Certified BT cotton seed: unavailability likely to hit commodity production

September 10, 2013


BT cotton
BT cotton

Certified cotton seed is becoming a serious issue, as no certified BT cotton seed would be available for cultivation for the upcoming season due to non-approval of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) cotton seed varieties by National Bio-safety Committee which may encourage seed-mafia, besides negatively affecting the commodity production, it is learnt.

Official sources revealed that Pakistan being a signatory to the international Cartagena Protocol on Bio-Safety had to regulate GMO by setting up a Bio-safety System. National Bio-safety Committee (NBC) and Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (PEPA) had the responsibility to evaluate, regulate and monitor GMO for lab/field research and recommended their production on commercial scale for marketing.

Official revealed that the NBC had not held its meeting since February 2011, which had delayed the regulatory process required to test and approve GMOs crops, adding that applications submitted by various public and private sectors organisations seeking approval of different GMO crops were yet to be reviewed by the NBC.

“Currently only transgenic crop commercially cultivated in Pakistan is cotton and eight BT cotton varieties and one Hybrid were approved by Punjab Seed Council (PSC) in April 2010 and their commercialisation certificate was granted by the NBC. In February 2012, the PSC provisionally approved eight BT varieties (Tarzen-1, MNH-886, NS-141, FH-114, IR-NIBGE-3, CIM-598, Sitara-009 and A-One) subject to the grant of commercialisation certificate from the NBC and TAC to clear cases before consideration by the NBC,” sources maintained.

Secretary Textile Ministry wrote a letter to Secretary Ministry of Climate Change to hold a special meeting of the TAC and NBC for commercialisation of cotton varieties. The TAC fixed its 17th meeting for December 13, 2012, but the cases of commercialisation of cotton varieties were not included. After taking the Secretary on board, Cotton Commissioner pointed out the issue to JS Ministry of Climate Change and requested to include the cases in the agenda. Ministry of Climate Change took the position that the application of commercialisation of cotton varieties had been misplaced from the office and might be re-submitted, by co-ordinating with the breeders/institutes concerned, sources added.

According to an official, the TAC postponed its meeting and set it on January 22, 2013, but again the cotton commercialisation cases were not on the agenda. After discussing the matter with Secretary Textile, Cotton Commissioner wrote to DG (PEPA) requesting to include the cotton cases in the agenda. The Secretary Textile called Minister for Climate Change requesting him for early convening of meeting and the TAC in response postponed its meeting and took the position that after allowing GM cultivation in the country, Pakistan will be declared GM crop growing country and it may have impact on its exports and sought textile ministry”s views.

Sources further said that textile ministry conveyed its views on GM cotton cultivation in Pakistan on February 11, 2013. The TAC set its 17th meeting on April 03, 2013, without the commercialisation cases on the agenda. Cotton Commissioner again wrote a letter to DG (PEPA) requesting him to include the commercialisation certificate cases in the agenda, which was honoured. The TAC constituted a TAC Sub-committee to evaluate the cases, however it was also decided the decisions of sub-committee would be placed before NBC directly. First meeting of the sub-committee was held on April 26, 2013 at Faisalabad. The sub-committee recommended the approval of commercialisation for two years. It was also proposed that complete cases might be submitted to the NBC for consideration. The NBC has not been convened, to grant commercialisation certificate to the varieties approved in 2012. The commercialisation certificates granted to varieties approved in 2010 were for three years, which have expired.

Punjab Seed Council in its meeting held on May 23, 2013 rejected the conditional approval of 15 new Bt cotton varieties and desired the BT varieties must be cleared from the NBC before submitting them to the PSC. Secretary Agriculture, Government of Punjab also constituted a committee to hold a meeting with Climate Change Division on the issue. Without commercialisation certificate and approval of Punjab Seed Council, Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department cannot certify seed for general cultivation and for this reason; availability of certified seed remained a serious issue.

BT Cotton varieties in Pakistan which were granted certificate for three years (now expired) included IR-3701, Neelum-121, FH-113, Sitara-008, MG-6, Ali Akbar-703, Ali Akbar 802, IR-1524 and GN Hybrid-2085. BT cotton varieties waiting for commercialisation certificate included; Tarzen-1, VH-259, MNH-886, BH-178, NS-141, CIM-599, FH-114, CIM-602, IR-NIBGE-3 FH-118, CIM-598, FH-142, Sitara 009,IR-NIBGE-824, A-One IUB-222, Sayaban-201, Sitara-11M, A-555, KZ-181, Tarzan-2 and CA-12. This correspondent repeatedly contacted JS Ministry of Climate Change (With Additional charge of Secretary) Raja Hassan Abbas, who is the chairman of the NBC, but was informed by his office that he is not available. Courtesy BR

Published in ZaraiMedia.com

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