Bangladesh officials worry GM potatoes may result in export ban

After a recent initiatives to grow more resilient GM potatoes, the Bangladesh Fruits, Vegetable and Allied Products Exporters' Association worry that exports from Bangladesh may face a huge setback if the government goes along with the plan.


“Cultivating GM potatoes will definitely hamper potato export as many countries, including Russia, do not import GMO [genetically modified organism] foods,” said Mohammad Monsur, general secretary of Bangladesh Fruits, Vegetables and Allied Products Exporters’ Association.

According to the Export Promotion Bureau, potato export has been declining as one of the country’s major buyers, Russia, stopped importing potatoes from Bangladesh two years ago, due to the presence of brown rot disease in the produce.

Bangladesh is a potato-surplus country which relies hugely on export to protect farmers’ interests.

The country exported potatoes worth $34 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year, which decreased to $32 million in 2014-15 and $10 million in 2015-16 after Russia's ban which previously brought in $9 million in 2014-15, according to the bureau.

After seeing the effects of the Russian ban due to rot disease officials worry that farming GM potatoes will only worsen the problem and further shrink the number of viable markets for exports.

“We have sent an application for approval to release the GM [potato] varieties to the Ministry of Agriculture, later to be vetted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests,” said Dr Abul Kalam Azad, director general of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI).


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