The government has finally approved the release of genetically modified (GM) Bt brinjal in the country amid criticism from conservationists.
The agriculture ministry on Wenesday issued a circular to release four varieties named Bt Uttara, Bt Kajla, Bt Nayantara and Bt Isd 006 with a provision to cultivate the vegetable on a limited scale.
Bt Uttara will be released in Rajshahi region, Bt Kajla in Barisal, Bt Nayantara in Rangpur and Dhaka regions, and Bt Isd 006 in Pabna and Chittagong regions as per a production manual prepared following bio-safety guidelines, said Rafiqul Islam Mondol, director general of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI).
The new varieties were developed by the BARI from local varieties by inserting Bt genes into them. The gene, named Crystal Protein Gene (Cry1Ac), is taken from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis popularly known as Bt, and is patented by Monsanto.
BARI claims to have developed the Bt brinjal varieties after a seven-year experiment which began in 2006 with the technical support of Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) of India, in which the American seed giant Monsanto had 26% stake.
Mahyco’s brinjal varieties, developed with the financial support of the USAid, were banned in India in 2010 after their harmful effects were exposed.
Environmental activists raised serious concerns about the biological and health hazards posed by the new breed of brinjal.