Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department has sent a summary to the Prime Minister Secretariat in connection with tabling of proposed Seed (Amendment) Bill 2010 in the National Assembly, since the bill lapsed on the dissolution of the Parliament in 2013 after completing its tenure.
The passage of the bill is immensely vital for ensuring provision of quality seed to farmers, said Syed Muhammad Nasir Ali Director General, Federal Seed Certification & Registration Department while speaking at a seminar on ‘Employing Modern Technologies in the Agriculture Sector’ which was held under the aegis of Agricultural Journalists Association (AJA) Lahore.
He added that modern technologies like introduction of genetically modified seeds could not be introduced due to lack of legal cover. ‘Inadequate legal cover has been a major challenge in launching of Bt cotton certification for the private seed sector,’ he observed. Moreover, he added, the private seed breeders cannot produce basic seed under the prevalent legal framework.
After the 18th Amendment, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights has informed that with the abolishment of the Concurrent Legislative list, the Environmental Protection Act, 1997 has become provincial subject. However, by virtue of paragraph (D) of Article 142 of the constitution, it still continues a valid law to the extent of Islamabad Capital Territory. Whereas, the provinces have executive as well as legislative authority with regard to Environmental Protection Act, 1997.
He stressed the need to remove obstacles in issuing Bt cotton certification in the country while addressing challenges relating to legal framework for clearance, regulation and certification. He said Bt cotton made its way in Pakistan since 2007. Officially it got green signal by the approval forums of Pakistan during March 2010. About 80 per cent of cotton grown area constitutes Bt varieties in Pakistan. However, he admitted that low level of Bt toxin in seeds has been a major problem.
Syed Nasir Ali said his department is also striving to introduce legislation on Plant Breeders’ Rights besides initiation of accreditation scheme for central seed testing lab. We are also in process of launching of Fruit Plant Certification Scheme, he added. Major functions of FSC&R Department are registration of crop varieties, crop inspection, seed sampling and testing, monitoring of seed quality in the market and at the port of entry.
Muhammad Asim Chairman Biotech Committee of CropLife Pakistan said his association is working for the promotion of sustainable agriculture through the process of research, development, manufacture and sale of new/innovative and safe products and services in the areas of plant biotechnology, seeds and crop protection products.
The basic purpose of CLP is to create and enhance acceptance of biotechnology by closely working with regulators, scientists, farmers, media, industry, academics and civil society, he added. He stressed the need to adopt modern technologies like biotechnology in the field of agriculture saying, Pakistan is close to using all of the available surface and ground water in its effort to meet food and fiber requirements. However, he added, it is projected that over 30 per cent more water will be needed to meet agricultural, domestic and industrial demand over the next 20 years. In this looming situation, there is dire need to enhance yields of crops while employing latest technologies. With increasing demand for food and limiting resources, he observed, we need better and more efficient ways to produce food one option is through biotechnology.
Dr Zafar Hayat senior member Farmers Associates of Pakistan (FAP) threw light on problems of cotton growers due to poor quality seeds and other related issues. He said there was vast scope for increasing per acre yield of cotton in the country. However, due to unregulated seed industry, farmers are unable to find certified cotton seed on sustainable basis.
He stressed the need to streamline issues relating to regulation of seed sector in the country. We are losing billions of rupees every year due to stagnating production of cotton despite having enormous potential to double the output of silver fibre, he said. For this purpose, he said, Pakistan should take measures for ensuring pure Bt cotton seed to farmers. We should reap the benefits of proper GM seed technology, he added. Among others, Babar Ayaz, Almas A Khan, President AJA also spoke on the occasion.