By Dr. Maria Shweba
GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GM) or Bt Corn/Maize trials are being held in Pakistan since 2009-10. The process has not gained public attention but the following questions now need to be asked from promoters of the GM corn/maize because a food crop is being commercialized in Pakistan and it seems we have not prepared for this. The following questions for the decision makers at Federal and provincial level need to be answered in the public interest:
Although European Union (EU) has recommended /approved GM/Bt maize or corn but major European countries do not allow planting/growing of genetically modified Corn/maize, WHY? These countries include; United Kingdom (U.K), France, Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany and Austria.
Why has India not allowed commercialization of Bt Brinjal and Bt Corn so far? Infact, Bt Brinjal was rejected for commercial approval in India in 2010 as its a food crop and care needs to be taken.
Major Asia-Pacific countries like India, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, China etc., still do not allow GM corn/maize. Why Pakistan should take lead?
So, how are companies going to increase yields? What are the bases of claiming yield increase? Large-scale trials still not held for Bt/GM corn in Pakistan. Only regulatory trials were held.
And if yields are increased, is there any market for the Pakistani GM corn abroad?
GM corn/maize crops can contaminate Non-GM corn/maize due to cross-pollination. How and who will ensure that this doesnt happen?
A minimum distance of 200-300 meters must be maintained between GM and Non-GM Bt Corn/maize crops to stop cross-pollination. How will this be done in Pakistan when fields virtually lie side by side?
Corn is an important food crop in Pakistan. In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, White Corn is especially used for human consumption. Are regulators willing to take the risk and allow genetically modified crops for humans????
Does Pakistan have a national or provincial insect management resistance plan or a laboratory to manage such a plan? Who is the technical expert in National Biosafety Committee to assess environmental risks and other aspects? To our knowledge, none so far
Why parliament of Pakistan has not been asked to make food laws on traceability of GM Crops so far?
What are the benefits or necessity of GM/Bt corn is essential for Pakistan?
Will companies be willing to compensate farmers and Pakistani Govt., authorities in case GM corn contaminates Non-GMO corn/maize?
We must realize that Corn/maize is very important feed/food crop. We should not go for GM corn/maize without clear vision and requirements. Please remember also that Pakistan is not a major Corn/maize producing countries. The effort to get Bt Corn/maize approval in Pakistan is to get business mileage/momentum for global players like Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta and will not bring any financial benefit to either these companies or our country. Its only to show, heres another country now producing genetically modified GM crops.