‘Bio-safety rules one year away’
* Minister says genetically modified foods unfit for humans
By Shahzad Raza
ISLAMABAD: The government needs at least one year to implement the bio-safety guidelines proposed by a specialized body, Minister of State for Environment Maj (r) Tahir Iqbal said here on Thursday.
“The ministry is reviewing the proposed bio-safety guidelines of the National Bio-Safety Committee. We would also seek expert opinion from a foreign scientist in this regard,” the minister told Daily Times. He said use of excessive insecticide in the fields had caused immense loss to the cotton growers. The problem, he said, could be resolved by using the latest bio-techniques.
GM foods unfit for humans: To a question about the consumption of genetically modified (GM) food, being imported and sold in tin-packs, the said anything with changed natural composition would not be fit for human use.
Asked to comment on the fact that Pakistani edible exports could not establish their place in the international market in the absence of bio-safety guidelines, he said the issue of import and export was the commerce ministry’s regime.
Meanwhile, Chairman of Biotechnology Commission Dr Anwar Nasim has expressed grave concern over the slow progress on the issue by the government.
When asked for comment, Dr Nasim said Pakistan had not made sufficient progress in biotechnology despite tremendous contribution of the discipline in agriculture, food, livestock and medicine during the past two decades.
“Unfortunately, Pakistan is lagging even among the third world countries in utilizing biotechnology’s potential,” he said. “This will cost the country dearly.” He said countries like India and China had managed to develop their bio-safety guidelines, which had resulted in increased yield and exports.
“The cotton crops in India, that were genetically modified to resist insects, have produced dramatically increased yields. There was an increase in the BT cotton yield from 80 to 90 percent on average.”
He said the bio-safety guidelines had been prepared three years ago, and were still awaiting approval from the government. He added he had thrice written to the environment minister on the subject, but had not received any response.
“If the vast potential of biotechnology is fully harnessed, agriculture and industrial production can be increased manifold. In view of these factors, a focused effort needs to be made to capture the full potential of biotechnology as a key contributor in the development of Pakistan.”