Genetically modified insect-resistant eggplants (Bt brinjal) have successfully reduced pesticide use and improved livelihoods among the Bangladeshi farmers who grow it.
Conventionally grown brinjal is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in South Asia. Historically, brinjal farmers have sprayed as many as 84 times in a growing season to protect their crops. This prompted scientists at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) to develop a pest-resistant variety as an alternative to insecticide use.
The study, prepared for the US Agency for International Development by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) with support from BARI and Cornell University, found that Bt brinjal has met that goal. It documented a 39 percent reduction overall in the quantity of pesticides used and a 51 percent reduction in the number of times that farmers applied pesticides to their brinjal crop.
Though an earlier study found that Bt brinjal confers almost total protection against eggplant fruit and shoot borer (FSB), the crop’s most destructive pest, farmers are still using some pesticides to control other harmful insects.
Though Bt brinjal was engineered specifically to resist the FSB, it also helps to reduce infestations of other harmful insect pests, the study found. Populations of harmful leaf-eating beetles, mites and mealy or leaf wing bugs were lower in Bt brinjal than the non-Bt varieties.