The government is reportedly trying to introduce two genetically modified (GM) crop varieties of rice and potato in the country, following the release of four other brinjal varieties which received final approval last month.
Among the varieties, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) has planned to introduce a Vitamin A-enriched rice variety named “golden rice” which recently received approval for confined field trial from the National Bio-safety Committee.
“We received approval from the environment ministry to run the confined trial to develop the rice variety,” said Dr Mohammad Amir Hossain, senior scientific officer of the Plant Breeding Section of BRRI. Efforts will be made to get the final approval to release the variety, after cultivation is carried out for one more season, he added.
The golden rice is widely acclaimed for its reported potential to fight Vitamin A deficiency in expecting mothers and children.
On the other hand, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) has been developing GM potato varieties by inserting pest and weather resistant gene in two local potato varieties – Cardinal and Diamond.
“We could take two more years to finalise the variety development of the potato as it is yet to mature,” said Dr Rafiqul Islam Mondol, director general of the BARI. He also informed that confined trial for the potato varieties had been allowed. The golden rice and potato varieties will become the latest GM crops in the country following bt brinjal, which was approved by the government of October 30.
The genetically modified crop varieties like golden rice, bt brinjal and potatoes are “transgenic” crops, and need special approval from the bio-safety authorities for conducting field trials.
“The National Bio-safety Committee will consider the approval of releasing the agro-varieties after getting proper application from the developers,” said Muhamamd Solaiman Haider, member secretary of the committee.
The objective for developing GM crop varieties was to improve crop protection mechanism through introducing resistance against plant diseases caused by insects or viruses or through increased tolerance towards herbicides.
The government released four varieties of GM brinjals named bt Uttara, bt Kajla, bt Noyontara and bt Isd 006 with condition of cultivating the crops on a limited scale. Among the varieties, Uttara would be released in Rajshahi region, Kajla in Barisal, Nayantara in Rangpur and Dhaka regions, and Iswardi Local or Isd in Pabna and Chittagong regions on limited scales as per a production manual following bio-safety guidelines.
The BARI has developed bt Uttara, bt Kajla, bt Noyontara and bt Isd 006 from local varieties by inserting bt gene into them.
Meanwhile, BARI DG Rafiqul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune that after getting approval of four brinjal varieties, approvals will also be soon sought for releasing five other brinjal varieties developed with the bt gene. The five more bt brinjal varieties are Pega, Dohazari, Singnath, Islampuri and Khotkhotia.
“The GM crops are not only high-productive and disease-resistant but also save thousands of acres of land, which ultimately helps in conserving biodiversity,” said Rafiqul.