LAHORE: Apart from manufacturers of genetically modified (GM) corn seeds and few public sector scientists, all stakeholders including farmers, food processors, national seed companies and others have squarely rejected its introduction in the country.
The near-consensus emerged in three separate sessions held last month with various stakeholders. In February, a delegation of the American Business Council met with Prime Minister Imran Khan to voice concern over the lack of support from the Ministry of National Food Security and Research.
In a meeting on commercial cultivation of GM maize in Pakistan, the Seed Association of Pakistan representative forcefully opposed the commericalisation of GM maize, claiming that there was no significant yield advantage in its cultivation.
He pointed out that the technology did not provide the advantage of low production cost and there was no pest threat, which necessitated the use of the technology.
He emphasised that many countries had not allowed the cultivation of that controversial technology.
Pakistan Kissan Ittehad President Khalid Khokhar expressed concern over the commercial cultivation of GM maize. He was of the view that the health of Pakistanis should not be compromised in any way and suggested that the food ministry should constitute a committee to tackle the issue.
Khalid Aziz, an official of Rafhan Maize - the biggest processor and exporter of corn products in Pakistan - said the company supported the spring maize segment in the country and due to concerted efforts, the growth of maize had surpassed all other contemporary major crops.
Increasing demand from Rafhan and poultry has been the major driving force behind the success of maize crop in Pakistan. He made it clear that exports were exclusively based on non-GM maize, adding that the survival of Rafhan and other companies’ export business only depended on the availability of non-GM maize.
“Since Pakistan’s landscape does not permit the segregation of non-GM maize, its local availability will be constrained, compelling us to go for import, which will put more pressure on the country’s already dwindling foreign reserves,” Aziz added.
The food ministry secretary said the question for his ministry was why permission may be granted for the cultivation of GM maize on a commercial scale when there was no significant increase in the yield and no reduction in the cost of production and import.
“The introduction of GM maize may result in enhancement of the import bill and our exports may also suffer,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2019.
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