100 civil society organisations around the world oppose Bt
brinjal commercialization for Bangladesh Dr Mae-Wan Ho
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100 civil society organisations representing farmers,
indigenous communities, consumers, women, scientists, and/or promoting sustainable
development and biosafety have written a letter to Bangladesh Prime Minister
Sheikh Hasina to oppose the commercialisation of a genetically modified (GM)
eggplant (complete letter here: http://www.biosafety-info.net/article.php?aid=1028).
Known locally as Bt-Brinjal, the GM eggplant contains a synthetic
insect-killing toxin similar to Cry1Ac from the soil bacterium Bacillus
thuringiensis (hence the acronym Bt) targeted at the fruit and shoot borer.
Bt toxins are already known to have many off-target effects, including toxicity
to beneficial pest predators, animals and human cells (see  Ban GMOs Now, ISIS special
report, also Greenpeace briefing ).
The Bt Brinjal approved for commercial
growing in Bangladesh  originated from Mahyco-Monsanto, but the varieties
approved were developed by scientists in Bangladesh. The company tried to commercialize
Bt Brinjal in India several years ago and failed. The risk-assessment dossier
submitted by the company essentially contained no studies on biosafety,
and that only came to light when the Indian Supreme Court ordered the company
to release the raw data (see  Bt Brinjal Unfit for Human
Consumption, SiS 41).
The letter pointed out that Bangladesh has a
vast native diversity of Brinjal. As Brinjal is largely open-pollinated,
transgene contamination poses a great threat. There is also the issue of
safety. On 29 September 2013, the High Court of Bangladesh ruled that the
government should not release Bt brinjal without assessing the health risks,
and ordered the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, the agriculture
secretary and the health secretary to submit a report within 3 months, after
conducting independent research on health safety in line with standards set
down by the Codex Alimentarius.
An independent analysis carried out by eminent international scientists
and submitted to the Prime Minister, concluded that “Bt Brinjal will have
negligible benefit but would present an enormous hazard to human health. It would
be profound disservice to Bangladesh if Bt Brinjal were allowed to enter her
food supply....There are at least four mechanisms by which the introduction of
the Bt toxin gene into the Brinjal
cause harm. These include (1) the random insertion of the Bt gene into the
plant DNA and the resulting unintended consequences, (2) alterations in crop metabolism
by the Bt protein that results in new, equally unintended and potentially toxic
products, (3) the direct toxicity of the Bt protein, and (4) an immune response
elicited by the Bt protein.” (see  for other hazards.)
society organizations in Bangladesh have asked to see toxicological test
results as well as nutritional composition analysis of Bt Brinjal submitted to
the Biosafety Core Committee, but in vain. Nor has there been any public
consultation on the issue before the decision was taken to commercialize the GM
Brinjal is already notorious in the region. In India, a moratorium was imposed
after a series of public hearings and consultations ( Bt Brinjal Halted, SiS
46). The then environment minister Honorable Jairam Ramesh
said: “It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary principle-based
approach and impose a moratorium on the release of Bt Brinjal, till such time
independent scientific studies establish, to the satisfaction of both the public
and professionals, the safety of the product from the point of view of its
long-term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic
wealth existing in Brinjal in our country.”
as Bt talong in the Philippines, the Court of Appeals on 20 September 2013 upheld
its decision (17 May 2013) to stop field trials in the country based on the
constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology.
than 20 Indian organizations in Kolkata protested against the commercial
release of Bt Brinjal in Bangladesh . Tushar Chakraborty, a molecular
biologist, was one of the 250 scientists from across India who endorsed a
letter addressed to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urging him to stop open
air release of GMOs. Chakraborty said the release in Bangladesh was a “threat
to India” because it would contaminate Indian Brinjal crops.
is vital to keep Bt Brinjal out of the region altogether as it is the centre of
origin and biodiversity for Brinjal, which is an major component of local diets.