GMO eggplant fails to resist pests in Bangladesh

Thursday, April 24, 2014 by: L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
Tags: GMOs, eggplant, pest resistance

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(NaturalNews) In January of this year, 20 Bangladesh farmers were given a new type of eggplant seed to try out. The new GMO eggplant seeds were engineered by Monsanto and developed by Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company Ltd. (Mahyco) in an agreement with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute. The corporate takeover of Bangladesh brinjal (eggplant) seeds included nine local varieties, all of which were spliced with the Bt gene.

The seeds were marketed as a way to increase production yields and were approved by the Bangladesh government.

But many farmers from the villages are already reporting that the seeds are an absolute failure, wiping out between 25 and 50 percent of crop yields. Agricultural authorities are desperate, advising the farmers to increase their use of pesticides in order to keep the newer, more pervasive pests off the eggplants.

Genetic Bt manipulations make eggplants insecticidal but only target one kind of pest

The gene cry1Ac, derived from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), was inserted into the eggplant seed's DNA through an agrobacterium-mediated gene transfer. Also inserted into the eggplant varieties was the nptII gene, which acts as an antibiotic-resistance marker. These genetic manipulations, consisting of soil bacteria, make the eggplants insecticidal. As the larvae feed on the shoot and fruit of the GMO eggplant, they ingest the Bt toxin. This Bt protein is then activated by gut proteases in the larvae, ultimately destroying their digestive process and paralyzing their system.

By turning the eggplant into an insect poison, biotechnology experts tout that farmers won't need to spray as many topical pesticides, but this has become a fallacy, as farmers from the Rangpur, Pabna, Jamalpur, Gazipur and Sherpur districts in Bangladesh report that they need extra pesticides now to combat the more pervasive pests.

Village farmers being told to increase pesticide use as new GMO eggplant fails

One farmer, Haidul Islam, reports, "Agriculture officials told me that I am one of the 20 fortunate farmers who got Bt seeds. It will reduce cost for pesticide."

"But the reality is pests have attacked my plants severely," he said, after finding out that 25-30 percent of the eggplants in his fields were dead. As the remainder of his crop struggles to survive, he reports that he is now using way more pesticides than he did in previous years.

Haidul is not the only one seeing the failure of the new GMO crop firsthand. Mojibur Rahman, another farmer from the village, said, "Primarily, the plants grew well, then the leaves were attacked first and later the plants were attacked severely by pests." Agriculture officials have pushed Mojibur to douse his fields in the fungicide "Bebistine" and pesticide "Vertimec" as a last ditch effort to save his crops.

At the Khotkhotia village, farmer Shankar Chandra Roy reported by phone that about half of his Bt brinjal plants were dead, with the remaining crop struggling to survive attacks by "jab" pests, as he put it. He was also pressured to use tremendous amounts of pesticides to save his crop.

Crop specialist Dr. MA Sobhan, visited the villages of Bhoroimari and Boktarpur to see the extent of the damage. He said, "We visited two fields where plants have been attacked by red and white fly, jab and other pests. It is natural. Bt Brinjal is resistant only to shoot borer, but nearly 37 kinds of pests attack brinjal. The genetic engineering might have made the brinjal variety [weaker] to other pest attacks."

Natural eggplant is useful in Ayurvedic medicine but becomes like poison when genetically modified

These new Monsanto-derived seeds have been banned in India and the Philippines. Many locals, unaware of the new seed's lab origins, are now learning about its failures and potential health hazards through local newspapers. Many locals are now decrying the new GMO eggplant seeds and calling out for the natural plant they once grew and consumed.

Eggplant is a traditional and essential crop to the Bangladesh people. This vegetable is low in calories and fats and is a great source of vitamins and minerals. Consisting mainly of water, this plant is also rich in soluble sugars and amide proteins, making it a staple food. As an important food in Ayurvedic medicine, it is also used as a treatment for diabetes and liver problems.

As the eggplant's DNA is spliced with bacteria genes, how might its medicinal properties be changed?

How might the eggplant become more like a poison as its new insecticidal properties change the microbes in the human gut?

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