The distribution of controversial Bt brinjal seeds among farmers of the 16 flood-affected districts is unacceptable. The agricultural extension department has, as New Age reported on Sunday, already distributed 225 kilograms of seeds of the genetically modified aubergine among some 15,000 farmers free in flood assistance. In the first place, the variety of aubergine is reported to have risks for humans and environment while it is feared to contaminate non-GM crops in the surrounding land. Moreover, the trial farming of Bt brinjal in Gazipur in 2012 mostly caused the farmers to incur financial losses as most of the 20 farmers, allured to grow the crop with assurances from government officials that it grows aplenty and will bring huge profits, saw the plants either die prematurely or give yield less than what traditional aubergine does. Besides, although Bt brinjal plants are claimed to have inherent resistance to fruit and shoot borers, many of the farmers in Gazipur reportedly had to spray pesticides to save the plants. Overall, the farmers in the 16 districts, who have already suffered a huge loss because of the recent flooding, are likely to face more losses by growing Bt brinjal.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the government willing to any how spread the cultivation of the controversial crop virtually cashed in on the helplessness of the flood-affected poor farmers, which is completely unethical. It is important to note that some of those who took part in the trial farming of Bt brinjal in Gazipur reportedly failed to sell the crop, which is traditionally very popular though, on the local market because of public fear of health risks the vegetable may involve while many farmers sold it without any labels although, according to the national committee on biodiversity, any GM crop should be labelled before being sold. Additionally, with scores of farmers having resorted to suicide in India in recent years after cultivating the GM variety Bt cotton there as they had to arrange the farming cost mostly by taking loans at high interest rate but ultimately had to incur huge losses because of much-lower-than-expected yield of the crop, India put a ban on cultivating GM crops. Also, countries such as the Philippines put a permanent ban on even the field trial of GM aubergine in December 2015. Against the backdrop, perhaps, even though the government introduced the commercial production of the genetically engineered crop at least two years ago, Bt brinjal cultivation is still far from being popular in the country.
Allegations have it that as BT brinjal has originally been developed by US giant Monsanto, which enables the company to have royalties from any countries where the crop is cultivated, the government is virtually serving the interests of Monsanto and its subsidiaries by making efforts to popularise the crop cultivation, that too in defiance of protests by experts. It immediately needs to stop such efforts.
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