USAID is throwing $4.8 million at the GM Bt insecticidal brinjal (eggplant) project in Bangladesh and the Philippines. The money will go to the project via Cornell University, which is promoting the Bt brinjal rollout.
This is in spite of reports from within Bangladesh that the GM Bt brinjal crop failed miserably two years running. In the second year, the crop was sprayed with numerous pesticides, including banned ones, according to a report by the Bangladeshi NGO UBINIG.
The press release from Cornell University (below) makes extraordinary claims for the success of the Bt brinjal project in Bangladesh:
“With the establishment of the 20 Bt brinjal demonstration plots in 2014 and 104 more in 2015, BARI [Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, which manages the Bt brinjal project] reported a noticeable decrease in fruit and shoot borer infestation, increased yields, decreased use of pesticide and improved income for farmers.”
However, no scientific report has thus far been published documenting these supposed successes. On the contrary, investigations by journalists in Bangladesh and by UBINIG indicate that the crop was a widespread failure, succumbing to bacterial wilt disease and dying out prematurely.
According to UBINIG these failures occurred even though in the second year the farmers were sidelined and the GM crops were nannied through their fragile lives by officials from BARI and the government’s agricultural extension department.
UBINIG stated: “According to the farmers, most of the time, the officials took care of the plants themselves as they had to show a good performance.”
UBINIG added that the officials even replaced failing plants with new ones – making the data from the project completely unfit for publication in any reputable scientific journal.
Given that farmers who once grew the crop are reportedly not interested in doing so again, and some farmers have demanded compensation for their failed crops, part of the USAID money should be set aside to compensate farmers in case (as seems likely) Bt brinjal fails yet again.