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Bangladesh approves Bt brinjal, four years after India phased it out

Kalyan Ray, New Delhi, Nov 1, 2013, DHNS: 2:32 IST
The end product would have to be labelled as a GM vegetable when it hits the market. DH Illustration
Four years after India shut its door on genetically modified (GM) brinjal, Bangladesh has become the first Asian country to allow its farmers to cultivate Bt brinjal. The Sheikh Hasina government cleared limited commercial release of four varieties of GM eggplant for four different agro-climatic zones.

The farming would have to be conducted under strict supervision of officials in accordance with a number of bio-safety measures. Farmers would first be trained in cultivation of genetically engineered crops and bio-safety measures before the GM eggplant is farmed.

The end product would have to be labelled as a GM vegetable when it hits the market, said the order issued on Wednesday by Bangladesh's environment and forest ministry, a copy of which was made available to Deccan Herald.

Bangladesh's decision comes four years after India put an indefinite moratorium on the commercial release of Bt brinjal, following intense protests from non-governmental organisations and a section of scientists who opposed the entry of a genetically modified food crop into India.

The four varieties of Bangladeshi Bt brinjal were developed by the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) in collaboration with Indian agri-business company Mahyco, which supplied the gene. The GM eggplant will produce on its own a chemical to thwart pest attacks, reducing the use of pesticides.

The government order follows an approval from Bangladesh's National Committee on Biosafety — the apex regulatory body in the field — earlier this week.

The four approved varieties are: Bt brinjal-1 (Uttara) for the Rajshahi region; Bt brinjal-2 (Kajla) for Barisal; Bt brinjal-3 (Nayantara) for the Rangpur and Dhaka regions.

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