The BBC's claim of 90% success for Bt brinjal in Bangladesh has been challenged by a journalist. Claire Robinson reports
BBC Panorama’s programme, “GM Food: Cultivating Fear”, has come under attack from a Bangladeshi journalist for falsely
portraying Bt brinjal (eggplant/aubergine) cultivation in Bangladesh as a success. The programme, which aired on 8 June, featured pro-GMO campaigner Mark Lynas visiting a Bt insecticidal brinjal field and enthusing about the performance of the crop, which was claimed to reduce insecticide sprays and help farmers avoid the effects of pesticide poisoning.
Faisal Rahman, staff correspondent for the United News of Bangladesh (UNB), contacted GMWatch after watching the programme, which he felt “denied the reality of losses the farmers of Bangladesh incurred by cultivating Bt brinjal”. Out of concern for the farmers, Rahman wanted to set the record straight. His evidence, together with subsequent investigations by GMWatch, casts serious doubt on the credibility of the BBC Panorama programme.
Faisal Rahman is the author of a
report for UNB on the second year of Bt brinjal cultivation in Bangladesh, titled “Bt brinjal turns out to be ‘upset case’ for famers”. The report, published in March this year, was based on field visits and telephone interviews with farmers growing Bt brinjal. The report concluded, “The cultivation of genetically engineered Bt brinjal in the country’s several districts has cost the farmers their fortunes again this year as the plants have either died out prematurely or fruited very insignificantly compared to the locally available varieties.”