Pvt companies preparing to market Bt brinjal seeds

MH Maswood

A private seed company is preparing to market three genetically modified Bt brinjal seeds ignoring protests that there had been no biosafety tests of the transgenic crop.
Officials of agriculture ministry said that preparations were afoot for the commercial release of at least three more Bt brinjal seed varieties through private seed company Lal Teer Limited.
Lal Teer chairman Abdul Awal Mintoo  confirmed the development but refused to share the names of the three Bt Brinjal seed varieties his company was on the verge of marketing.
In January, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute released four Bt brinjal seed varieties for limited cultivation at Gazipur, Pabna, Jamalpur, Sherpur and Rangpur.
BARI raised and distributed Bt Brinjal saplings among 20 farmers who said they have been ruined.
BARI gave the saplings raised with Bt Brinjal-1, Bt Brinjal- 2, Bt Brinjal-3 and Bt brinjal-4, renaming Bt brinjal uttara, Bt brinjal kajla), Bt brinjal Nayantara and Bt brinjal Ishurdi/ISD006 it received from the Indian seed company Mahyco,
Monsanto and its Indian subsidiary Mahyco, the owners of the Bt brinjal technology reserves its intellectual property rights,   according to an agreement signed between BARI, Mahyco and Sathguru Management Consultants Private Ltd also from India.
BARI director general Rafiqul Islam Mondal, however, said Mahyco has donated to BARI four open pollinated Bt brinjal seed varieties free of royalty.
‘We received Bt brinjal technology from Mahyco. We are authorized and capable of using the Bt brinjal technology in Bangladesh’, Lal Teer chairman Abdul Awal Mintoo told New Age on Thursday.
BARI director general said that at least seven local seeds firms sought permission from BARI and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council to commercially produce and release Bt brinjal seeds in the country.
New Age accessed the applications of Supreme Seed Company Ltd and GETCO Agro Vision Ltd seeking the permission to produce and market the controversial Bt brinjal seeds.
Supreme Seed Company chairman Mohammad Masum told New Age on Saturday: ‘We expect to get the permission to produce and market BARI’s open pollinated Bt brinjal seeds.’
Mintoo said that the East West Seed Ltd, he owns which was renamed as Lal Teer Ltd, sent three hybrid brinjal varieties developed by it to Mahyco during its research stage and got the Bt brinjal technology.
He said that Lal Teer’s hybrid Bt brinjal varieties will provide higher yields than  BARI’s open pollinated varieties.
Agriculture ministry’s seed wing director general Anwar Faruqe told New Age on Monday that Lal Teer’s hybrid Bt brinjals were in the process of commercial release.
‘Lal Teer completed the research on hybrid BT brinjals,’ he said.
The commercial release of Lal Teer’s Bt brinjal seeds are under the process of approval, he said.
Bangladesh was the first country to introduce the controversial Bt brinjal for farming though there is a moratorium in India on its commercial cultivation.
Nepal and the Philippines banned commercial release or cultivation of the controversial Bt brinjal seeds.
Bangladesh government introduced Bt brinjal cultivation under the USAID funded Agriculture Biotechnology Support Project-2.
India, the Philippines and Nepal banned its cultivation as the crop could put the consumers and the environment into risks.
Rights and environmental campaigners  have long been accusing the USAID’s ABSP-2 project of working in the ‘interest’ of agro biotech businesses, overlooking the risks to life and the environment.
They also accused the USAID project of  taking a ‘multi-pronged approach’ by encouraging Mahyco to provide open pollinated Bt brinjal seed varieties to BARI free of royalty and the hybrid varieties to Lal Teer against payment of royalties to pursue its ‘ultimate goal’ of commercial farming of genetically modified crops in developing countries like Bangladesh.
Ecology and biodiversity conservation researcher Pavel Partha told New Age that Bt brinjal cultivation would rob the farmers of their right to produce their own seeds.
Mintoo admitted that Monsanto and Mahyco owned the Bt brinjal technology.
New Age accessed a copy of the tripartite agreement, Section 1.19 of which prohibits unauthorized distribution of Bt gene as it would infringe the intellectual property rights of Monsanto or Mahyco.
Sub-section (c) of section 9.2 of the deal states that it could be terminated by the sublicensor or Mahyco if the laws and regulations in Bangladesh provide no assurance  of protection of its commercial and intellectual property rights.
Asked about the profit-sharing mechanism for the tentative commercial release of Bt brinjal, Mintoo said it was  yet to be worked out with the company that owns the Bt technology.

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