Ministry, NA body at odds over introduction of GM maize seeds
Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Research and a parliamentary committee are at differences over introduction of genetically modified maize seed with the ministry opposing its use, saying it is harmful for human health, entails environmental impact and may hit corn export.
A meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee of Food, Security and Research chaired by Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan deplored that mills mafia has damaged the cotton crop cultivation in the country and cane crop has replaced the cotton crop at 70 percent area from Depalpur to Okara. He alleged that sugar mills mafia on the one hand had caused damage to the cotton crop while on the other it was getting subsidy on sugar from tax payers’ money.
The committee was given a detailed briefing on genetically modified (GM) crop and chairman of the committee and members decided that they would try to convince the ministries opposing it, whereas Secretary National Food, Security and Research Hashim Populzai stated he would stick to the stance at all forums against introduction of the genetically modified crop in the country because of its impact on human health. However, he added that the ministry is ready to introduce it in cotton crop.
He also disclosed that bio-safety committee imposed a ban in July 2019 on further trial of the GM crop whereas Ministry of Commerce opposed the technology, saying that it would hit the exports. Likewise, the Ministry of Health opposed it owing to technology implications on health and Ministry for Climate Change opposed it because it may entail environmental impact, he added.
“We are ready to introduce the technology in cotton crop but will not support GM seeds for maize crop,” he said. He said that the Prime Minister was also given a briefing after he convened a meeting to introduce the GM crops in the country.
The Ministry of Food, Research and Security after taking input from all the stakeholders submitted a detailed report to the Prime Minister and enlisted that it would have health and environmental impacts as per stakeholders and would also hit the export because Rafhan Maize has conveyed to the Pakistan that it would not import corn from Pakistan if the country decides to use GM seeds.
The committee decided that it would hold a meeting with the secretaries of finance, commerce, health, climate change, and food security in an effort to convince them on use of GM crops in the country.
Rao Ajmal pointed out, “We have already wasted a lot of time.” He mentioned that India opted for agri-technology two decades ago and now they are far ahead in per acre yield of cotton. He said that Pakistan is losing international market share in agri sector due to lacking behind in the adoption of technologies.
The chairman standing committee said, “Farmer is dying and we are here to rescue them and will do our best to protect farmers at any cost.”
Member Committee Syed Javed Ali Shah highlighted that cotton and corn are used in same way for food and feed purposes then why ministry is raising objection on corn and not cotton.
Replying to concern of the secretary food with regard to negative impacts of glyphosate in GM seed, the officials stated that glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide across the world and is approved by regulatory agencies of all developed countries.
Zain Qureshi said that world is adopting the latest technologies to meet food security challenges but Pakistan is lacking behind due to hurdles in policy making. The committee believes that biotechnology is need of the hour to meet the required agricultural yield per acre, he added.
The committee also supported the Fertilizer Development Surcharge (Amendment) Bill 2010. The committee was also given a briefing on availability of wheat stock in the country.