Govt stops GM corn seeds sale as pressure builds

STAFF REPORT ISB: As pressure has started mounting from agricultural scientists and farmers, the government has stopped the commercial sale of genetically modified (GM) corn seeds, in an about-turn after its earlier permission to certain multinational companies to market their seeds, but without meeting the basic criteria.

A federal secretary, who was part of a recent meeting held at the Ministry of Climate Change, told the media that the stakeholders present in the huddle decided that the green signal for commercial sale of GM corn seeds would be taken back until a new decision in order to appease the scientists and farmers can be reached.

“The meeting participants agreed to look into the matter again and consider all aspects including implications for the agriculture sector,” a senior official said.

The government allowed the use of two varieties of GM corn seeds namely Insect Protection and Herbicide Tolerant. However, the ministry kept the matter secret and even minutes of a relevant meeting were not provided to the ministries and departments concerned because of fears that the information would be shared.

The move sparked criticism as the scientists and farmers asked how the government could give the approval without undertaking a large-scale open-field trial of the technology in Pakistan.

Experts argue that no authority can approve the commercial sale of GM corn seeds or any other GM crop without a large-scale open-field trial and Pakistan has become a unique case where such approval has been given

Commenting on the latest development, Monsanto official Aamir Mirza said the company had neither been invited to the last meeting nor had it been officially informed about the decision. “It may be their internal meeting and we have not got any information,” he said.

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