ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Release of Bt Brinjal in Bangladesh

A Threat to the Region

Despite the indefinite moratorium imposed on the cultivation of Bt-brinjal in India and a ban on its field trials in Philippines, Bangladesh has gone ahead with the commercial release of the genetically modifi ed vegetable. With this move, the region, considered to be the centre of origin and diversity of brinjal, now stands exposed to transgenic contamination of the indigenous varieties of this common vegetable.

This article was earlier posted on the Web Exclusives section of EPW.

The battle to promote genetically modified (GM) crops in south Asia and south-east Asia has gained momentum. The most visible warriors in this battle are agricultural biotech companies, who monopolise seed markets, and various non-governmental organisations (NGOs). But not so visible is the role played by the US state agencies, such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and state-supported or extramurally funded research institutions in countries targeted by the biotech companies.

Curiously, major political parties and their frontal organisations – aligned with either the left or right ideology – have not grasped the machinations of these biotech corporations. Rather political instability or turmoil is providing a window of opportunity to these organisations to push through their agenda. The decision of the outgoing government of Bangladesh to allow limited commercial cultivation of Bt-brinjal, just a few months before the general elections, is a case in point. On 29 September 2013 responding to a public interest litigation, the High Court of Bangladesh directed the government to hold back the release of Bt-brinjal in the absence of an in-depth assessment of the possible health risks.

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