Agriculture Minister Matia calls protesters against BT brinjal ‘ignorant’

BangladeshThe minister said at programme in Dhaka on Thursday that she was using such ‘harsh words’ with full ‘responsibility’.“We are having soybean since the 1960s. This is entirely a GMO (genetically modified organism). But the moment we introduced BT brinjal, there was a whirlwind of criticisms. This is either deviousness or ignorance,” she said. “The words are harsh but I’ve said this with responsibility.”

Bangladesh was the first South Asian country to allow the cultivation of genetically modified BT Brinjal in 2013 amid a huge uproar by environmentalists. Protesters argue India and the Philippines have long researched genetically modified varieties of brinjal but have not allowed their cultivation, in view of their likely adverse effects on health and the environment.

Lately, the government has been conducting trial cultivation of other genetically modified crops such as cotton, tomato, potato, and paddy. “There’s no secret. We have elaborately consulted the bio-safety rules to check whether we are doing anything wrong,” Chowdhury said. “Successive generations have had soybean. Why you don’t complain about that, or about canola? All the criticism centres on brinjal!”

She added: “Nowhere have I found a story of people dying after eating this brinjal.” Bangladesh produces 30 varieties of the vegetable. One of the varieties has been genetically modified to make it pest-resistant. “Hybrid had been branded as a ‘health hazard’. Where is the hazard? Rather, life expectancy is increasing,” she said, responding to criticisms against hybrid crops.

The minister also underlined various government initiatives to improve agriculture. Referring to a proposed nuclear power plant in Pabna, she said the government planned to push for industrialization in the northern districts and agricultural expansion in the south.

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