LAHORE - The sale of illegal and substandard seed especially of cotton has become a common issue facing by farmers of Punjab and Sindh for years with no agriculture authority available to check the menace, TheNation has learnt.

No only at private level, the sale of genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds that have never been field tested is also done at government level.

The agriculture experts say that substandard seeds are harming 30 to 40 per cent yield of different crops and especially of cotton in both the provinces managing more than 90 per cent textile industry demand of the country. 

Dr Tariq Bucha, an agriculture expert, said that policy-makers in the country were real obstacle in development of agriculture in the country. He said that nobody in the federal and provincial governments is aware of his duties and responsibilities. Substandard seed and other costly agriculture inputs were plaguing the agriculture of Pakistan for years with totally absence of the government to control the menace.  Another agriculture expert Dr M. Ibrahim Mughal was of the view that cotton shared $17 billion of the $25 billion agriculture industry but unfortunately government never realised the destruction of the cotton industry. The situation of the other crops was also same, he said.

Ayoub Meo, agriculture expert, talking to TheNation said that availability of quality seeds was a major issue in Pakistan which, according to him, can only be resolved by encouraging reliable agricultural companies and making proper check and balance by the government. Provision of standard and high yielding seed to farmers was not a big issue if the government became serious in this regard, he added.

Ayoub said that developing countries like Pakistan would have to adopt genetically modified/biotech crops in the shortest time to ensure food security for rapidly growing population, saying that the future of agriculture growth depends on biotechnology. However, they regretted that the sale of substandard seeds especially Bt cotton seeds was important issue that needed to be addressed by the government on priority  They were of the common view: “Though the mighty fake seed mafia has been playing havoc with the agriculture of the country since long but it was not before the introduction Bt cotton in Pakistan through informal channel that this mafia really got the opportunity it was looking for – to penetrate into the market and sell everything in the name of Bt cotton.”

A representative of Monsanto Pakistan, an agriculture company which delivers agricultural products, informed the Monsanto is selling high-yielding hybrid corn and vegetables seeds in Pakistan, which are helping farmers getting very high yields.

 He said that availability of substandard seed by other private companies and seed mafia was also a major issue but no serious efforts had been made at government level to curb the crime.

An official of the agriculture department held that National Bio-safety Committee (NBC), the apex regulatory body responsible for testing and approving GM crops and organisms in the country, has processed more than 185 cases for the availability of standard seed to farmers and it was expected to decide the fate of new varieties of cotton, corn, wheat and sugarcane crops in near future.