And now agriculture terrorism!

The approval of commercialization of still controversial GM corn and Bt cotton without open field trials and in the absence of regulatory SOPs is still hard for the stakeholders to digest, and now attempts are being made to introduce GM potato seed in Pakistan. Most recently events were arranged where salt tolerant potatoes were introduced to the audience. Uptill now there is nothing on ground in terms of open field trials of GM potato but unfortunately this food item, which majority of population in the country uses, is being introduced right under the nose of relevant authorities. Salt-tolerant potatoes are genetically modified to be able to grow in high-salinity. If proven commercially feasible, the innovation can bring a viable option for innumerable farmers who are currently unable to grow crops on their saline landholdings and provide a new lease of life for communities that suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition. But here a major question arises that where is the regulatory approval for GM potato? Or is every GM crop is now free to be grown in Pakistan environment? This is nothing but it could be just “agricultural bioterrorism” as the government and regulatory bodies have opened doors by ignoring biosafety laws – Seed Act, other international protocols under for foreign aid agencies and MNCs to carry out their businesses in the name of food insecurity, hunger, climate change, poverty and water shortage. Salt-affected land is a worldwide problem as 1.5 billion hectares across the globe are affected and the problem is still growing. Pakistan is no exception as a large number of farmers here are abandoning salt-hit lands for agriculture. They would prefer to adopt GM potato crop as it would bring a positive economic change in their life. But before entering this stage, there must be open field trials of this crop. Canada for example is growing GM crops only for export as these crops are banned in that state. There the government planned to conduct tests after few years to determine impact on human health. And only then a decision on whether these GM crops are fit for consumption by Canadian citizens will be taken. Pakistan is an agriculture dependent state and about 30 sectors are directly or indirectly engaged with the farming sector. Environment issues are still unresolved rather haunting the agriculture sector as well as human health. At this stage, introduction of GM crops particularly potato without conducting any open field trials would be a misadventure that the whole Pakistani nation is no position to afford.

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