Pakistan: Objections raised over commercialization of GM sugarcane crop

The Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) has called upon the National Biosafety Commission (NBC) to reject the proposal for the commercialisation of two genetically modified (GM) sugarcane crops, citing significant risks associated with GM agriculture.

In a recent press release, the PKMT strongly opposed the Technical Advisory Committee’s recommendation under the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in Islamabad. This committee approved the commercialisation of two high-yielding GM sugarcane varieties: insect-resistant transgenic sugarcane (CABB-IRS) and herbicide-tolerant transgenic sugarcane (CABB-HTS), both developed by the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. These varieties now await final approval from the NBC.

“The PKMT condemns this move, which would enhance corporate control over our food and agricultural production. The commercialisation of GM sugarcane will severely impact the country, particularly the agricultural sector. This would be Pakistan’s first GM food crop,” the organisation stated.

The PKMT cited the failure of Bt cotton in India as a cautionary tale and noted that Pakistani farmers are experiencing similar declines in cotton yields. They emphasized that GM crops are banned in several European Union countries, Turkey, and many other nations.

In 2019, an attempt to introduce GM maize in Pakistan was halted when the Ministry of National Food Security & Research distanced itself from approving genetically modified maize. The PKMT fears that the push for GM sugarcane represents another step towards undermining farmers’ rights over seeds and agricultural production, attributing this push to corporate lobbying.

The organisation connected the drive for GM crops to the TRIPs (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement under the WTO, which grants patent rights to large transnational corporations. The PKMT reiterated its demand for a moratorium on genetically modified seeds and foods in Pakistan and called for an immediate cessation of GM sugarcane promotion.

The PKMT also referenced a petition filed by various civil society organisations against the Amended Seed Act 2015, demanding an immediate hearing to address farmers’ rights to seeds.

“Given that sugarcane is used for ethanol production, this move will exacerbate the already severe environmental issues and further impoverish small and landless farmers. We firmly urge the National Biosafety Commission to reject the approval of these two GM sugar cane varieties,” the PKMT declared.


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