Bt Brinjal Fails Two Years Running Risks Spreading Disease
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 Dr Mae-Wan Ho
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  Don’t Grow Bt Brinjal,
SiS 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 ( Bangladeshi
Bt Brinjal Pilot Scheme Failed, SiS 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 . 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
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
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.
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
Spread of new diseases from Bt brinjal
When asked about the Bt brinjal plants
dying in all the districts mentioned, BARI director general Rafiqul Islam
Mondol replied, “We didn’t claim that the Bt brinjal plants will not be
affected by diseases. Our claim was that Bt brinjal is resistant to BFSB.” When
asked about the BFSB infestation in at least one Bt brinjal field in Comilla,
he said, “I don’t have any such information. One or two non-Bt plants can be
mistakenly grouped with the Bt plants in that field.”
It appears that a culture of
denial has taken over the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute. There is
no indication that that they are investigating the new ‘disease’ that has
struck the Bt brinjal fields. There is a distinct danger that the disease could
spread to local brinjal varieties, which would be catastrophic for this centre
of origin and biodiversity. A moratorium on
commercial planting must now be imposed as a matter of utmost urgency.
email@example.com Comment left 20th April 2015 21:09:14
Do you have any peer reviewed science demonstrating that Bt Brinjal "failed"? Or failing that, do you have any systematically collected government data on this issue?
The OP article just references two "science in society" magazine article and some are wanting an additional form of reference.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
dhinds Comment left 20th April 2015 20:08:47 The additional stress posed by imbalanced and evolutionarily incompatible genetic structures cobbled tiogether and imposed on the plant from external sources will inexorably contribute to the creation of a diminshed immunological system, particularly in higher (fruit bearing) plants.
Therefore, this should come as no surprise.
Mae-Wan Ho Comment left 20th April 2015 21:09:02 Donald Scott,
It's people like you who persist in ignoring real witness evidence in the field experienced by farmers that has given corrupt regulators the excuse that they will only count 'peer reviewed' scientific papers. In the case of glyphosate we now know, those are papers cherry-picked by industry to support the lie that glyphosate is perfectly safe. "Safe enough to drink", as Patrick Moore parroted in an interview, and got caught out refusing to drink it when offered. Real witness evidence stands up in law courts, and it is very likely a criminal offence to ignore or suppress such evidence.
dhinds Comment left 21st April 2015 19:07:21 Dear Donald Scott: Although the success or failure of agriculture depends on the existence of scientific principles (such as the one I referred to above), farmers are not scientists yet they know very well whether their crops lived and produced, or died. Furthermore, you are asking for INDEPENDENT studies and may be unaware that Monsanto et. al. REFUSES to supply seed to scientists that solicit it from them for that purpose. Perhaps they have something to hide, and I don't mean Competitive Information but rather, the presence of a pervasive and destructive HOAX foisted on a public that is increasingly less acquiescent to the very real hazards and disadvantages that the GMO fraud has generated for the environment and human health, aided and abetted by the governmental agencies charged with overseeing the public interest. Thanks to altruistic and courageous scientists and citizens like Mae-Wan Ho, the rest of us are better able to defend our legitimate rights in hopes of arriving at a future far better for the world as a whole.