Advanced bioengineered vegetables produce more, cost less and taste better than their nonengineered counterparts, a new study finds.

The study, “The Impacts of GM Foods: Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial of Bt Eggplant in Bangladesh,” was conducted in Bangladesh and published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics November 13.

The study compared one group of farmers using Bt brinjal (eggplant), genetically engineered to resist pests, with farmers growing traditional brinjal. The authors found the farmers using the Bt brinjal produced 50% more vegetables and used 33% fewer pesticides.

As a result, farmers using the modified brinjal earned more money and were less likely to show signs of pesticide poisoning.

Bt brinjal “conveys significant productivity and income benefits while reducing the use of pesticides damaging to human and ecological health,” the study found.

The government of Bangladesh and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded the study, and it was carried out by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a Washington research and policy organization.

Closeup of man's hands holding halves of an eggplant showing insect trails and brown areas inside (© Cornell Alliance for Science)
Farmer Hafizur Rahman shows the damage caused by fruit and shoot borer infestation of nonengineered brinjal on his farm in Bangladesh. (© Cornell Alliance for Science)

The only modification to the brinjal was the introduction of a gene that targets fruit and shoot borer pests. The borer pests affect up to 86% of plants, according to research, and usually require farmers to frequently spray pesticides on their crops.

Studies show that genetically modified plants are safe, and scientists have called on governments to approve the use of genetically modified crops to help alleviate hunger and food insecurity around the world.

Because the Bt brinjal crop was larger than the unmodified brinjal crop, the farmers in the study were able to keep more of their harvest for their own consumption and still sell more vegetables at the market.

What’s more, the study found that the farmers were able to get a higher price for the modified brinjal. Because they had used fewer pesticides, the Bt brinjal looked better and had softer skin, “making the food easier to prepare and … tastier,” the study said.

The study found that the modified Bt brinjal increased revenues by 128%.

One farmer related that customers were at first reluctant, so he gave the vegetables to his customers for free.

The Bt brinjal “was not [selling] for two or three days at the beginning,” the farmer quoted in the study said. But after customers tried it, “I did not have any problems.”