Dilemma of GM seeds
Recent approval of the Seed Act Amendment Bill 2014 by the Cabinet and National Assembly standing committee has not only strengthened the apprehensions that a plan has been made to mix and later completely replace local seeds with genetically modified (GM) seeds but also raised serious questions about the quality of future of agriculture in the country. This seed replacement plan, rather a conspiracy has been hatched by the leading international seed companies especially Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont Pioneer. They are engaging majority of the stakeholders like governments, politicians, agriculturists, farm experts, local seed companies and applying all negative tactics to win their support for GM seeds. Some states have altogether rejected this initiative after going into the experimental phase of GM crops. Much has already been discussed at various agriculture forums with reference to negative impacts of converting to GM seeds and its viral effects on other neighboring crops, human health as well as environment. At a time when agriculture subject has been assigned to provinces following the 18th constitutional amendment, the approval of the Seed Act Amendment Bill 2014 poses serious reservations. It has strongly been apprehended that this legislation may open the country to unrestricted import of GM seeds for which multinational seed companies have been aggressively lobbying for decades. Its approval without any procedural or testing hurdles would open the doors on foreign seeds of questionable quality and adaptability in the local agro climatic conditions. All Western countries are encouraging organic foods and selling GM seeds to less developed countries. Increasing Pakistans dependency on imported seed would mean increasing our trade deficit. Cotton and wheat are the cash crops and Pakistan agriculture production highly depends on these crops. The introduction of GM crops would certainly be tantamount to raising the risk of importing foreign crop diseases, something that local farmers cannot afford in any way. The government needs to rise to this grave situation and should safeguard welfare of local and especially small farmers by introducing seed breeding programmes in the country as done by India and China. These states have made it mandatory for multinational seed producing companies to grow seeds in their local environments, and also made US, which is the pioneer of GM seed technology, transfer this technology to them. Water shortage, environment issues as well as constantly rising prices of almost all agriculture inputs have squeezed opportunities especially for small farmers, and the international companies ultimate monopoly through launching GM seeds would further narrow down the chances for them to prosper.