and took photos and videos of the plants at the time, Hayat noted. The Bt brinjal field of Md Almgir in neighbouring Baghab village in the upazila was more pathetic. Many of the saplings had died at an earlier stage, one month into planting. The officials replaced the dead plants with fresh ones, but those have died too, Hayat said.

Harun Mirza, Dilip Kumar Das and Mohammad Ali of Burichong upazila (administrative division below distrcit) in Comilla planted BARI Bt Brinjal 1 (Bt-Uttara) and BARI Bt Brinjal 4 (Bt-ISD 006) on about 18-20 decimal plots. All three claimed that around 150-200 of the 500-700 saplings provided to them died within one month of planting. The fresh plants that replaced the dead ones failed to survive, and most of the rest are also dying out.

Mohammad Ali of Nimsar village in the upazila showed several plants of BARI Bt Brinjal 4 that were affected by brinjal fruit and shoot borer (BFSB) insects. ‘We were told that these brinjal varieties are resistant to Phol of Doga Chidrokari Poka (BFSB), but the plants on my field have come under its attack,’ he said.

Farmers in Sherpur, Mymensingh, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Rajshahi, Pabna, Jessore, Gazipur and Tangail districts shared similar experiences with the United News of Bangladesh (UNB) correspondent when contacted over phone. At least 25-150 of the Bt Brinjal plants died on each of the Bt Brinjal fields in these districts. The dead plants also include some of BARI Bt Brinjal 5 variety that was cultivated in Dinajpur.

Md Haminur Rahman and Md Mobarak Hossain of Sherpur Sadar upazila said they have harvested 8-10 maunds (1 maund ≈ 80 lb) of Bt brinjal three months since the planting, less than half the amount that could be harvested from a local brinjal field of the same size in the same time frame.

Ramzan Ali of Jhikargachha upazila in Jessore said most of the Bt Brinjal plants in his field had died.

Spread of new diseases from Bt brinjal fields?

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