STAFF REPORT ISB: Domestic seed companies catering to the needs of genetically modified (GM) crops are offered a satisfactory return in the country that is a dominant player in agriculture production.

These companies, while promoting their seeds, have not disturbed conventional farming practices and farmers freely exchange GM crop seeds without any threat of penalty and flouting the law.

Multinational firms, however, are unable to seize the opportunity due to what they say a lack of protection law. They, particularly the US agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology giant, Monsanto, are seeking exclusive rights for marketing seeds, coming in for a lot of flak from other players.

The multinationals argue they are being ditched as domestic companies fear MNCs will snatch their market share. Local firms have also wider influence in the bureaucracy and government circles, which have a role in policy-making, they say.

The farmers, most of which are illiterate, are not aware of the application and outcome of planting GM seeds and are comfortable with the conventional way of farming. They, however, are ready to sow the seeds marketed by multinationals, but without caring for the result.

Pakistan has introduced National Biosafety Rules 2005, under the supervision of National Biosafety Council, to regulate local companies and there are no rules to shield multinational firms, making them shy of working in the country.

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