Commercialisation of genetically modified sugar cane crops strongly opposed

KARACHI: Highlighting the hazards of genetically modified (GM) crops, the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) has urged the National Biosafety Commission (NBC) to reject the proposal for commercialisation of two GM sugar cane crops.

In a press release, the PKMT stated that it strongly opposed the recent move of the Technical Advisory Committee, operating under the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), Islamabad, wherein it had approved and recommended commercialisation of two high-yielding GM varieties of sugar cane; insect-resistant transgenic sugar cane (CABB-IRS) and herbicide-tolerant transgenic sugar cane (CABB-HTS) developed by the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. It now needs final approval of the NBC.

“The PKMT denounced this attempt. This will further allow the corporate sector to control our food and agricultural production. The approval for GM sugar cane commercialisation will be disastrous for the country, especially for the agriculture sector. It will be the first GM food crop in Pakistan,” officials of the non-profit organisation stated in a press release.

The world, they said, had already witnessed the failure of Bt cotton crop in India; farmers had borne the brunt of the Bt cotton, and the rapidly falling cotton yield in Pakistan was also a testimony to the fact.

“It’s also to be noted that GM crops are banned in several European Union (EU) countries as well as Turkey and many other countries.”

They recalled that in 2019, there was an attempt to introduce maize seed in Pakistani market, but the Ministry of National Food Security & Research distanced itself from the approval of genetically modified maize.

“Now, after the failure of Bt Cotton, and disapproval of GM maize, another attempt is being made, which will only further undermine farmer’s collective rights over seeds and agriculture production. There is no doubt that the corporate sector for the past many years has been lobbying for the commercial use of GM crops.”

“Granting of patent rights to mega-transnational corporations springs from the TRIPs (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) agreement of the WTO. The PKMT reiterates its demand for a moratorium on genetically modified seeds and foods in the country and immediate stoppage of GM sugar cane promotion.”

The organisation also referred to the petition filed by various civil society organisations against the Amended Seed Act 2015, and demanded an immediate hearing of the petition pertaining to matters to farmers’ collective rights to seeds.

“It’s well known that sugar cane is used for ethanol production. This move will exacerbate the extremely dire situation of environmental catastrophe, not to mention the increasing pauperisation of small and landless farmers. We strongly urge the National Biosafety Committee to disapprove the two varieties,” the organisation stated.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2024

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