Bt cotton : Govt, Monsanto likely to finalise accord in Nov
By Ijaz Kakakhel
ISLAMABAD: For increasing cotton production, the federal government is likely to finalise an agreement with a US-based multinational biotechnology company Monsanto in early November 2008.
The officials of Monsanto and Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock held a meeting but could not reach any final decision. The government wants the company to install its gems in local seed but the company is interested in bringing Hybrid Cotton technology of Indian origin. Officials in MINFAL told Daily Times here on Thursday the Bt companies have to clear test and trial for one year and after that period it would be introduced commercially, the officials maintained.
The officials said that they wanted Monsanto to work together with local cotton institutions for increasing cotton production in the country on the basis of public private partnership. The cotton production currently missed its target of 14.1 million bales and remained at 12 million bales, showing a 15 percent declined in the outgoing Kharif season. Cotton is the major source of foreign exchange of the country and the government is determined to increase its production. Monsanto has offered its hi-tech Bollguard-II for enhancing cotton output and to meet local demand of the commodity.
Pakistan is producing about 13 million cotton bales average per annum and occupies 4th position in cotton production world over and has very extensive and well-established textile industry. The county’s economy depends to a great extent on cotton and its products. Cotton crop required an intensive use of pesticides as various types of pests who attack these crops cause extensive damage. Among these, bollworm pests control alone take a heavy toll on the crop. Pakistan expends about more than Rs 10 billion on import of various kinds of pesticides and about 75 percent of them were used in cotton. Biotech-hybrid seed provided Bt trait was added to indigenous cotton varieties preferably which were appropriate for the textile industry adaptable to local agro-ecological conditions and resistant/ to cotton leave curl virus could bring a revolution in raising cotton yield levels. Monsanto can play a very supportive role in this regard if joint ventures along with public research institutes were initiated, they added.
The national seed requirement of cotton in the country is 62,000 metric tonnes while its availability from local seed sector is about 39,845 metric tonnes (64 percent of the total seed requirement). The remaining 36 percent seed is produced and distributed through informal sector i.e. grower-to-grower exchange.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were required to evaluate and monitor the release of biotech varieties in Pakistan, the officials added. The SOPs should be more transparent, efficient and professional and they should be streamlined without compromising on principles of bioenvironmental safety.
Federal Food Minister, Nazar Mohammad Gondal chaired the meeting and the next meeting would be held in early week next month.