The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority’s (BAFRA) study has concluded that there is no evidence of import or introduction of Bt-brinjal in the Bhutanese market.

The surveillance study was conducted at four official entry points and major towns like Samdrupjongkhar, Phuentsholing, Gelephu, Samtse, and Thimphu.

The test results of the pilot survey showed no evidence of the presence of Bt-brinjal in these areas.

According to Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), it developed the four – Bt-brinjals, Bt-Uttara, Bt-Kajla, Bt-Nayantara, and Bt-ISD 006 genetically modified brinjals.

“As per the internet search, Bt-brinjal was developed by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco). The company used a DNA construct containing the gene, a promoter and the selectable marker genes to transform young cotyledons of brinjal plants,” the report stated.

The Bt-brinjal poses risks to the environment and possibly to human health.

The report stated that the objective of the study was to find the presence of Bt-brinjal in vegetable markets or shops in one major town and entry points. It also aimed to create awareness on biosafety legislations among importers.

A total of 280 samples from different vegetable markets from the areas where the study was conducted were tested.

Rapid test kits were used for screening particular genetically modified element, which is present in Bt-brinjal according to the study. The brinjal fruits sampled were used for the test since leaf samples were not available from the vegetable market.

“The BAFRA offices are required to conduct regular surveillance using the rapid test kits in order to detect and prevent introduction of genetically modified crops in the country as per the Biosafety legislation,” the report stated. “The genetically modified in viable forms are prohibited by Biosafety Act of Bhutan 2015 and its Rules and Regulations 2018.”

According to the report, a delegation from Bangladesh had submitted during the 5th Annual South Asia Biosafety Conference in 2017, that Bt-brinjal was used as food or processing and cultivation in 2013.

The Bt-brinjal was grown freely in Bangladesh including places near the bordering town of India and as no post-monitoring was reported to have been carried out. “Which is why it was imperative to carryout surveillance on varieties of brinjal available in our market as it is likely that genetically modified brinjal may come into Bhutan through informal trade,” the report concluded.

The report stated that since the study was conducted only in five major sites, the study might not be a representative for the whole country.

Yangchen C Rinzin