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July 31, 2020

Govt to form body for legal changes in seed law

Business

July 31, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government will constitute a committee to bring legal changes to speed up introduction of seed technologies for major crops, food security minister said on Thursday.

Minister for Food Security and Research Fakhar Imam said a four-member committee would be constituted on Seed Act. Terms of reference will be formed and within 3 weeks recommendations would be made.

“Seed technology can give a major head start in country’s agriculture,” Imam said while having a video link meeting about cotton with Agriculture Minister of Punjab Nauman Ahmad Langrial.

Imam said the food security ministry is a policy planner for country's agriculture as per rules of business and despite 18th amendment the ministry and provincial agricultural departments must work in harmony.

“We need to modernise our seed technology of major crops,” he said. The genetically modified organism cotton varieties planted in Pakistan is first generation Bt cotton, which has disoriented its resistance against pink bollworm and caused severe damage to cotton crop during last season.

Some of the local public and private research institutes have developed multiple gene varieties, which proved to effective in preliminary trials. The genes have passed through clearance from national biosafety from ministry of climate change.

The normal approval process requires two year’s testing, 2-year trial and clearance from the climate ministry.

The meeting was told that the Punjab government has proposed to shorten the approval process considering the need of the day and accord provisional approval on the bases of one-year trials to varieties having new technology or extraordinary traits. This requires a change in seed rules, which is under submission for the consideration.

After 18t constitutional amendments, the province promulgated its own pesticide regulation rules and enforced. The federal government regulates pesticide import, and its quality has the mandate to ensure pesticide quality at import and pesticide formulation plants. Punjab also requested to notify agriculture officers as seed inspectors under Section 28 (a) of the Seed Act 1976 to enhance regulation and crackdown against brown bag seed business. The revitalization of Punjab Seed Corporation was also discussed in the meeting.

Punjab Seed Corporation is a source of cotton and wheat seed for not only Punjab but also used to cater to the seed requirement of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh. The presence of public sector entities in field sets a baseline for the private sector. Secondly, public sector seed production can come into the business for the vulnerable community and crops like pulses. Considering the lower seed supplies by private seed companies during the current year also compels the public sector to produce at least 20 percent share of seed production of major crops like wheat and cotton. The prices of seed may be fixed at a reasonably lower side. Pesticides for whitefly management were also discussed during the meeting.