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February 18, 2018

048 Eggplants, Brinjals and Aubergines

048 shelton boersma

One of the amazing success stories of genetic engineering is the eggplant, known as the “brinjal” in Asia and the “aubergine” in Europe.  In the west it is occasional table fare, yet in many parts of Asia it is a daily staple.  Farmers in Bangladesh and India rely on doses of old-school insecticides to protect their crop, up to eighty a season, and not always with appropriate protection equipment.  The problem is insects that bore into the plant and into the fruit, destroying a crop.

One solution has been the use of the bacterial protein known as “Bt”, only that the plant produces itself to protect it from insects.  It is the same protein used in corn and cotton in other countries, including the USA. The new eggplant lines have been wonderfully accepted, and poor farmers in Bangladesh are making excellent profits from this technology, while making safer produce.

The story is told by Dr. Tony Shelton, Professor of Entomology with Cornell University in Geneva, NY.   The story has captured the interest of many, including science journalist and filmmaker Dr. Hidde Boersma.  Dr. Boersma has a Ph.D. in microbiology, and appreciates the potential contributions of genetic engineering.  He has captured the story of the eggplant in a beautiful documentary called Well Fed.   The documentary tells the story of the farmers that grow the plant, and the well-fed Europeans that change their attitude toward the technology when they see the beautiful ways it can benefit people.

Website for Dr. Tony Shelton   here, but this is the website to the Bt Brinjal project.

Website for Dr. Hidde Boersma  here  

This link is Hidde Boersma’s beautiful prelude to the documentary, sharing much of the same footage.

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4 Comments on 048 Eggplants, Brinjals and Aubergines

  1. Wow, even I was shocked at how much Shelton said that Greenpeace is spending on keeping farmers from access to this. Why would they stand in the way of this–and how do they sleep at night? I will never understand them.

    It was also nice to hear Hidde’s backstory. When he pinged me with his Al Jazeera story, I thought it was just a well-done piece. I didn’t realize it was part of a larger quest to change his friends’ minds! That’s very cool.

    You should link the Al Jazeera piece in your post. It was really excellent.

  2. Thanks for an interesting and enlightening podcast. I’d be interested to know more about resistance management strategies for this crop, since these are such an important piece of the puzzle. I would go so far as to suggest resistance management/stewardship in general as future topic.

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