Why Bangladesh’s GMO eggplant success angers anti-GMO activists

| Blog

This blog was written by Kevin Folta, chair of the horticultural department at the University of Florida. Kevin hosts a Talking Biotech podcast each week, which the GLP posts each Monday. This week’s podcast focused on the success of GMO brinjal (eggplant) in Bengladesh.

Bt brinjal is a transgenic eggplant with a natural protein gene inserted that naturally repels or kills many pests. The protein is found in the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which has been sprayed on organic crops for more than a century because of its effectiveness and harmlessness to humans and other crops. Bt brinjal is genetically inoculated to resist the endemic pest called fruit and shoot borer, and therefore requires drastically less pesticides than is conventionally applied by farmers. This is South Asia’s first GMO food crop, and has been developed in the public sector for distribution to resource-poor smallholder farmers.


In general, the anti-GMO world has left me alone. I don’t find much negativity about [my] podcast online . . . . So imagine my surprise when I posted this week’s podcast on the Bt Brinjal (eggplant, aubergine). The response was angry and vitriolic. . .


What is happening here is amazingly obvious. . . .  these folks are really angry because the Bt Brinjal [which was developed in part by the Bengladesh government and whose seeds are sold to mostly poor farmers at a controlled price let’s all of the air out of their balloon]. Free seeds, poor farmers, less insecticides, better products…. where’s the downside?

. . . [I]f this story becomes widely told, it represents the end of their war on science.  It is an example of how the technology should be used– for the betterment of human health and the environment.

They are having a remarkably hard time arguing with that.

So what happens when ideologically bent opinion can’t argue based on evidence?  It becomes an ad hominem effort to trash the messenger. . . .

. . . . [W]hen the technology they oppose serves others, they are caught between acknowledging that it is doing good and abandoning their sacred belief that this technology can do no good– ever.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Eggplant Podcast Sparks Angry Response

  • Farmer with a Dell

    Oh, you are being paid by the Bangladesh govt. to spread these lies.
    /sarcasm off

  • chamel77

    Thanks for being a leader in an uphill battle.

  • Nelson Kerr

    Thank you, I need an occasional dose of sanity

  • The Mgt.

    Kevin: can you give a short explanation on the deal for seed price please? Free? Fair price? Who has the patent? You know that in discussions this nitty-gritty may become important. Thanks!

    • Michael McCarthy

      ” Monsanto still owns the technology but has granted a royalty-free, not-for-profit license to BARI to test, produce and distribute the plants other than by sale. Farmers will be encouraged to save seeds and use them in future.”

      • The Mgt.

        thanks Micheal!
        The “grass-roots campaign” (telling farmers and people on the market that the brinjal is a health hazard) is most disgusting!

        • Michael McCarthy

          Yeah, there was an article I read about a farmer that that some eco group came to his farm and printed an article that actually lied about him having lost hist crop.

  • harh

    Now I have to pay attention and not eat Eggplants from Bangladesh.
    We shall see the health detrimental effects of this and other frankenfoods.

    • agscienceliterate

      Why do you believe they are “frankenfoods”? Do you dismiss so casually the findings of 240+ agencies that have reviewed GE foods? Have you seen any “health detrimental effects” of other GE foods over the two decades that they have been eaten by humans and livestock? If so, post your credible citation.
      Have you read the many scholarly articles that clearly show how Bt (which is used liberally by organic growers, by the way) does not affect the human gut, which is entirely different from an insect gut?

      • Mark Smith

        I dismiss the ramblings of 240 INDUSTRY agencies that will say anything to sell products. I do listen to 68 countris that did their own independent studies and summarily banned these food. 68 COUNTRIES and 240 COMPANIES. You can see the obvious difference, can’t you? facts and science. you know,, those things that the GMO INDUSTRY ignores?

        • agscienceliterate

          Don’t be naïve. The countries that have banned the growing of GE crops, but import GE foods by the way, are doing so strictly for political reasons. They have not done their own studies. You have chosen to make your decisions based on politics rather than science. That’s your choice.

        • hyperzombie

          Funny, banned. If GMOs were banned, why do they need GMO labels? Hmmm.

          Someone didn’t do any research methinks.

    • Farmer with a Dell

      What mode of action do you hypothesize for how these eggplants will make people ill? Any evidence?

      It must be hell living with irrational fear of wholesome foods that is so consuming and tormenting. Sucks to be you.

      • agscienceliterate

        Especially foods that benefit the people in other countries. White privilege at its most ugly.

      • Mark Smith

        Must love eating tainted foods that are already proven to give you cancer and kidney damage. And you post for this rag as though you weren’t being paid. That’s dishonest.

        • agscienceliterate

          “Proven”? Any credible citations for that? Or just more activist misinformation? Naaaah, didn’t think so. didn’t

          Do you really think people who post pro science opinion here are being paid? By who specifically? Monsanto? One of the other GE seed companies? Do you really think our poster so scintillating and brilliant that they’re worth being paid for? Thank you! How about me? I support GE, and I am constantly telling people to eat organic and non-GMO certified if they have any problems with GE, as you appear to have. Mark, eat organic and non-GMO certified. And help me get my shill check from the $60 billion organic industry for making that recommendation, OK?

        • Farmer with a Dell

          Heh, wrong, wrong and wrong Mark. At least you’re consistent. What tainted foods do I eat that are giving me cancer and kidney damage? Who pays me to call out the stupidity and lies of irrational assclowns? Nothing dishonest, everything straight up…and scientifically factual.

          Wanna talk about dishonest, Mark? Then we need to be discussing your ridiculous anti-GMO agenda and the lame talking points you morons are programmed to recite over and over and over…

    • Michael McCarthy

      were you born a moron or did you suffer a TBI?

    • The Mgt.

      Oh yes, there are detrimental health effects – by not using the technology. Time will show. At some point, the organisations that suppressed GMO applications will be accused for crimes against humanity. At least in theory we have a few million deaths by not using Golden Rice.
      Unfortunately, it will be the same as for medical applications: the people who protested and prevented early marketing just “disappear” or “don’t remember”. In the case of human growth hormone it was “only” 100 children who died. A few medical doctors were punished. The organisations who created the atmosphere to reject the recombinant product were never accused. They continue their agenda and some even claim that they “always supported medical applications”.
      Twenty years ago I believed it was fear mixed with some incompetence, now I just call it criminal.

    • NeuronMD

      Then, don’t eat them. More for the rest of us!
      Keep worrying and emo-twaddling about the toxinzzzz and chemikilzzzz in your plate. This amount of stress will be enough to shorten your telomeres more than any imaginary damage caused by evil GMOs muhahahahaha!


    yeehaw. cognitive dissonance is in full swing.

  • APolgz

    Great Posting Dr. Folta,
    I have taken the time to listen to your podcast regarding the BT Brinjal eggplant. It is obvious that the Bangladeshi government has it’s mind in the right place. With so many mouths to feed, it is important to look to scientific facts that will help to improve the well-being of an entire population. It is very unfortunate that India backed out of using the BT Brinjal eggplant, they could surely use this technology to help feed their population and lessen the amount of pesticides needed to grow the crop.
    It is awful to hear that the justification behind Greenpeace’s anti-GMO movements is based primarily off of the fact that the funds raised from opposing GMO’s is their largest fund raiser. If only the organization that claims it’s objective is to promote peace through changing attitudes and behaviours on environmental conservation, would consider the benefits of GMO’s.
    It is ironic to read the tweet above that states “Im deeply troubled that big corp r poisining our soils and tampering with genetics all in the name of profit..”
    Like you said, individuals who oppose GMO’s tend to oppose them for genuine health and family related concerns, however, if they were properly informed, they might understand that those same concerns are the ones that the scientists behind GMO’s have in mind.