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Claims on GM cotton, corn crops yields increase stand exposed.

Byline: Paras Ali

THOUGH PAKISTAN has the privilege of producing the cotton of international quality, which has the potential to earn a huge foreign exchange, yet its per acre yield (productivity) has not shown any significant progress for the last over five years despite the national seed companies had introduced genetically modified (Bt) cotton in the country.

Unluckily, multinational companies could not succeed in introducing this crucial productive technology to Pakistan. The multinational companies including Monsanto and Bayer Crop Sciences conducted GM cotton trials in different locations in Pakistan to seek approval from the government's regulatory bodies. The main point in favour of this crop is that it provides resistance against pests (four type of cotton borers), therefore, less crop damage and increase yields.

The data released by the United States Agriculture Department (USDA) shows that since 1990 the cotton yields remained the same and the GM cotton since 1996 has made no difference in average crop yields in Pakistan. "Per acre cotton yield has failed to show any progress despite the international companies are regularly conducting trials in Pakistan creating doubts about the efficacy of the GM crop due to having substandard expression of Bt toxin which is a recipe of self disaster," remarked a cotton expert associated with the country's cotton research and development sector.

Quoting the yearly production level of cotton in Pakistan, he said that in 1990 the per acre yield was registered 615 kilogram while it was 726 kilogram in 2012 posting 1.7 per cent average progress, despite using over 90 per cent Bt cotton seed, which is nothing in the wake of these companies' tall claims of improving cotton yield through GM varieties.

The expert explained that this negative trend is not with Pakistan alone as other countries like United States have also witnessed no tangible progress in cotton yields on per hectare basis. However, in Australia the per acre yield of GM cotton remained high up to the level of 1552 kilogram in 1990 to 1948 kilogram in 2012 as compared to that in Pakistan. "This difference could be due to the difference in the level of weather conditions and not by the GM varieties," they explained.

According to the data, same was the case with the GM corn in the US as in 1987 its production level was 8 metric tons per acre while in 2012 it was the same beside earlier adopter of GM/ Biotechnology.

According to a senior researcher associated with an international cotton R and D project, requesting anonymity, said that the problem in Pakistan is that while the government agencies have given approval for GM crop trials but they have not challenged and considered such glaring data. "There is a desperate need for having committees at provincial level in order to assess the issues of GM crops instead of giving hasty approvals to GM crops," he suggested.

"Pakistan strongly needs a comprehensive agriculture policy as well as cotton policy as the seed system is almost paralysed in the country, updated variety, seed and quarantine laws are pending for authorisation by government since last ten years. Agriculture laws which support technology induction should be implemented", maintained by Dr Tassawar Hussain Malik, Consultant, Pak-US Cotton Productivity Enhancement Programme (C-PEP). He suggested saying this is only way to improve the per acre yield.

Pakistan is at 4th position at the world area wise cotton production, but on average cotton production it stood on 16th or 17th position. Similarly, the horizontal expansion is touching at its highest limits except Baluchistan, but unfortunately vertically it is not developing.

The project executive explained that the maximum cotton seed germination is about 40 to 50 per cent against a national standard of 75 per cent. "We are using almost 90 per cent Bt seed in Pakistan while the available cotton verities are not on optimum level with respect to the toxin expression, they are under expression which can control the pest but will promote the development of resistance in the insects and they could be checked even with the use of high grade technology in the future," he maintained while implicating the local seed sector who has been refraining to implement the seed laws in Pakistan.
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Title Annotation:genetically modified
Author:Ali, Paras
Publication:Technology Times
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Mar 31, 2013
Words:702
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