This is a report on “GMOs - A THREAT TO FOOD SOVEREIGNTY” which is a part of regional case studies conducted in Asia, Africa and Latin America. UBINIG was part of it for Bangladesh Case Study. It Studied the process of introduction of GM Rice, Maize, Bt Cotton in Bangladesh and the responses from farmers during June 2006 – January 2007. The case studies were supported by EED Joint Advocacy project, Germany.
Farmers’ varieties have been the foundation of agriculture for centuries. Conventional plant breeding has had considerable success during nineteenth and twentieth century in improving the yield and quality traits of a wide range of plant species to the development of High yielding varieties (HYV).
Hybrid breeding technology has been introduced in case of cross-pollinated plants like maize, sorghum, sunflower, and others. Lately techniques have been developed for production of hybrid of self-pollinated crop like rice.
Genetic Engineering in Agriculture
Agriculture is a cultural tradition of thousands of years. Our life, livelihood, economy, culture, sorrows-happiness and everything else have been set with agriculture. So long there have been no reasons for looking back for loss or gain. But with the combination of mechanical and technological arts with agriculture, the justification for loss-gain has started. Agriculture as enriched by the experience of the farmers for thousands of years falls prey to the invasion of mechanical technologies in the recent past. It was followed by hybrids and the latest addition in the series has been the Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetically Modified Organism (GMO).
In spite of the known and potential dangers of GMO, the multinational companies, their local agents in collaboration with the local vested authority, have been actively planning for introduction and extension of GMO rice and other products into Bangladesh for their evil business gains.
Information about GM Rice in Bangladesh
1. Rice in the Economy of Bangladesh
Rice, the staple food crop of Bangladesh, covers more than 10 million hectors of cropped area i.e. about 80 percent of the arable land and accounting for 94 percent food grain production. More than 90 percent of the people consume rice derive 70 percent of daily calories and 54 percent of protein requirement. Rice alone contributes about 18 percent to the national GDP and generate 71 percent gross value of all crops and 55 percent employment of the labor forces of the country in rice production, processing and marketing. About 11 million farm families are engaged in rice production (Nasiruddin, 1999)
2. From Green Revolution to GM Pollution.
Green Revolution, breakthrough in rice yield produced by significantly increasing the use of under ground water, chemical fertilizer insecticides and pesticide had a humble beginning in Bangladesh in 1966. Productivity of rice and wheat increased in order to keep pace with the population growth.
But in the process, the dependency on agrochemical increased manifold. The chemicals continue to destroy environmental balance. Even at the current rate of use they are poisoning the fishes in the open water bodies. Moreover, people are focusing in growing only one crop, HYV rice, and this mono-culture approach further reduces the nutrient balance in the soil. Fertilizers and pesticides are being marketed indiscriminately by multinational companies. The farmers are made dependent on these companies for plant production and higher yield of crops. Thus in many cases, over use or improper combinations of various chemicals are bearing a disastrous trail. The above is depleting micro flora and fauna from the soil and is causing an inability to sustain high yield levels over longer time periods (Khan, 2003).
3. Genetically modified crops: Points to ponder
In late 2003, The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in collaboration with Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) arranged Petra fair in Dhaka and gave details about the genetically engineered golden rice carrying vitamin-A related genes of daffodil flower. It was also said that such genes have been introduced with BR-29 the widely cultivated rice variety of Bangladesh. In addition to good yielding ability of BR-29 this GMO variety is claimed to produce vitamin-A in its seeds, which can provide vitamin-A to poor people, who do not take sufficient vegetables. However, several questions are their surrounding introduction of golden rice. These include:
a. Is there any controlled system to evaluate GM rice in the country?
b. Is there any full-fledged laboratory to evaluate such GM variety?
If not then how can we introduce GM rice (Bhadra, 2005)?
4. GMO and biotechnological pollution
It is urgently felt that before introduction of GM variety of rice for cultivation, the authorities concerned kindly think over the matter again and again and take effective steps considering the fate of poor farmers of Bangladesh (Ali, 2005).
5. General Opinions about vitamin A rich Golden Rice
Debates on Golden Rice have been going on at different levels in Bangladesh although it has not yet been introduced. Ms Marylene Santos, a representative of GRAIN, the Philippines visited Bangladesh during 25-30 July 2000 in this connection. She had interactive discussion with environment activists, government representatives, nutritionist and farmers in Bangladesh and India about their perception on Golden Rice. She also visited UBINIG, Bangladesh and held discussion with concerned researchers.
It was revealed that the issue of public health, bio-diversity and environment should be considered with due priority before the introduction of Golden Rice into Bangladesh (Chinta, 2000).
6. Government Responses to develop regulations against GMOs
Bangladesh ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on 20 March 1994 in order to ensure conservation and sustainable use of the country’s rich biological diversity. Although Bangladesh is willing to benefit from the latest scientific revolution in modern biotechnology, the country is fully aware of the possible adverse impacts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the environment, bio-diversity and human health. Accordingly, Bangladesh ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety on 24 May 2000.
The National Bio-safety Framework (NBF) has been developed following an extensive assessment of biotechnology and bio-safety in Bangladesh. Survey was conducted on the current use of modern biotechnology, existing relevant policies, laws and regulations, building activities and expertise within the country. The Framework provides the basis for future regulation for the management of GMOs in Bangladesh. The objective of the NBF is two folds. It gives an overview of the existing systems and identities future needs for an effective and transparent legislation and administrative system.
The National Bio-safety Framework addresses the following six areas:
a. Introductory issues, such as background, definitions, and its relationship with the Cartagena Protocol and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
b. Review the existing policies relevant to bio-safety and proposes a new national policy on bio-safety in order to address the issues and concerns arising from the Cartagena Protocol.
c. Examine the existing laws and regulations on bio-safety to see how far these are adequate to meet the needs of Bangladesh. It also argues for the adoption of new Rules on bio-safety.
d. Propose the administrative system for handling applications or request for authorization.
e. Highlight the existing system of monitoring and enforcement and suggest new measures to comply with the Cartagena Protocol.
f. Investigate the effectiveness of the existing mechanisms for and suggest measure to be taken in order to strengthen the existing mechanisms on the public awareness, education and public participation.
7. Involvement of International Organizations in promoting GM crops
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) is products of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering involves some techniques for isolating, modifying, multiplying and recombining genes of desired organisms. It helps gene transfer between two unrelated organisms. Such organisms have no chance to interbreed in nature. For example, a fish gene can be transferred into tomato, and human gene can be transferred to ship.
Genetic engineering is affected by using the artificially constructed vectors to multiply copies of gene and in many cases to carry and smuggle genes into cells. Once inside cells, these vectors slot themselves into the host genome. Transgenic organisms are thus made carrying the desired transgenic. The inserted foreign gene in the host genome has many harmful and fatal affects including cancer. The most common vectors used in genetic engineering are parasites from different sources including virus causing cancer and other diseases in animals and plants. The vectors used in genetic engineering have the ability to overcome species barrier and infect a wide range of species. New viruses and bacterial pathogens are created in course of creation of GMO. The large-scale release of transgenic organisms is much more dangerous than nuclear weapon or radioactive nuclear wastes because genes can replicate indefinitely recombine and spread.
In spite of all the known and potential dangers of GMO, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has been actively trying for introduction of Golden Rice for large-scale cultivation in Bangladesh. This undesired introduction of GMO should be resisted for the sake of agricultural bio-diversity and food sovereignty of the human population in this country (Farhad Mazhar, 2004).
8. Involvement of Syngenta in promoting Golden Rice
U.K. Scientists have developed a new genetically modified strain of ‘golden rice’ producing more beta-carotene. The new variety, developed at the U.K. laboratories of the Biotechnology Company ‘Syngenta’ produces much more beta-carotene. Syngenta is making the rice available for free to research centers across Asia (BBC, 2006).
9. Farmer's protest against GMO
Ramjan Ali a farmer of Nayakrishi Andolon (New Agricultural Movement) has been involved with the food production for 23 years. He does not use any chemical fertilizer, pesticide, hybrid seed and ground water and use local varieties of seed to produce healthy crops. He was one of the leaders who mobilized mere than 6000 farmers in his dry area to produce healthy crops without the use of any chemical fertilizer, pesticide, hybrid seeds and ground water.
Ramjan Ali was involved with so called modern agriculture before joining Nayakrishi Andolon. Now he is actively engaged in resisting this ‘modern’ agriculture, GMOs and hybrid seeds varieties. At Honking on the occasion of the World Trade Organization (WTO) 6th Ministerial during 13-18 December, 2005, Ramjan Ali invited everyone to uphold the beauty of bio-diversity based agricultural practice which would ensure peoples food sovereignty (Action Aid Bangladesh, 2005).
10. Newspaper debates
Golden Rice exhibits all the undesirable hazardous characteristics of GM plants, and in an added measure on account of the increased complexity of the constructs and the sources of the genetic material used. Because it is made with a combination of gene and genetic material from viruses and bacteria, associated with diseases in plants and from other non-food species. The gene constructs are new and have never existed in billions of years of evolution. Unpredictable by products has been generated due to random gene insertion and functional interactions with host genes that will different from are plants to another. Over expression of transgenic linked to viral promoters, such as that from CaMV exacerbates unintended metabolic effects as well as instability.
Golden Rice is a threat to health and bio-diversity. It is being promoted in order to salvage a morally as well as financially bankrupt agricultural biotech industry, and is obstructing the essential shift to sustainable agriculture, that can be truly improve health and nutrition, especially of the poor in the third world. The Golden Rice possesses all the usual defects of first generation transgenic plant plus multiple copies of the CaMV promoter. A growing number of scientists from 39 countries (318 scientists from 39 countries) are calling for a global moratorium on the environmental releases of GMO until and unless they can be shown to be safe (Zuberi, 2004).
11. Authority of rice (Oryza sativa)
Rice is staple food for more than half the world's populations, rice is part of the Asian culture, rice is the unstated religion of Asia, and in essence rice is the life of Asia. It is in Asia still that more then 97% the world’s rice grown. Nearly 91% of the world rice is produced in Asia, and 92% is eaten in Asia.
The biological name of rice is Oryza sativa. So long it has been freely available to farmers, consumers and scientists, but recently a leading agribusiness giant, Syngenta, has already claimed ownership of rice. In other word, biological inheritance of the world’s major food crop is now in the hands of a Swiss multinational.
There are 12 chromosomes in rice genome. These chromosomes contain 430 million base pairs of DNA and are expected to have about 50,000 genes. Syngenta, in collaboration with Myriad Genetics Inc of USA has sequenced more than 99.5 % of the rice genome. Syngenta has already made it clear that it will restrict access to the genomic map and expects proprietary control over any research carried out with the information.
Syngenta subsequently gained exclusive rights on the controversial Golden Rice technology as well (Sharma, 2004).
12. National Biotechnology Policy and responses
Biotechnology, by definition is the use of living cells and bacteria in industrial and scientific processes, which has worked wonders in today’s world. Bangladesh adopted the National Policy Guidelines on Biotechnology in an initiative to accelerate multi-dimensional biotechnological research for augmenting human welfare in all respects –security of food, health and a sound environment in particular.
The broad objectives of the Policy are aimed at increasing production and preservation capacities of various crops, fishes, and medicinal items as well as restoring various extinct useful species and ensuring safety of public health and the environment. Some other steps for development of biotechnology were suggested:
I. To provide assistance to those institutions and scientists involved in biotechnology research work;
II. To build up National institute of Biotechnology (NB) as a center of excellence;
III. Provide assistance to the institutions engaged in research on biotechnology affaires formulated by the Fisheries and Livestock ministries;
IV. Take proper steps for implementing a short-mid-long-term programs set in Medical Biotechnology national guideline and
V. Quickly formulate and implement the programs for environment Ministry according to the bio-safety guidelines (News Today, 2006).
13. National Biotechnology Policy
The National Biotechnology Policy 2006 is a prelude to creating a policy environment favorable to the promotion of the commercial transgenic crops, is in fact a part and parcel of American foreign policy. This policy is not merely economic in nature to benefit US biotech companies but alarmingly related to our security and survival.
At least 70% of the 140 million people belong to farming communities in Bangladesh who are presently producing food for the country and their success has largely come from their own ingenuity. They have been affected by the introduction of the agricultural technologies such as mechanized and chemical-based HYV technology and later on by the introduction of hybrid seeds. There are tons of critical literatures that argue that we need to distinguish the positive from the negative in green revolution technologies and that technological solution to food production has always been a bad proposition given the ecological and environmental destruction it has caused. So the shift should be towards socially, ecologically and environmentally responsible science and technology. Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering do not fit into this ideal.
National Biotechnology Policy would certainly benefit this parasitic commercial class who are eager to import transgenic crops and biotech product from the USA and other industrial countries. A section of corporate appointed scientists, who are eager to turn our public education and research institutions to the service of corporate interests, will also be benefited, but the farmers will be severely affected as has been witnessed in countries like Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, etc. In the neighboring country India, the blind introduction of genetically engineered Bt cotton has resulted in the suicide of over 100,000 farmers because of crop failures and high indebtedness, a widely known fact.
The National Biotechnology Policy of Bangladesh has essentially been coined to please the USA. The danger lies in the fact that creating a policy environmental favorable to the promotion of the commercial transgenic crops, is part and parcel of American foreign policy. This policy is not merely economic in nature to benefit US biotech companies but alarmingly related to our security and survival.
It is a systematic strategy of polluting the biodiversity-rich countries like Bangladesh so that they become permanently dependent on the USA, particularly the US biotech companies. Such an uncritical biotech policy will permanently transform Bangladesh agriculture into industrial food production bringing the sector under the logic of global control of food chains and cripple the possibility of the agricultural sector to enter in the global market with ecological and organic product. While there is an increasing demand for safe food produced in ecologically friendly methods in Europe and North America, Adoption of this policy will destroy Bangladesh agriculture. This will seriously compromise our ability to attain food sovereignty. This is a policy tuned to allow import of transgenic agricultural crops and products.
So, policy and regulatory instruments for biotechnology is in fact to allow import of transgenic agricultural crops and products into Bangladesh. It is clearly in the interest of the developed countries and their companies, who are finding it more and more difficult to sell genetically, engineered products in their own countries, to have a market in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is rich in bio-diversity and belong to the diversity of many plants and crops of the world. An enabling policy and regulatory environment to protect the biological wealth of Bangladesh is essentially urged and encourage scientific and technological innovation that could invigorate farming communities and bio-diverse agriculture. Profound richness of our diversity can nurture a nutritionally healthy nation and create a thriving robust agrarian sector. Instead, a policy has been made to link with the USA and biotech companies to destroy our farming systems and exposed our biological resources to the threat of Bio-piracy by the multinational companies. (Farhad Mazhar, 2006).
14. Syngenta launched GR as a publicity stunt
Syngenta motives are introduced with the help of the professional, authors and journalists in the newspapers. It does not advertise very much as other MNCs do. Bangladesh is a market for 140 millions of consumers. With a view to holding this marketing segment in its own fold, Syngenta had taken up rice. Since rice is the main staple food of the populations has genetically been modified as a proprietary key for intervention.
One of the most popular Bangla Dailies the Prothom Alo patronized the publication of three attractive articles on ‘Golden Rice’ in favor of Syngenta. (Rehana, 2006; Hossain, and Hossain, 2006; Hossain, and Hossain 2006).
Why farmers resist ‘Golden Rice’
High yield goal based modern agriculture commonly known as ‘Green Revolution’ has been practiced in Bangladesh since mid sixties of twentieth century. It was introduced as a package of production practices including high yielding varieties (HYVs) of rice and wheat, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation. Initially there was some increment of yield but very soon a declining trend set on.
There was no response of the major nutrient elements like N, P and K in the soil before the introduction of so called ‘Green Revolution’. After the extension of HYVs and hybrids, the deficiency of N, P, K, S and Zn became limiting for crop production in most of the agro ecological zones. The availability of organic matter and micro-nutrients became critically limiting. The physical structure and chemical composition of soil became vulnerable for crop production.
Today groundwater level has gone down beyond the reach of tube wells. Concentration of arsenic is already a problem for 75 million peoples in 61 districts out of 64 districts. Arsenic toxicity has not only taken place in drinking water but also in other items including vegetables and cereals. Rice has heavily been charged with arsenic, containing 29.1 mg/kg of root, 4.29 mg/kg of stem and 0.29 mg/kg of grain (The Prothom Alo, 2004). It is worth mentioning in this connection that as per the norms of the WHO the tolerance limit of arsenic in drinking water is 0.01 PPM.
Due to heavy dose of application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the soil micro flora and fauna including nitrogen-fixing bacteria, blue green algae and others have been destroyed. The aquatic bio-types including inland water fishes have drastically been reduced.
Scarcity of milk, edible oil and pulses has been intensified followed by the introduction of short stem HYV rice and wheat. Non-availability of cattle feed led to reduced population of cows and buffaloes. The scarcity of draught power resulted to dependence of farmers on power tillers and tractors. Dependence on fossil fuel and electricity has increased manifold. Ultimately people are exposed to constant corporate exploitation for electricity, water, gas, fertilizer, pesticides and seeds. On several occasions these extortion crossed the tolerance limit of the people. The recent incidences at Kansat for electricity and Shonir Akhra for water are some of the burning examples of public protests. Many innocent people were gunned down to stop the public anger.
Introduction of HYVs and hybrids of different crops at the cost of bio-diverse traditional culture has rightly been perceived by the people. The farmers have absorbed the loss incurred due to high price of inputs and lower value of the produce made by the modern practice of agriculture. They have also sadly witnessed the degradation of many fellow farmers who became land less paupers as caused by HYVs and hybrids. So they are now skeptic about the unfledged GM and thus reject ‘‘Golden Rice’’.
Information about GM Maize in Bangladesh
Maize is cultivated in most of the districts of Bangladesh today. There is no record of so much of maize cultivation in the past. The farmers used to grow open pollinated high yielding varieties (HYVs) of maize released from Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI). However, the cultivation of hybrid maize has increased recently. Hybrids of maize were introduced during nineties of twentieth century. Extensions of maize hybrids were specially intensified among the farmers by the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) after the heavy flood in 1998. However, There is no record of introduction and extension of GM maize into Bangladesh so far.
How the intensity of maize production increased:
BRAC and Grameen Krishi Foundation (a subsidiary of Grammen Bank), two micro-credit giving NGOs, played the pioneering role for introduction and extension of cultivation of hybrid maize in Bangladesh. They tied hybrid maize seeds with micro-credit and compelled the farmers to grow maize hybrids. Moreover, DAE also distributed hybrid maize seeds free of cost after the flood in 1998. The scarcity of seed was created at farmer’s level through introduction of commercial seeds. At present, there is an increasing trend of extension of poultry industry in Bangladesh. So there is an expanding market for maize grain as feed. Based on this demand, some NGOs dealing in micro-credits and some seed companies are availing the opportunity for extension of hybrid maize seeds for commercial gains. The DAE is also organizing demonstration plots, field days and other motivational programs for extension of hybrid maize.
Statements of Government officials about GM maize:
Krishibid Mr. Mohammad Mohsin Mia Assistant Director Integrated Maize Production Improvement Programme, DAE and Krishibid Mr. Mohammad Manjumal Huque, Officer, Agricultural Information service were consulted for information about GM maize. They mentioned that maize was grown in one lakh twenty thousand hectares in 2006. These included HYVs and hybrids maize. There is no known record of GM maize introduction in Bangladesh. At present there are 24 hybrid varieties of maize under production in Bangladesh.
Opinion of farmers about cultivation of hybrid maize:
1. Matiar Rahman, a farmer, village: Shankarchanda; union: Dingedoh, Jhenaidoh mentioned, ‘‘I have collected seed from the dealer; I was encouraged by other farmers for cultivation of hybrid maize. I grow maize in the rabi season. Huge quantities of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are needed for maize production. I can not maintain maize seed in my own hand. I have to buy seeds from the dealer every time for sowing. So I have decided to stop the production of hybrid maize from the next season. GM maize has not yet been introduced in this area”.
2. Mahammad Rahmat ullah, a farmer; village Chandipur; Union: Ganna; district; Jhenaidoh mentioned, ‘‘I was encouraged by other farmers for maize production. I grow maize in 8 decimals of my own land and some land leased in from others. The cost of production of maize is quite high. I have to think before I go for growing maize next year.” He further mentioned that there was no entry of GM maize in the area.
3. Pravat Chakarabarty, village: Uttarfast sagor; Union: Kalicharanpur; district: Jhenaidoh mentioned ‘‘ I have grown maize this year for the first time. I have used hybrid maize seed introduced from India by smugglers. The brand name of the variety was Supper-42. The cost of production of hybrid maize is very high. The soil is depleted by maize cultivation. It needs high dose of chemical fertilizer and pesticides. Previously I used to grow only rice and vegetables. Because of scarcity of seed, I have started growing maize. I have incurred loss by growing maize. I have never come across the name of GM maize.”
4. Shahidul Islam, village: Shahpur; district: chuadanga, mentioned, ‘‘Maize is the second crop, next only to rice. I was encouraged by other farmers to grow maize. Heavy dose of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are needed for maize cultivation. The net return is bare minimum. We do not eat maize. The produce is marketed. Maize is grown in vast area here. But I have never heard about any thing like GM maize. I grow maize but I have never calculated the cost and return so much.”
Commercial names of the hybrid maize:
During the initial stage introduction of hybrid maize in Bangladesh, the farmers were offered seed, fertilizer, and pesticides free of cost. But for about last few years those incentives have been withdrawn. This was learnt from Mr. Mohsin Mia, Assistant Director, Integrated Maize Production Improvement Project, DAE, GOB. He further mentioned the names of 24 hybrid and HYVs of maize. The commercial names of the varieties with this source are given in Table 1.
Commercial name of the maize varieties with source
SL No. Variety Source
1 900-M Auto Equipment Co. Ltd.
2 N K-40 Syngenta
3 Pacific – 984 BRAC seed Marketing , Bangladesh, Thailand
4 Pacific – 11 BRAC seed Marketing , Bangladesh, Thailand
5 Barnali HYV BARI, Bangladesh
6 Shuvra HYV BARI, Bangladesh
7 Meher HYV BARI, Bangladesh
8 Khoi Bhutta HYV BARI, Bangladesh
9 Swan-2 NA
10 PSC-3344 Agri Business Corporation, India
11 PSC-3322 Agri Business Corporation, India
12 PSC-105 Agri Business Corporation, India
13 PSC-HP-100 Agri Business Corporation, India
14 PSC-105 Agri Business Corporation, India
15 PSC-984 Agri Business Corporation, Thailand
16 Hybrid Mukta India
17 Hybrid Madhu-1 India
18 Hybrid Madhu-2 India
19 Hybrid Madhu-3 India
20 Hybrid Madhu-4 India
21 Konok Bhutta India
22 Hybrid Madhu- 19 India
23 Hybrid Madhu-21 India
24 Hybrid Madhu-28 India
The pioneer Private Organization for introduction of Hybrid Maize:
1.BRAC Seed marketing, 2. Grameen Krishi Foundation, 3. Agri Business Corporation, 4. Kushtia Seeds, 5. Mollika Seeds, 6. Auto Equipment Co. Ltd, 7. ACI Seeds Ltd. 8. East and West Seeds.
Information about Bt Cotton in Bangladesh
Cotton has been grown in Bangladesh as a cash crop since time without date. There was no extension of cotton production here during Pakistan period. Experimental production of American cotton was initiated in the plain land of the country since the seventies of twentieth century. Cotton was grown in 1215 hectares in 1976-77. Later on Cotton Development Board (CDB) was constituted. Following after that the extension of cultivation of cotton was also intensified.
Cotton growing Areas in Bangladesh:
Cotton production was extended in 34 district in 10 zones after the constitution of the Cotton Development Board. Four cotton research centers were established. These are situated at: Sreepur, district; Gazipur; Jagodishpur, Chawgacha, district; Jessore; Sadarpur, district; Dinajpur and Mahigang, district Rangpur
Cultivation of cotton in Bangladesh before the establishment of CBD:
Two types of cotton were cultivated in Bangladesh before the establishment Cotton Development Board (CBD). One of those was grown in plain land and other in hilly land. American cotton was grown mainly in plain land. Comilla cotton was grown in hilly areas. The cotton species suitable for plain land is Gosspium hirsutum.
Statements of Government Departments about GM cotton:
Mr. Abul Kalam Azad, cotton Production Expart, Bangladesh Cotton Development Board, Khamarbari, Dhaka mentioned ‘‘there are 4 cotton Research centres and 10 cotton production zones in Bangladesh. Ten high yielding varieties (HYVs) of cotton have been released from the CDB. In addition there are 2 varieties of Comilla cotton. The HYVs of cotton include; (1) CB-1, (2) CB-2, (3) CB-3, (4) CB-4, (5) CB-5, (6) CB-6, (7) CB-7, (8) CB-1, (9) CB-9, (10) CB-10, Comilla cotton varieties are (1) Pahari Tula-1 (2) Pahari Tula-2. About 6-7% of the country’s requirement of raw cotton is met from domestic production. The rest is imported.
Cottonseeds for cultivation in the plain land are imported from USA. All cottonseed imported from USA are HYVs; but none of those are hybrid or Bt/GM cotton. There is no Bt/GM cotton cultivation in Bangladesh.
Experimental production of 8 cotton hybrids, introduced from India was conducted at Jagodishpur Chawgacha, Jessore in 1990-91. The yield of these varieties was not satisfactory. So they were rejected.
Statements of farmers in order to resisting GMO:
Mohammed Harun ur Rashid, a farmer mentioned, ‘in order to resisting GMO we shall have to be self-dependent for seeds. I shall grow my own seed and maintain in my own stock. We shall also abandon the use of GM products like GM soybean. We shall also motivate others to abandon the use of GM products. We shall organize resistance group against GMO at village levels.
Rabeya Begum, a farmer mentioned ‘we have many varieties of crops from our indigenous source. There is no need of accepting GMO or anything of doubtful pedigree. She also recited a local verse. The theme of the verse was that all essential elements of daily needs were locally available’.
Nahar Begum, a farmer recited a local verse. The theme of the verse is ‘self-strength is the prime strength. Seed in the own store of the farmer is the source of strength for the farming family’. She further mentioned, ‘there are lots of temptations and false propaganda for extension of GM seeds. We shall have to be careful and must save our own seeds and resist any aggression. Greed is a Sinn and that leads to damage and destruction’.
Zinnat Ali, a farmer commented ‘we shall be united against the introduction of GM seeds. We shall motivate all other farmers to join the resistance movement against GMOs. GMOs are business gains of the multinational companies and death trap for the farmers’.
Nasiruddin, a farmer said, ‘GMOs have to be resisted because these are not only harmful to human health but also to crops and other plants as well’.
Rabeya Begum – 2, a farmer mentioned, ‘we shall maintain the seeds of the indigenous varieties of crops, plants and indigenous breeds of domestic birds and livestock. We shall resist the entry of GMO in our society’.
Why the Government is willing for introduction of GMO?
Rabeya Begum – 1, a farmer mentioned, ‘the Government has some benefit from introduction of GMO. But it is definitely against the interest of the farmers. There are some people in the Government who is linked with the business of the multinational GM companies. Save and except those interested people, the rest of the population in the country will be affected by the introduction of the GMOs’.
Rabeya Begum – 2, a farmer mentioned, ‘the Government is compelled to introduce GMO because of some agreements with the international organizations and authorities. If the Government does not allow the introduction of GMOs, the expected foreign assistance may be stopped’.
Haider Ali, a farmer mentioned, ‘the Government is interested for the introduction of GMOs for getting foreign loans easily’.
Reba Begum, a farmer narrated a local story. She mentioned, ‘for lack of confidence on our own resources and strength our Government is trying for introduction of GM seeds’.
In consonance with Reba Begum, Afsar Uddin, a farmer also urged for self-confidence. He further opined for unity of the farmers for resisting the GMO. If the farmers do not accept, GMO will be rejected automatically by the Government.
Reazuddin, a farmer mentioned, ‘the Government is agreed for introduction of GMO in order to increasing production. This is for meeting the growing need of the rising human population’.
Rejia Begum, a farmer said, ‘there is a declining trend of agricultural productivity in the country. So the Government is inclined for introduction of GMO in order to increasing productivity’.
Reba Begum, a farmer mentioned, ‘fertility of agricultural land has been impaired due to the construction of infrastructures like the Flood Action Plan, Roads, High Ways and other embankments. Before the construction of these infrastructures, there was seasonal flooding of the crop fields and deposition of silts carried from the up-stream. This would improve the nutrient status of the soil adding to higher yield of crops. In absence of such opportunities, the Government may be looking for alternate options. GMO is one of such choices’.
Jahanara Begum, a farmer said, ‘yes, the Government is introducing GMO. But I do not think it is a wise decision. It will be harmful for us’.
Rabeya Begum, a farmer mentioned, ‘the Government is allowing the introductions of GMO for business interest of the NGOs. It will be tied with loans to the farmers. The Government in collaboration with the NGOs is helping the introduction of GMO’.
Amulaya Chandra Mandal, a farmer said, ‘the introduction of GMO will be harmful for human health and agriculture. GMO will be more harmful than those of the chemical fertilizers will and pesticides will’.
Sona Mia, a farmer mentioned, ‘the introduction of GMO is nothing but a business gain of the companies. We do not need GM seeds because we have enough indigenous varieties of crops and other plants in our culture’.
Mainuddin, a farmer mentioned, ‘the Government has no love for the farmers. So the entry of GMO is allowed for personal gains of some people. Entry of GMO is harmful for the farmers’.
Zinnat Ali, a farmer said, ‘the introduction of GMO is a dangerous deal to destroy agriculture of this country and the farming community at large’.
Rangbahar Begum said, ‘the Government is agreed for introduction of GMO for opening business opportunities for the rich people and the companies’.
How to resist cultivation of GMO / Hybrids
Haider Ali, a farmer mentioned, ‘GMOs and hybrid seeds can not be maintained on farm. We shall not accept these seeds at all. If we do not take these seeds, automatically these will be resisted’.
Harun ur Rashid, a farmer said, ‘the Block Supervisors and the Upazila Agriculture officers will be pressurized so that they do not extended GMO / Hybrids to the farmers’.
Nasiruddin, a farmer mentioned, ‘we shall maintain our required seeds of indigenous source in our own store. We shall not go to the Block Supervisor for seeds. We must not accept any seed of unknown pedigree’.
Mainuddin, a farmer said, ‘our duty is to create awareness among our fellow farmers about the adverse impacts of GMO / Hybrids so that they do not accept and cultivate’.
Jamiron, a farmer mentioned, ‘we shall maintain our own seeds. We have to motivate other farmers for maintenance of seeds of local varieties of crops and other plants’.
Rabeya Begum, a farmer said, ‘the boiled rice prepared from the indigenous varieties have specific taste and delicacies. We must maintain these varieties of diverse tastes and attributes. We shall convince other farmers to maintain the local varieties’.
Jamila Begum, a farmer said, ‘we shall start resistance campaign against GMO / Hybrids in our villages. The farmers will be informed about the adverse impacts of GMO / Hybrid seeds’.
Rabeya Begum, a farmer mentioned, ‘election for the National Assembly is very close. The candidates and their agents will be coming to us for vote. We shall ask them to include ‘moratorium on GMOs’ in their election manifesto. We shall vote only for that party which will incorporate our above demand in their manifesto and commit for implementation when elected’.
Nurunnahar, a farmer mentioned, ‘we can resist GMOs / hybrid through the exchange of seeds of indigenous varieties of crops among ourselves’.
Haider Ali, a farmer mentioned, ‘there should be publicity for utilization of the seeds of the local varieties of crops in the print and electronic media. The farmers should be informed about the beneficial attributes of the local varieties as against the harmful impacts of the GMOs and hybrids’.
Arfan Ali, a farmer mentioned, ‘GMO and hybrids are introduced under the patronization of the Government. But if the farmers do not accept, automatically these will be stopped’.