Amended Seed Act, 2014 irks stakeholders
BY AHSAN JAMIL ISD:
The GMO crop imposition by the federal government of Pakistan in term of the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2014 has instilled soreness amongst macro and micro entities of agriculture sector. The bill allows import of GM seeds and their intellectual property rights (IPR), which goes against the social practices and seed culture of Pakistani farmers. The said bill was approved by the National Assembly in this month.
The adversaries of GMO crop do express sweltering concerns about food insecurity that may lead to severe dependency on multinationals due to commercialization of GMO crops in Pakistan and their IP rights. Opponents of GMO believe that mandatory lawful procedures have not been followed in amendment of Seed Act 1976.
One of the major contentions emanated by rebels of the bill is that the federal government has not taken prior consent from provincial governments for amendment of the act that was obligatory after 18th amendment of constitution of Pakistan. According to various circles in agriculture sector this is contemptible violation of the article 142(c) of the constitution.
Furthermore, a sneak into near past paints a more ominous picture; honorable Lahore High Court (LHC) rescinded the authority of Pakistan Environmental Agency to issue BT Cotton (a genetically modified variety of cotton crop) license in its decision of May 12, 2014. Surprisingly, a certificate from National Biosafety Committee (NBC) which is a committee of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA-PAK) was made compulsory for registration of GMO crop. This has unfolded a new avenue of debate that how a certificate from an organization having no lawful authority has been made compulsory to obtain?
There are several sworn opponents of GM crops in the federal government tiers as well. Earlier this month, Mushahidullah Khan, Minister of Climate Change has said while talking to media, “It is part of my conviction that the GM food and pesticides applied on them are the main causes of diseases such as cancer and other health problems, including low fertility in males.”
The same affect has been manifested in the livestock when bt cotton seedcake was used. In 2013, at Military Farm Okara aflatoxins was found in the animals, which caused cattle mortality and non-preference to bt cotton seedcake.
Erstwhile official of Punjab Seed Corporation, Mohammad Boota Sarwar remarked about the law, “The law has been passed to gratify the multinational GM seed producing companies.”
The Pakistan Amended Seed Act, 2014 has also scampered fright amongst farmers` community and they are at serious peril due to visible hovering challenge of foreign GM seeds that will occupy the seed market and bolster multinational GM seed producing companies.
It is also noteworthy that Clause 28 (2) of Plant Quarantine Act 1976 does not allow import of cotton seed in the country more than 1 pound and this amended act contradicts the same violently thus ransacking food security and opportunities for farmers.
Highlighting the status of seed producing companies, former Governor Punjab (Chair of Joint Action Group on Cotton Seed) said that 700 Seed Companies are bogus out of 750 registered companies working in Pakistan with recognized legal status under Seed Act 1976.
The law is expected to promulgate after senate and presidential approval within few months. However, the stakeholders such as agriculture scientists, farmers still urge government to reverse the law and make necessary provisions in it, in order to attain food security and harness the inkling of farmers in particular which have already been shuddered since the law has passed. It appears as if the law is reduced to pander just multinational GM seed producing companies instead of evolving agriculture sector as a whole keeping food security intact.