1.Punjab drops Bt cotton idea
2. GM corn could damage Pakistan's farming
1.Punjab drops Bt cotton idea
The News [Pakistan], January 3 2012
LAHORE: Punjab, the largest cotton producing province of the country, has decided to drop the proposal of formally introducing certified imported seed of Bt cotton primarily on financial grounds that outweigh the benefits of biotechnology, officials told The News here on Monday.
Arif Nadeem, secretary agriculture Punjab, said that Punjab had dropped the idea of introducing Bt cotton seed in collaboration with Monsanto. He said negotiations in this connection had ended without yielding any tangible result.
A major reason why policy makers in Punjab have decided to cancel finalising deal with biotech giant Monsanto is the changing cotton scene, official sources say.
The biggest threat to cotton in Punjab has been mutated type of cotton leaf curl virus and there is no remedy available with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton seed against this menace, the sources add. Top officials of provincial agriculture department say that mealy bug has emerged as a potent threat to cotton plant and genetically modified (GM) seed of cotton provides no solution to it.
Moreover, they say, it is a harsh fact that difference of opinions exists over effectiveness of Bt cotton against various pests. They add that there have been reports of adverse impacts of this technology on other plants and on environment.
One such example has been ailing animals feeding on cotton cake that was prepared with seeds of Bt cotton in parts of Punjab. Officials maintain that the case study of India is also there which negates the claim of increasing yield of cotton mainly due to genetically modified organisms.
High costs of cultivation and low returns after the introduction of Bt cotton in India have trapped Indian growers in a debt trap. Besides, there have been reports of adverse impact on human health such as allergic symptoms as well as toxicity in animals grazing on the Bt cotton fields.
The benefits of GM cotton include tolerance against various types of stresses. However, officials say, stress tolerance of the Bt cotton, such as surviving adverse weather conditions, has been stated to be very low.
Ahmad Ali Aulakh, Punjab minister for agriculture, has been a staunch opponent of finalising a deal with Monsanto for introduction of its Bt cotton seed.
In a recent conversation, he clearly said that he opposed finalising deal with Monsanto as a province like Punjab simply cannot afford such arrangements.
He said that he had also convinced Punjab Chief Minister in this regard. He maintained that GM cotton was no remedy to the problems and it was also too costly for poor farmers.
It may be noted that GM cotton was developed by adding a toxic gene (Bacillus thuringiensis) in seed, causing production of this natural insecticide in its tissues that kills various pests.
2.Genetically modified corn, maize damage Pak farming
Technology Times [Pakistan], January 2 2012
SPECIAL REPORT IBD: Pakistan is fast heading towards a serious disaster in the field of corn, maize and cotton sectors as attempts are being made to get formal approval of the Biotech/BT corn or maize seeds which carry heavy risks involved in terms of high costs as well as polluting other maize varieties.
It is to be mentioned here that genetically modified seed producing companies Pioneer, Syngenta and Monsanto have submitted applications for commercialization of genetically modified (GM/BT corn or maize).
According to experts, the issues that need to be looked into are; should Pakistanapprove Bt corn/maize? What is the logic for commercialization of corn and maize seeds in Pakistan, when major European countries (UK, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria) have banned these plantation; how to control pollution of related to cross-pollination from Bt corn/maize; what is the benefit when the hybrid corn/maize seeds are already producing yields of 80-120 maunds per acre?
Currently, with no public or scientific debate and pro-GM data manipulated by the seed sector, the seed companies in Pakistan are pushing for approval for the commercial planting of GM corn/maize.
Experts say that undeniably, there are huge potential risks associated with planting GM corn, such as the unknown consequences of implanted genes spreading to native varieties, a concern which was also raised in Mexico after a field trial of GM maize was authorized.
"Biosafety laws need to be implemented in letter and spirit if we want to grow GM crops, and this is wherePakistanis not doing too well," remarked Dr. Saqib Elahi, who is working extensively on seed quality.
He said that our regulatory bodies do not have the capacity yet to properly assess the benefits or dangers of genetically modified crops.
The big challenge ahead for those engaged in the GM crops approval process inPakistanis not how to promote or stop the technology but rather to find ways to ensure that GM crops benefit the country and farmers, not just the multinational corporations who are eyeingPakistanas a big agriculture profit opportunity.
The farmers' concerns multiply as the national regulatory bodies like National Biosafety Commission (NBC) and Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) have so far not countered the pro-Genetically Modified crops lobby on any issue.
Experts say that it's time that we seriously look into the merits and de-merits of all this and take a decision after careful deliberations and not come under pressure from the lobbies led by Pioneer and Monsanto.
Unfortunately, the main proponents of GM crops in Pakistan (Pioneer, Monsanto & Syngenta) have so far given no clue about how Bt corn/maize contamination can be prevented in Pakistan and why seed prices are so high.
The Monsanto spokesperson claimed that GM maize is not sexually compatible with any indigenous or introduced wild plant species present in Pakistan. Therefore, the potential for genetic transfer and exchange with other plants is limited to cross pollination to other cultivated maize plants.
According to sources, a 16-page report titled "TAC Sub-Committee Recommendations and Findings" was prepared by the Monsanto Pakistan, and certain members of the committee tried to adopt it, instead of evaluating the findings themselves.
It is to be mentioned here that in Pakistan, temperate climatic condition prevails and the temperature rises above 40C and also can be less than 10C during maize growing seasons. In tropical areas like the Philippines, temperature is around 30C most of the year," he observed. "So we cannot compare yield of hybrid seed used in Tropical region with temperate regions," an expert observed.
"It's a deliberate attempt to keep these discussions and proceedings in low profile in order to avoid any outcry by the farmers and conscious citizens," said some sources to this scribe.
Punjab drops Monsanto's Bt cotton plan
1.Punjab drops Bt cotton idea