NA committee to discuss cultivation of GM corn

Published: October 17, 2019
A cob of corn seen in a field. PHOTO: REUTERS

A cob of corn seen in a field. PHOTO: REUTERS

LAHORE: The platform of National Assembly Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research is being used by the pro-genetically modified organism (GMO) lobby to highlight benefits of GM corn crop, which is currently banned in the country.

The seventh meeting of the Standing Committee on National Food Security is scheduled to be held on Thursday at the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (Parc). Its agenda included discussion on the introduction of GM seeds in Pakistan coupled with a briefing by Crop Life Pakistan on Bt cotton and Bt corn, said sources. Crop Life Pakistan is a joint platform of multinational seed companies.

Several members of the standing committee have already expressed their reservations about the introduction of GM corn in the country.

It may be recalled that the current government, following extensive discussion on the issue earlier this year, had decided that commercial cultivation of GM corn would not be permitted in the country.

In light of the policy guidelines provided by the federal government, the decision to forbid commercial plantation of GM corn was subsequently communicated by the governments of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the two major maize-growing provinces, through separate letters.

Despite clear policy guidelines on not adopting biotechnology in food crops, various members of the standing committee have expressed their astonishment over discussion on so-called benefits of GM corn. Chaudhry Muhammad Ashraf, an MNA from Sahiwal which is a major maize-growing area, said he was unable to comprehend the logic behind repeated discussion on the GMO technology in meetings of the standing committee.

“There is no logic behind taking up this dead issue,” he said and vowed to oppose GM corn forcefully in the upcoming meeting.

Similar views were echoed by Choudhary Faqir Ahmad, an MNA from Burewala. “I am strongly against granting permission for cultivating GM corn,” he said, adding that Pakistan must not allow import of such seeds because they were not suitable for plantation in the country.

Shaukat Ali, MNA from Peshawar, and Dr Nausheen Hamid, MNA from Lahore, also expressed their reservations about the introduction of GM corn in the country.

When contacted, Standing Committee Chairman Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan said no decision to stop commercial cultivation of GM maize had been made by the current government.

He pointed out that in Thursday’s meeting, the participants would listen to the companies’ perspective once again but mainly for the cotton crop. Cotton production in Pakistan had experienced a dip in recent years, though in India per acre yield had increased sharply following use of Bt seeds, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2019.

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