Indigenous crops, fruits and veg on verge of extinction

Published : 01 Apr 2023 09:08 PM

Varieties of hybrid seeds, now widely used by the farmers of the country, are posing a serious threat to the traditional, age-old, locally produced, indigenous crops and vegetables. 

Moreover, the introduction of genetically modified seeds, plants, crops and vegetables in the country would have a disastrous effect on the health and nutrition of the people as well as on the environment. 

According to sources, Bangladesh has already been flooded with a huge number of hybrid seeds and plants which are being widely cultivated by the farmers. Specially, the local varieties of fine rice which were produced by the farmers for ages have become extinct or are on the verge of extinction.

Earlier, hundreds of varieties of fine rice were produced in Rajshahi, Naogaon, Chapainawabganj, Dinajpur and Rangpur districts. But, most of those are now extinct.

According to sources of the Agriculture Extension Department, there were around 30,000 varieties of local rice in the country most of which have by now become extinct, even the names of many of such varieties have been obliterated. Specially, the Barind tract of the greater Rajshahi and Bogra districts was famous for the production of fine rice. That rice had no match in terms of taste, aroma, quality and nutrition.

Nowadays, the farmers of the Barind region no more cultivate the genuine, local variety of Raghu shail, Jhinga shail, Paijam, Kalo Jira, Chini Modhu and hundreds of other varieties of rice.

The aromatic Basmati rice, an indigenous and prestigious variety of rice of the Barind region, was cultivated by the farmers of the region for centuries.

But, for want of processing and marketing facilities, the farmers of the region abandoned the cultivation of Basmati. As a result, the cultivation of Basmati was ultimately grabbed by the farmers of Thailand, India and Pakistan and by the government patronisation of the respective countries.

Not only for rice but also for cereals like mustard, gram, lentil, mungbean, Kalai, maize, wheat, and pulses with numerous hybrid varieties are being cultivated widely in the country. Though the taste and odour of those hybrid cereals have deteriorated, the farmers are interested in cultivating those crops because of their high production and harvesting rate, less crop loss and healthy looking.

Almost all the vegetables including brinjal, korolla, potato, cabbage, cauliflower, potato, cucumber, lemon, gourd, bean, lady's finger, papaya, Jhinga, Borboti, green chilli, ginger, onion, garlic, tomato, radish and sweet gourd which are now available in the country belong to the hybrid varieties.

It is no wonder that these hybrid varieties of vegetables do not grow without excessive use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and insecticides.

The Chinese variety of brinjal needs a three-time daily spraying of toxic pesticides for its healthy growth. It is impossible to produce hybrid varieties of tomatoes without the use of excessive chemical fertiliser and pesticides, the early varieties of cabbage, cauliflower, potato and other winter vegetables also require a huge application of chemical fertiliser and pesticides for their growth.

Nowadays, the local varieties of red radish, ucchey( local varieties of small korolla), lentil, gram, mungbean, gourd and tomato are on the verge of extinction. Doctors and Nutritionists in Rajshahi informed the consumption of hybrid vegetables is highly injurious to health. The hybrid varieties of brinjal, lady's finger, tomato, radish, onion, garlic, bean, ginger, gourd and onion lack taste, aroma and nutritive value. The doctors and the elderly people are of the opinion that the use of unlimited chemical fertilisers and pesticides has made all the crops and vegetables of the country toxic.

Professor Dr. Ahsan Habib of Jashore Medical College Hospital informed, even 35 to 40 years ago when there was no use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, people seldom suffered from Acidity, Hypertension, Cancer and many other complex diseases.

He further said the indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers and poison in the fields and on the plants has changed the qualitative value of crops and vegetables. Thus consumption of those is posing a threat to human health and the environment.

Moreover, 'one-time use' hybrid seeds are making the farmers hostages to the multinational companies who produce and market those seeds. Though it is claimed that the hybrid seeds yield 20 to 30 per cent more crops, fruits and vegetables than the High Yield Variety(HYV) seed, the price of hybrid seeds was 15 to 20 times more than those of HYV seeds. For example, the price of hybrid rice seed was Taka 250 to 350 per kilogramme as against Taka 20 to 30 for the HYV seeds.

The cost of production of hybrid crop and vegetables are also more than those of HYV crop because hybrid crops and vegetables require a round clock care, more fertiliser, water, pesticides and weeding.

By not developing hybrid seeds locally, the multinational companies are making the farmers of the country dependent on them which would pose a disaster for our agriculture.

However, the government of Bangladesh has directed the agro-scientists to develop hybrid seeds at our own laboratories and within a short span of time, our scientists have been able to develop our own hybrid seeds and thus relieving our farmers from the grips of the multinational companies.