In Pakistan, the debate over Genetically Modified Organisms including seeds (GMOs) is polarized, with concerns about their impact on sustainable farming practices countered by the need for food security in the face of population growth. GM seeds are a significant step forward in the production of agricultural crops. GM seeds are seeds that have been modified to contain specific characteristics such as resistance to herbicides or resistance to pests.

These seeds are created in labs for desirable traits by injecting seeds with genes from other plants. Some of these traits could be withstanding drier weather conditions or harmful insects. The National Academy for Science, the United States’ number one source for independent objective advice to the nation on matters of science and technology, concluded that GMOs are safe for human health. However, the debate is still going on for and against these products.

We have wasted a lot of precious national time in not being able to resolve the conundrum of these organisms being a bane or a boon for a perpetually food insecure country like Pakistan. Lately, we have been importing wheat, cotton, soybean oil, sugar, lentils and even fresh vegetable and fruits by spending a lot of precious foreign exchange. In the meantime, our population is growing at an alarming rate with some estimate showing us to be crossing the 400 million mark by the year 2044. Currently, we are standing at 5th most populous country in the world with 5.6 million children born every year. With this set of numbers staring us in the face, we don’t have the luxury of debating forever the viability of GMOs in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

It is heartening to note that the Federal Ministry of National Food Security & Research is trying to address this issue by seeking input and feedback of all relevant stakeholders. The ongoing discussions on importing and cultivating GMO oilseeds involve key ministries like Climate Change and Science and Technology, emphasizing the importance of providing accurate information and addressing concerns. Being a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol, Pakistan handles GMO policies on a case-by-case basis under the ambit of the Ministry of Climate Change. Notably, commercial cultivation of GMO cotton since 2010 has shown a consistent safety record. To address concerns in Pakistan, proposed amendments to the Biosafety Rules aim to fortify regulations, aligning them with international standards. Scientific evidence supports the safety of GMOs, with organizations and regulatory bodies ensuring the purity of non-GMO exports.

Internationally, countries such as Brazil, the USA, and Argentina have embraced GMOs, leading to increased crop yields and reduced environmental impact. China’s recent approval of GMO seed production reflects a global trend, enhancing yields and reducing reliance on imports. In the USA, GMO crops have been extensively used with a robust safety record. Scientific studies, including those by the National Academy of Sciences, attest to the safety of GMO consumption. Reassuringly, the safe use of GMOs has been a focal point in China, evident in large-scale trials that showcased outstanding results and safety in agriculture.

In conclusion, a balanced perspective is essential. Scientific consensus supports the safety and benefits of GMOs, provided there’s rigorous testing, adherence to regulatory protocols, and a collaborative approach. We as a country need to address this issue in a holistic manner by listening to all sides and addressing the concerns of those who seriously think that the introduction of GMOs in Pakistan will undermine the sustainability of agriculture and may cause challenges to public health and environment. On the other hand, the scientific evidence supporting the use of such seeds without much harm may also be considered and a consensus be achieved as early as possible.

Initiatives by Pakistan’s Ministry of National Food Security to facilitate an open discourse would help to foster a better understanding and pave the way for a sustainable approach to GMOs in agriculture. Embracing GM oilseeds could be a strategic step to address food security challenges in Pakistan.

(The writer is a civil servant with deep interest in the oil and gas sector)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

QOSHE - Scientific consensus supports the safety and benefits of GMOs… - Sajid Mehmood Qazi
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Scientific consensus supports the safety and benefits of GMOs…

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26.01.2024

In Pakistan, the debate over Genetically Modified Organisms including seeds (GMOs) is polarized, with concerns about their impact on sustainable farming practices countered by the need for food security in the face of population growth. GM seeds are a significant step forward in the production of agricultural crops. GM seeds are seeds that have been modified to contain specific characteristics such as resistance to herbicides or resistance to pests.

These seeds are created in labs for desirable traits by injecting seeds with genes from other plants. Some of these traits could be withstanding drier weather conditions or harmful insects. The National Academy for Science, the United States’ number one source for independent objective advice to the nation on matters of science and technology, concluded that GMOs are safe for human health. However, the debate is still going on for and against these products.

We have wasted a lot of precious national time in not being able to resolve the conundrum of these organisms being a bane or a boon for a perpetually food........

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