LAHORE - The Lahore High Court yesterday issued notice to food ministry in a petition challenging Pakistan Amended Seed Act, 2015, allegedly for being against the fundamental rights of farmers and for being passed at the behest of US multinational seed manufacturing companies.

Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of the LHC passed the order and adjourned further hearing until January 19. Advocate Sheraz Zaka, a local lawyer, had filed the petition submitting that the farmers had been made bound through Pakistan Amended Act 2015 to buy seeds from a licensed company or its agent and that they had to do so every time they cultivate a new crop.  This would create a monopoly of companies and make farmers dependent on multinational corporations, he stated. He pointed out lacunas in the said law saying that the conditions required under the impugned Act would lead to increase in prices of agricultural products and a food security threat in future was likely to happen.

The lawyer-petitioner submitted that under the law, farmers would be fined and imprisoned for preserving, selling and exchanging seeds, a tradition that was in vogue for centuries. He also said it was a sheer injustice to millions of small and landless farmers whose food insecurity would be aggravated by this law.

The European countries had banned genetically modified crops because of their severe adverse impact on environment and Pakistan should also do the same, he said. The lawyer said the law was first presented in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly and later in Punjab but the federal government faced strong resistance from farmers in both provinces but the national assembly passed the impugned law.

He said that experience of growing genetically modified (GM) crops, like Bt cotton, would create disaster in the country which was an evident of government’s bad intention.  He requested the court to set aside the amended Seed Act of 2015 for being unconstitutional. 

In another petition about inclusion of transgender citizens in census, the LHC sought reply from the federal government and adjourned hearing until January 19. Advocate Sheraz Zaka filed the petition.

The lawyer had challenged the recent decision of the federal government regarding exclusion of transgender citizens from the census. He argued that the transgender were denied their fundamental rights. He prayed the court to ensure enforcement of their rights.