Bangladesh trials GM crops

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Bangladesh trials GM crops

Genetically modified eggplant and potato crops are being trialled in Bangladesh, despite protests from some quarters

Bangladesh trials GM crops

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Agricultural scientists in Bangladesh are undertaking research to develop genetically modified (GM) varieties of eggplants and potatoes, the country's Daily Star reported.

Scientists say the move to introduce GM crops will save farmers the cost of insecticides and fungicides, boost production and enable consumers to enjoy vegetables free of pesticides.

The transgenic eggplant varieties, known as 'Bt' eggplants, are on trial in seven confined fields in agricultural research stations. The GM potatoes, known as 'Rb' potatoes are also on trial in two confined fields.

Bt eggplant crops enjoyed positive field trials, and it is expected the first GM eggplant seeds could be given to farmers within the next three years, subject to Bangladesh government approval.

"We got good results in the confined field trials last year and found 85-95 per cent of eggplants were infestation-free," said Dr Md Al-Amin, head of biotechnology at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI).

If the variety can be proved safe for human consumption and harmless to the environment, it will be the first GM crop in Bangladesh.

Environmental activists oppose the move, however, arguing that genetically modified crops would not be safe for human consumption or the environment.

"When an insect cannot eat crops, how will it be safe for human consumption?" said Farida Akhter of Nayakrishi Andolon, a group of farmers who use ecologically sound methods.

"Above all, farmers will lose their right to preserve seeds," she said.

Dr Al-Amin disagreed with Ms Akhter regarding the effects the modified produce would have on the human body.

"By the method we have used, there is no possibility of toxicity in humans," said Dr Al-Amin.

"It requires a receptor to create a toxic effect on humans, but the human body does not have that receptor. Our findings show that it does not create any health hazard."

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