Islamabad, July 28 — Three multinational companies have approached Pakistan’s ministry of food security to seek licences to raise genetically-modified (GM) food products in the country, a media report said Sunday.
A senior federal government official told the Dawn newspaper that a request in this regard was received by the ministry to launch GM maize and cotton.
Genetic modification is a biotechnological process used to make new products, particularly new types of crops.
The official said a US-based biotech company famous for BT Cotton that was resistant to certain pests was now providing different varieties of non-GM seeds and herbicides to farmers in Pakistan.
On GM food products, Asif Shuja, director general of the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-Epa), said: “It’s a long debate as research is still continuing internationally whether the GM products have an impact on human health.”
He said many Pakistani companies have also approached the Pak-Epa for launching GM food products but the agency has not given them no-objection certificates.
“Many local companies want to import GM food products from China and we have not given any approval in this regard,” he said.
However, Jawad Chishtie, a public health and environment management specialist, told the Dawn that GM products have been rejected in Europe for damaging crops and endangering human health, and warned that effects of genetically-engineered organisms were not yet known to researchers.
“They are suspected of causing dangerous allergies and even cancer,” he told the Dawn.
Chishtie said hundreds of farmers in India committed suicide after introduction of GM crops since it damaged their land.
He said seeds had “terminator” genes which did not allow the same crop to be planted again from harvested seeds.
“Once a GM agri-product is planted, farmers are trapped into buying seeds and related pesticides each and every year from the same company,” he said.