Environmental activists raise concern over Golden Rice | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 26, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:52 AM, February 26, 2019

Environmental activists raise concern over Golden Rice

Environmental activists yesterday called upon the government to not release genetically modified Golden Rice in the country.

The release of genetically modified (GM) crop BT Brinjal did not yield expected result, and farmers were not benefitted, they said at a press conference.

Development organisation Ubinig along with Naya Krishi Andolon and Narigrantha Prabartana arranged the press conference on “Transgenic Seed: Bangladesh's Danger” at the capital's Jatiya Press Club.

The speakers also demanded that concerned government authority release a report on whether environment ministry's clauses for approving BT Brinjal have been maintained properly.

Reading out a written statement, Ubinig Executive Director Farida Akhter said some claims were made during the release of BT Brinjal, including it would be insect-proof. But those claims were proven wrong.

BT Brinjal got environment ministry's approval for farmer-level cultivation in October 2013 and distribution of its saplings among farmers started in January 2014, she said.

On the other hand, Ubinig conducted a field-level survey from December 2018 to January 2019 among 48 BT Brinjal farmers who cultivated the crop in 2014-15 in 19 districts.

Only 13 of the farmers continued its cultivation in 2015-16. Five of them continued it in 2016-17, and three in 2017.

Farmers alleged that the crop did not yield as much as expected, while some crops also rotted in the field during cultivation, Farida said, referring to the survey report.

Besides, no assessment was made in the areas on whether GM crop cultivation caused any harm to local environment and soil, she added.

Approval for field-level cultivation of Golden Rice has been sought in such situation, she said.

Referring to findings of two organisations from Philippines - Health Alliance for Democracy and UP Manila College of Medicine, Farida said “It is yet to be proven that Golden Rice is safe outside the laboratory.”

If Golden Rice gets approval for field-level cultivation, it may pose a threat to local rice varieties and their cultivation, she further said.

Prof Anu Muhammad, member secretary to the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, said, for releasing Golden Rice the government has argued that it would help reduce vitamin A deficiency among the poor.

The government should check if the country's agriculture would be negatively affected by its cultivation, he said.

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