PAKISTAN FIRST started its biogenetics institute at Faisalabad in 1983 as National Institute of Biogenetic Engineering (NIBGE). I was there in the Planning Commission and I was told that to be in the forefront of the food security aspect this was what was required. I tried to look at the past record there was none. If they have done wonders since then one is not in the know. All that I know is that some of Pakistans employed as scientists are playing turkey with the system. No new invention has come through.
Agriculture has been with mankind since time immemorial. That mankind has done well without manipulation of fundamentals of the genetic system. So where was the need? For some time now I have been part of the visits to China where one witnesses eastern wisdom in action. There has been a considerable amount of criticism of China based on what the Western media portrayed. China since then has improved by leaps and bounds and is now the worlds second largest economy. That they did it on its own is also well known. Western politicians have been going to China in search of investment. Two most famous were Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel and China promised to help them out via a financial bailout. China did but then sent out a message that the West must handle their macroeconomic framework better.
China has done all this without tech time or high tech. The Three Gorges Dam is a miracle and one is reminded of the doomsayers telling everyone that life in China is terrifying and that the dam would collapse as no Western-style feasibility had been done. The dam stands today and doing what we have not been able to do with our own long standing experience with dams. So did the Chinese go in for high tech and technology. No, they went in for eastern wisdom based on pragmatism. The success of the Chinese model is for all to witness. A much larger question rests with the developing countries and they have to internalise their ownselves and make it to a level of which they can be proud. The Chinese have done so the Iranians have done so and I can make a number of other observations of the kind of models that they have followed.
The West has been promising tech products and making them look desirable through crops that may be frost resistance, potatoes without brown spots, and soybeans with bolstered nutrition, vaccine delivering fruits and milk enhancement in animals. In wheat sector they are trying to develop sticky wheat for high quality noodles as well as amylase wheat with high nutrition quality. My apprehensions were found to be correct. Of the MNCs Monsanto and Novartis have been at the forefront of all this. Can it be that plants are in the business of controlling humans rather than the other way round?
Plants and flowers have managed to modify their strategies despite the fact that they are unlike humans unable to think. The use of flowers as deterrent to pests has not been encouraged and we go the way of chemical sprays to get rid of those insects and pests that have been lured by the strategies of the plants to reinvigorate themselves. The pesticide regime was particularly harmful to the women cotton farmers of the southern Punjab where cancer became the predominant disease that they carried.
Why are people and countries worried about the consequences of genetically modified crops and why should the Europeans be so skeptical about the final outcome? Fears include human control of evolution, loss of biodiversity, catastrophic crop failures due to homogenous weaknesses and patenting and control of seeds that have been free for thousands of years. Monsanto came to Pakistan with GMO seeds and wanted a subsidy from the Federal government and also went to the Punjab government.
The subsidy that they wanted was in millions of dollars and the seed promised was to have safeguards against one pestwhitefly. The crop was of 11 months duration which meant that the country would have lost out on the second crop-that of wheat. The powers that be went in support of the MNC. Besides this they wanted also a three year period to map the cotton belt-funny that the Worlds biggest power wanted to use to map. What? Your guess is as good as mine. People objected to subsidising the MNC and to allowing them the right to access the rural areas of Pakistan. Were they behaving on their own or were they set up? After the three year period that were supposed to sell their seeds at $62 per kilogram. With the declining rupee vis a vie the dollar that meant that the seed would be available to the farming community at an exorbitant price. Thanks to some national orientation this was suitably countered.
The Chinese wisdom that was used otherwise was definitely superior to the Monsanto model. The local hybrids developed by Dr. Zar were one hundred and ten day crop, was tolerant to frost and was high yielding. They were introduced in Islamabad, in Mardan, in DI Khan and in Malakand. They effort then was to destroy the capability that was locally developed. What was the purpose of selling the seeds and why was a developed countrys staff involved in marketing the seeds of an MNC. Was the MNC incapable of handling the market place? The entire Potohar area was found suitable for this.
The government backed out after the demolition of the decision makers was complete. The slight of hand was not identified by a nation that is suffering from complex personality issues. That need not be gone into at this stage. The private sector has taken over the effort and although the progress is slow yet progress is visible. Simply because of the obvious advantages that follow.
What would have happened was that Pakistans comparative advantage would have been lost as the high cost of seed would have made the products uncompetitive. Pakistan has been guilty of getting decision makers from the West to do their thinking for them. It is better to die from ones own mistakes than be a slave to the desires and wishes of others. This applies to all even countries.
The fight goes on; the poor relevant versus the rich powerful irrelevant. If during the times of the colonialists Nandkumar could be hanged for forgery during the times of Robert Clive in the subcontinent what next? Physical imperialism has been replaced by economic imperialism. Want to argue?
Pakistans experience with governments and MNCs promoting GMO has not been very satisfying. That is a decent way to put it. A European put it this way. There is some sickness spreading across Europe right now as a bunch of people are trying to get rich by telling that nature isnt good enough and that we will have to take genes from where ever and put them elsewhere if we want to survive. The basic rules of life are being changed by these selfish individuals to serve their own selfish purposes.