Smallholder farmers need access to new varieties of local crops vital to their family s food security and income that are also resistant to local insects and diseases.
Munsur Sarker was one of 20 farmers who planted the first seedlings of genetically engineered Bt eggplant approved for distribution by the Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture in February 2013. Mansur, whose family eats eggplant four times a week, depends on eggplant as an important staple vegetable crop and source of income.
Incorporating Bt or bacillus thuringensis, into eggplant renders the plants resistant to the fruit and shoot borer (FSB), an insect that bores into the fruit to lay its eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larva tunnels into the interior of the fruit, rendering it unsuitable for consumption or sale.
To combat the FSB, farmers in South Asia are forced to spray eggplant crops with pesticide 1 to 2 times per week and sometimes twice a day, according to Sarker, who was pleased with the yield and quality of his crop, and the fact that he did not have to spray for FSB.
Pesticides are environmental contaminants that disrupt aquatic and avian food chains and pose health hazards for farmers and consumers. Under-resourced farmers and consumers in developing countries need enhanced varieties of local crops that overcome their particular agronomic and climatic challenges without expensive inputs. Science should not bypass the poor.
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