Oct 6, 2009

Bt cotton: How can Pakistan be left behind

You can't expect anything better. India and Pakistan can only compete with eachother for bad things. If India goes for a nuclear bomb, Pakistan must follow. If Pakistan develops a long distance missile, India must try to beat it with a still more effective and powerful missile.

I am sure you can find many such examples. I sometimes wonder why isn't the political leadership and the intellingentsia in both the countries wise enough to look inwards and make genuine efforts to fight poverty and hunger. The elite in both the countries looks towards the west for solutions (often these are idiotic) for the problems they continue to face. If they had had the courage and wisdom to search within their borders for solutions to sustainable development, probably hunger and poverty in India and Pakistan would have been history by now.

It therefore didn't come as shock to me when I read the news report saying that India and Pakistan had decided to trade in Bt cotton seeds. What else could you have expected from a sterile leadership that exists in science and agriculture. The terrible agrarian crisis that India is faced with (and which continue to prevail in Pakistan for several decades now) emanates from the faulty paradigm of agriculture that has been thrust upon.

Bt cotton is one such example of a regressive and destructive technology. A few weeks back, I had mentioned in this blog how Pakistan was encouraging illicit trade in Bt cotton seeds between the two countries. They had simply turned a blind eye to the smuggling of Bt cotton seed from across the border. Knowing from the past experience, it was quite obvious that the underhand trade in Bt cotton seeds was being allowed simply to build up a market so that the trade could be legalised in the days to come.

Remember the story of illegal cultivation of Bt cotton in Gujarat (before it was officially approved for cultivation)? Not only in Gujarat, the same modus operandi was also adopted in Argentina to eventually push for the official approval for GM seeds. I am therefore not amazed at the opening up of trade in Bt cotton seeds between India and Pakistan.

Thanks to Bt cotton, more and more Indian cotton farmers have been sent to the gallows. All I can therefore say is that God now save the Pakistani cotton farmers !

Anyway, here is the news report from the pages of The Hindustan Times:

India, Pakistan sow seeds of cooperation

By Chetan Chauhan

Genetically modified (GM) cotton may achieve what months of diplomacy between India and Pakistan could not: cooperation between the two countries.India’s Bt Cotton seeds that helped the country double its cotton production in seven years will soon be available to farmers in Pakistan. Bt or Bacillus Thuringiensis is a bacterium that produces crystals proteins that are toxic to many species of insects and pests.

India’s regulatory body for GM crops, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), under the environment and forest ministry, gave permission to top GM seed companies like Monsanto, Hyderabad-based Bayer Hybrid Seeds and Aurangabad-based Nath Biogene in September to export GM hybrid seeds to Pakistan for trials.

“It provides us a good opportunity to test highly successful GM cotton seeds in a similar geographical terrain in Pakistan,” said Jagresh Rana, director, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech. “Bt Cotton is grown on the Indian side of border in Abhor in Punjab and normal cotton is grown on a similar soil in Pakistan. One can see the difference. We have no reason to believe that India’s cotton success story cannot be replicated in Pakistan.”

With the approval, the Indian government has put to rest claims in the Pakistan media that India was unwilling to share its cotton success story with Pakistan. “Our bonhomie with our neighbours (Pakistan) on environment issues from climate change to GM is good,” said Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

To improve Pakistan’s standing in the international cotton market, where it is the fourth largest producer after China, India and the United States, Indian companies were the first to get an import permit for testing of Bt Cotton hybrid seeds from the Pakistan government earlier this year.

In Pakistan’s Punjab and Sindh provinces, some untested varieties of Bt Cotton from China ar
e reportedly being grown since 2005 without permission of the federal government. But, its results have not done farmers any good.

“It is a beginning of a new agriculture era in Pakistan,” said Rana Shafiq, general secretary of Past Indian Farmers Forum, a body of farmers from the Punjabs on both sides of the border, welcoming India-Pakistan cooperation on agriculture issues. He, however, added that like in India many civil right groups opposed introduction of GM crops in Pakistan.


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