The truth of GMO will prevail

Md. Arif Hossain

January 20, 2017

Faruk accompanying the Alliance for Science team in Bangladesh.

As my father always says, “The truth will always prevail.” Faruk has proved that with his Bt brinjal field.

Faruk works as a driver in a rental car company. Last year I visited a number of Bt brinjal fields with my colleagues to see genetically modified Bt brinjal fields. Faruk took us to several areas of Rangpur, Sadullahpur, Gaibandha, Bogra, Pabna, Ishwardi, and Tangail. It was a long list indeed for one month of travel; in fact, I was hospitalized with acute sinusitis after the trip. That should be another sharing. Anyway, it was really very interesting and exciting for us seeing the Bt brinjal fields, meeting growers, sellers, government officials, and scientists. Faruk accompanied us everywhere as we relied on his driving skill.

Sir, are you traveling this far just to see brinjal? Can t you do it in a nearest place? he asked during our departure from Dhaka to Rangpur. His unique smile flashed in his long, bearded face. I thought, how Faruk would tell his own story of Bt brinjal? Would it remain funny and silly to him? Or would he grasp the positivity of all our efforts? I was prejudiced, but took the opportunity to share my knowledge with him.

Faruk observed everything from his own perspective: he asked questions, talked with farmers and other people, heard what we discussed with government officials and scientists. He has learned that Bt brinjal requires no pesticide for fruit and shoot borer insect; he has seen that it has no adverse affect on human health and environment. He ate Bt brinjal in Bogra and Tangail; saw growers in the field and sellers in the market; listened to what scientists and government officials told us. I also told him about the anti-Bt brinjal activists of Bangladesh and shared a few stories about the politics and propaganda of GMO at an international arena in relation to our interventions. He judged everything and made his own decision.

Faruk collected Bt brinjal seed from a farmer during our second trip to Tangail. He showed me the seeds in a small polybag and has face bore its usual good-humored expression with a pleasing smile.

I have asked many farmers and know the process of growing it, and after meeting and seeing so many fields it won’t be tough for me to grow this Bt brinjal, he added.

He actually made that happen this year, and started his first Bt brinjal field with 500 plants. He shared the pictures of his field in my Facebook messenger account. Now neighbors and people from the community visit his field and ask him about Bt brinjal.

Faruk sprayed pesticide twice in his field for spider attack, but applied nothing to ward off the deadly fruit and shoot borer insect. Farmers growing the conventional brinjal varieties spray pesticide 80-100 times to protect field from fruit and shoot borer insect. Bt brinjal is resistant to that pest, as Faruk discovered in growing his own crop.

The Bangladesh government approved Bt brinjal for commercial cultivation in October 2013. I am optimist that all farmers will adopt Bt brinjal for more profit, better health, and a safer environment.

I hope Faruk will continue telling his story of Bt brinjal. Because the truth always prevails.

Md. Arif Hossain is a 2015 Cornell Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellow representing Bangladesh.