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August 9, 2019

Govt asks Punjab not to discuss GMO maize at seed council

Business

August 9, 2019

LAHORE: The federal government has asked Punjab not to discuss various cases of genetically modified organism (GMO) maize seeds at the platform of Punjab Seed Council (PSC) for allowing commercial cultivation, an official said.

A PSC meeting was scheduled for Friday (today), and the secretary agriculture Punjab has been given written instructions to delist the GMO varieties from the meeting’s agenda, said a senior official of the federal ministry of National Food Security and Research in a correspondence with this scribe.

“We have elaborated regulatory measures in place at federal level in this regard in a letter written this week. Moreover, we have instructed our representatives to not approve the varieties,” the senior official said.

The PSC had included GM corn varieties in the agenda of the upcoming meeting, citing recommendation from the expert subcommittee (ESC). However, it was also mentioned in the agenda of the meeting that the government of Pakistan has advised to immediately stop all activities related to GM corn seeds’ cultivation in the country till further order.

The meeting of the PSC would be chaired by Punjab Agriculture Minister Malik Nauman Langrial.

“It is incomprehensible that Punjab is adamant to discuss approval cases of GMO maize varieties despite ban on cultivation,” an official said.

In the backdrop of stiff opposition from the federal government, high-powered parliamentary committee on agriculture and various stakeholders against GMO seeds for food crops, various circles have raised the question: Whether PSC is entitled to approve GM corn varieties despite clear ban imposed by the federal government?

When attention of Dr Ghazanfar Ali, secretary, PSC, was diverted towards federal government’s crystal clear policy about GMO seeds, he hastened to downplay this development saying inclusion of GM varieties in agenda means consideration for approval/disapproval/deferment as the council may decide.

Talking about federal government letter about delisting GMO corn varieties from the agenda of PSC, he said we have received the letter from the federal government and would place it before the council.

Dr Ghazanfar is considered by many as ‘a staunch support of GMO lobby’. There are serious allegations over his supportive role for introduction of multinational companies’ GMO seeds in the country. However, he did not agree with the notion when his comment was sought over the widespread perception.

Interestingly, Dr Ghazanfar was posted at the PSC a couple of months back. It is claimed that he has included GMO corn varieties in the agenda of PSC meeting despite ban imposed on their cultivation in the country.

It may be noted that Pakistan imposed a ban on further trials of Genetically Modified (GM) maize for an unspecified period last month in a bid to avoid natural crop contamination that can subsequently hurt maize exports. It has been intimated through official correspondence that all bio-safety licenses for the import and field trials of GM corn in the country have been suspended along with all related activities.

After slapping a ban on importation of GM corn seeds and other associated activities, the government said trials of bio-engineered maize will come to a standstill with immediate effect. Earlier, the Ministry of National Food Security and Research after holding extensive consultation with stakeholders issued a verdict against granting permission to plant genetically engineered crops. The government will not allow the use of biotechnology for developing seeds of food crops.

Earlier, federal Ministry of National Food Security after holding extensive consultation with stakeholders gave a verdict against granting permission to commercial cultivation of genetically engineered crops. It is stated that government will not allow the use of biotechnology for developing seeds of food crops.

During the consultation, most of the stakeholders were of the view that there was no significant yield increase or reduction in production cost by adopting the GM seeds.

It was concluded at such deliberation that there was no doubt the country should benefit from biotechnology, but at the same time biotechnology was not limited to only GMOs. It was noted that serious concerns have been raised about maize exports contaminated with GM corn from Pakistan, and such unwelcoming developments might hamper exports.

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