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Scientists, MAHYCO fail to convince Bt Brinjal benefits

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, July 4 (UNI) Scientists of the Agricultural Biotechnogy Support Project (ABSP) today acknowledged that pesticides will have to be used in Bt crops despite these genetically modified crops being touted as pest-resistant.

ABSP, a public private partnership supported by the USAID, which developed Bt brinjal said ''Minimum amount of pesticides would have to be used for the target pests, Fruit and Shoot borer, but Bt brinjal would be ineffective in preventing pests other than the target pests''.

For nontarget pests pesticides would be the only option, it added even while claimimg that the genetically modified brinjal could reduce cultivation costs and save on pesticide use.

The ABSP failed to specify the difference between the costs of cultivating a hectare of Bt brinjal and that of normal brinjal.

Scientists associated with ABSP also acknowledged that fruit and shoot borer insects could develop resistance to Bt protein, the factor that prevents these insects from attacking Bt crops.

''Though there is scientific evidence that insects can develop resistance to the Bt protein, there is no instance of resistance on the field,'' said University of Agricultural Sciences Vice Chancellor Dr S A Patil talking to reporters while discussing the benefits of Bt Brinjal which has been developed by ABSP.

Dr Patil said the genetically modified brinjal was relevant for resource constrained small and marginal farmers and the public private partnership, unique of it's kind will ensure that the farming community has access to the technology.

Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (MAHYCO), the private partner in ABSP said that tests on animals revealed that Bt protein destroyed the gut of the target insects, but it was harmless to the gut of the beneficial insects and human beings. However, when asked whether there would not be harmful effects on humans in the longrun, they could not give the results of longterm studies.

MAHYCO is the Indian wing of Monsanto which lost a Monopolistic and Restrictive Trade policy (MRTP) case for Bt cotton this year.

The public sector partners in ABSP are Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (IIVR), Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, The East West Seeds company, Bangladesh, University of Philippines, Los Banos.

The public sector partners will breed, distribute and commercialise varieties of transgenic brinjal on a cost recovery basis.

MAHYCO said it has applied for extensive field trials of the crop after extensive animal safety studies and food and feed safety studies.


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