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February 8, 2019

Prime Minister exhorted to remove obstacles in GMO introduction

Business

February 8, 2019

LAHORE: The American Businessman Council of Pakistan, a country’s leading foreign investors group, sought the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s help to allow commercial cultivation of genetically modified organism (GMO) maize, sources said on Thursday.

A delegation of the American Businessman Council of Pakistan, representing 65 US companies, met with the premier in Islamabad on Wednesday.

“It (the delegation) pressed for removal of obstacles in the introduction of genetically modified corn seed in Pakistan,” a well-placed source privy to the meeting said.

The delegation included members of CropLife Pakistan, a conglomerate of multinational seeds and pesticide manufacturers and marketing companies.

Sources said the main objective of the meeting was to lobby for adoption of biotechnology.

The sources said the participants expressed dismay over anti-GMO policy of ministry of national food security and research and exerted pressure on the government to allow commercial cultivation of GMO maize in the country.

Unlike present government’s policy to highlight every interaction with business leaders, the meeting was quietly held without any media coverage.

On Thursday, a few lines were issued to the media about the meeting which read: “A delegation of American Business Council called on Prime Minister Imran Khan. The delegation expressed confidence in the policies of government. It termed the government’s steps towards ease of travel to Pakistan and ease of doing business as exemplary”.

Sources said some pro-GMO participants shared an example of increase in cotton production in India, stating that neighbouring country succeeded in huge production due to introduction of Bt cotton. They attributed India’s success in augmenting cotton production to technology developed by multinational seeds companies.

Sources who don’t want to be named said participants sought help of the prime minister in paving way for commercial cultivation of GMO corn in the country. They were disappointed over the cancellation of a recent meeting at the eleventh hour, which was silently convened by Yusuf Zafar, a staunch supporter of GM technology and Chairman of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council to approve GM corn seeds of multinational companies.

Minister for National Food Security and Research Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan defended the cancellation of the meeting, saying the government would not take decision about adopting GM technology for cereal crops without giving it due consideration, sources said.

Sultan said all stakeholders would be consulted to reach consensus on this important issue following giving it a careful consideration.

Sources said it is a principled stance of the food ministry to show restraint in introduction of GM technology in food crops. Moreover, the ministry does not feel any urgent need to abandon hybrid maize technology as consistent increase in corn over the years due to hybrid technology is sufficiently helping in meeting local grain requirement for food and feed purposes.

The corn is used in various food dishes across the country as it is a popular grain in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Kashmir, Punjab and Sindh. Any decision to adopt GMO corn would adversely affect its use for food in the country, the sources said.

Maize, being the highest yielding cereal crop in the world, gains a significant importance for developing countries like Pakistan. Maize ranks the third most grown crop in the world with an area of more than 118 million hectares and over 800 million tons production.

In Pakistan, maize is the fourth largest grown crop after wheat, cotton and rice. It is about to become the third largest crop with robust increase in its production. The production of corn has jumped to over six million tons. Punjab contributes significantly in maize production followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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