The top regulatory authority in Bangladesh, the National Committee on Biosafety (NCB), has given its approval in November, 2013, to the commercial cultivation of the Bt brinjal, making it the country first in South Asia to allow the entry of any edible genetically modified (GM) crop in its market. The four Bt brinjal approved varieties (Bt begun-1, 2, 3 and 4) have been developed by the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), with the help of technology actually transferred by the India based Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) way back in 2005-06, through a US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded and Cornell University-managed ‘Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project'. At the moment, the cultivation has been allowed at a limited scale with some conditions.
Battle rages on in India
The Indian agri-biotech industry, which of late has been disappointed by the continuous hush hush attitude on the field trials of Bt crops, is looking at the development very curiously. The majority of Indian agriculture scientific community too feels that their voice has been often ignored in the din of political voices crying hoarse. Currently the case is being heard in the Supreme Court of India where both the sides are putting up strong arguments, justifying their respective stands. The court had earlier appointed Technical Expertise Committee (TEC) which in its report had asked for ban on the GM crops till the regulatory process achieved clarity. There are contradicting views between the five independent members of the TEC and a separate report by a sixth member, Dr R S Paroda who doesn't see any issues with open trials of GM crops. He chose to later submit an independent report to the court.
According to Dr Virander Chauhan, director, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), " India must realize that after Bangladesh, the other South Asian countries such as Burma, Thailand too can follow the suit, leaving India bereft of any benefit despite the years of research. "Bangladesh took technology from India, developed biosafety guideline with our help and now has taken lead too, while we keep sitting on this important issue."
Mr Ajay Vir Jakhar, chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj who vouches for the successful cultivation of Bt cotton, is of the firm belief that Indian must not wait more on the crucial technologies. Speaking at a event recently, he said, "We Indian are always more concerned about the hue and cry raised by all sections who don't even understand science. The science must be left to those concerned and not confused with the politics."