Lahore, 21 February 2019: A Full Bench of the Lahore High Court heard arguments by Petitioners challenging the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015 and the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 2016.
Advocate Sheraz Zaka, appearing on behalf of the NGO One-World, submitted that these laws were passed at the behest of multinational seed and GMO companies and were against the interests of farmers in Pakistan. He pointed out how these law prohibit the storage and sharing of seeds, which has been a fundamental feature of agriculture since the dawn of civilization. The new laws would require farmers and seed companies to register new verities with the Intellectual Property Organization in Islamabad.
Advocate Ahmad Rafay Alam appearing for NGO Sojhla for Social Change argued the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 2016 could not have been passed by Parliament as it was a provincial subject. He pointed out the province of Punjab had taken measures to draft the Punjab Seed (Amendment) Bill and Punjab Farmer’s Rights Bill, and that the laws passed by Parliament usurped the powers of the provinces. The laws passed by Parliament, it was submitted, failed to recognize Pakistan’s international obligations to protect Farmers’ Rights and also usurped provincial jurisdiction. The petition filed by Sojhla for Social Change is supported by the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek.
A representative appearing on behalf of the Federation of Pakistan submitted the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015 and Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 2016 were passed keeping in view advancements in technology and the needs of seed dealers.
After hearing arguments, the Full Bench adjourned the hearing of the matter to 26 February 2019 for arguments by the Federation of Pakistan.
Lahore, 18 February: A Full Bench of the Lahore High Court led by Mr. Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and comprising Justices Shahid Bilal Hassan and Muhammad Waheed Khan heard petitions challenging the vires of the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 2016 and the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015.
Separate petitions had been filed by Sojhla for Social Change and Human-Voice, both civil society and farmers’ organizations, seeking to declare both laws in violation of farmers’ rights. It is alleged these laws were passed at the behest of multinational seed companies and not with the interest of Pakistani farmers in mind.
Ahmad Rafay Alam, counsel for Sojhla for Social Change, argued Parliament could not have passed legislation amending the Seed Act, 1976 as the Constitution envisages such legislation to be made by Provincial Assemblies. Similarly, Parliament exceeded its legislative jurisdiction in passing the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 1906 as this subject was not enumerated in the Federal Legislative List. He argued there was a democratic deficit in the legislation as they had been passed without hearing the voices of farmers. The petition by Sojhla for Social Change is supported by the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek.
Sheraz Zaka, counsel for Human Voice, submitted that farmers’ rights could not be sacrificed in the interest of multinational seed and food companies.
Pakistan is signatory to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which recognizes the enormous contribution of farmers in the conservation and development of plant genetic resources that constitute the basis of food and agriculture around the world. The Treaty requires contracting parties to take measures to protect and promote farmer’s rights. The petitioners argue the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 2016 ignores farmers’ rights and gives preference to multinational seed companies and corporate farming.
After hearing arguments, the Full Bench directed notice be issued to the Attorney General and adjourned the case for hearing this Thursday.
February 13, 2019
There has been news in print media, which indicates that the Ministry of National Food Security & Research has distanced itself from going ahead with approval of genetically modified maize in Pakistan; the first indication was the cancellation of Variety Evaluation Committee (VEC) by PARC, where it was expected that approval of commercial farming of GM corn varieties, developed by multinational seed companies may be granted.
Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) fully support the Ministry’s position, and reiterate their demand for a moratorium on genetically modified seeds and foods in the country. PKMT has opposed the introduction of genetically modified seeds in the country for the past decade as it violates farmers’ collective rights to seed. It needs to be recalled that granting of patent rights to mega-transnational corporations springs from the TRIPs agreement of the WTO.
The stand against GMOs by peasant organizations and activists globally and of course in Pakistan since inception of the WTO have shown ample proof of their soundness. The recent lawsuit against Monsanto won by a USA citizen suffering from cancer due to the company’s herbicide Roundup Ready clearly shows the critical health hazard to Pakistani famers who will be forced to use the herbicide along with GM seeds. In India, Monsanto’s Bt Cotton has shown to fail drastically; and the story is no different in Pakistan. Farmers are extremely unhappy with Bt Cotton, and the rapidly falling cotton yield is a testimony to the fact. Now, after BT Cotton failure, the company wants the maize seed market. There is no doubt that the company for past many years has been lobbying for commercial use of GM maize; if approved GM maize will be even worse than Bt Cotton since it cross pollinates and will rapidly destroy the local maize seed varieties. Pakistan’s per hectare production of maize was already showing an upward trend that is already ahead of many countries that are using genetically modified maize.
The coming years will show that our farmers will be totally dependent on extremely expensive GM maize seeds as is the case for cotton. It should be noted that we are allowing corporate control in our food crops; further it is well known that maize is used for ethanol production as well for commercial purposes in synthetic biology. All of this will exacerbate the extremely dire situation of hunger, malnutrition and environmental catastrophe, not to mention the increasing pauperization of small and landless farmers.
Press Conference was addressed by PKMT National Coordinator Altaf Hussain, Provincial Coordinator KPK, Fayaz Ahmad and senior member Zahoor Joya, Tariq Mahmood, and Asif Khan.
Release by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek/PKMT
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Urdu Press Release GM Maize