Bangladesh agriculture is in the transition of commercialization where a strongly built Contract Farming system is a necessary prerequisite. HYVs and Hybrid technology can help the development oftransformation to a commercial environment. But it cannot support all the way to accept the Genetically Engineered crop arieties for production unless agro-product processing industries organize Contract Farming with ensured price of quality products. In an environment like this, introduction of still higher technology like the GM technology appears to be non-conforming to the needs and the conditions. However, we are in the club of 42 plus countries where GM crops are being used either for test or for cultivation. USA, China, India, Argentina, Brazil are the leaders in the production of GM crops.
As we are already in the system by releasing four varieties of BT Brinjal and with GM potato, BT cotton as well as golden rice in the pipeline; there is a need for understanding the whole process of product development to commercial release. It is of utmost importance that the process is understood and implemented due to the potential impact on non-GM crops,other types of plants and the food chain. Releasing varieties of crops like Brinjal, which is a fresh vegetable ready for consumption, and potato certainly needs specific attention to seed production and increase in the acreage under such crops. Possibly this is why also the government of Bangladesh has restricted provision of seed production and distribution by BARI and BADC only. But the transformed genes have become available in the fields of production wherever it took place through farmers and the farming community.
If our government decides to become GM friendly in the interest of having more biotic and abiotic stress tolerant crop varieties, then there should be a strong and technically high level planning committee of GM crop breeding where both public organizations and private company members will participate in deciding the (i) technique to be followed, (ii) the crops to be used for transformation and (iii) traits to be transformed. This is because in any GM crop breeding there is a need for central decision and decentralized competitive execution so as to reach the target product better and faster. One can see the list of the transformed products in ISAA documents and easily can see a large number of those are not available anymore. The dialogue that will require to be set is between scientists and academia across all fields of species identifying the needs of the traits, the methods of trait introduction, subsequent selection process and ultimate use of the materials in the production system covering the potential dangers of gene transfer through pollen grains to unknown species and the resultant effect thereof. The knowledge generated all over the world by this time is enormous and genes transferred and products transformed are many. We can see the events under GM technology having commercial importance. These are Abiotic stress tolerance, (i) altered growth and Yield, (ii) Disease Resistance, (iii) Herbicide tolerance, (iv) Insect resistance, (v) Modified product quality and (vi) pollination control system. Within each of these broad heads like the abiotic stress tolerance, a number of specific traits have been covered. According to ISAA around 42-3 specific GM traits have been studied using about nine technique of transformation Viz. (1)Agrobacteriumtumefaciens mediated method; (2) Chemically mediated introduction into protoplast and regeneration; (3) Direct DNA Transfer System; (4) Electroporation; (5)Conventional Breeding-cross hybridization &selection involving transgenic donor(s)(6) Micro-particle Bombardment of plant cells or tissues; (7) Pollen Tube-Pathway; (8). Aerosol Beam Injection; and (9) Whiskers mediated plant transformation. Among all these most frequently used technique number 1 and 5.
Professor Lutfur Rahman
Advisor, ACI Agribusiness