By Syed Akbar
What is a Bt or genetically modified brinjal? India has thousands of varieties of brinjal. All of them are native to sub-continent. But they are prone to pests, so much so that by the time farmers harvest the crop, half of the produce or even more is lost to insects and worms. What farmers get is hardly half or one-third of the total produce.
To reduce the losses to insects or worms, farmers keep on spraying pesticides, spending huge amounts.
So a local private seed company with international links has genetically modified one of the varieties of brinjal to make it pest-resistant. To achieve this, it has inserted a toxic gene from a soil-thriving bacteria called Bacillus thuringenesis, or Bt for short. This gene makes the brinjal plant poisonous for its common pest. In other words, farmers need not spray pesticides. Studies have shown that the Bt toxin gains in potency about a thousand times when used in GM crops.
Sounds good. But farmers stand to benefit for a short time. The Bt seeds are not cultivable, unlike those of traditional brinjal varieties. Every season, farmers will have to look to the seed company for supplies. In other words, farmers will be at the mercy of the seed firms