Farmers Reject United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS)

Press Release

22 September 2021

Roots for Equity and Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek held the National Food Systems Summit at Renewal Center, Lahore on September 22, 2021. The National Summit was held as national mobilization towards the Global People’s Summit (GPS) for Just, Equitable, Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems. The GPS has been organized through the coordinated efforts of peoples’ movements and farmers’ movements, a unity of more than 21 organizations across the world, and is a Global-South led initiative to counter the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) and its neoliberal corporate agenda being held on September 23, 2021.

We, the people, maintain that UNFSS has been overtaken by the private interests of the corporates and elites. Dr. Azra Talat Sayeed, Executive Director at Roots for Equity, shed light on how the UNFSS platform is using neoliberal policies to reinforce corporate control over food and agriculture through propagating false solutions (e.g. food fortification, genetic modification, industrial meat production systems, monocultural food production) to climate change, hunger and malnutrition. It is clear that corporate-driven approaches are marginalizing, criminalizing and co-opting indigenous knowledge as well as eroding biodiversity through industrializing agriculture. The National Food Systems Summit Pakistan aims to counter the corporate-controlled narrative of UNFSS by amplifying people’s demands for genuine food systems transformation.

Through the panel sessions on land and environmental rights, women’s rights and collective rights over natural, genetic and productive resources, the National Summit highlighted the injustices that prevail in our current corporate-controlled, feudal-controlled food systems. In particular, Asif Khan and Chowdhry Aslam talked about issues of landlessness and corporate capture of genetic and productive resources. Roop Kanwal, a member of PKMT Youth Wing said that a critical issue remains the total control of land by a handful of feudal families in the country and absolute negation of women farmers’ rights, an overwhelming majority of whom are landless. Shaheen Maher said that women agriculture workers receive pittance for their backbreaking labour, especially working on export-driven crops such as cotton and sugarcane. Malik Aman, PKMT member from Manshera posited that environmental degradation by corporate-led systems are a discord to environmental justice.

Furthermore, the National Summit engaged farmers, including women, youth and landless farmers, trade union, academics, civil society and activists from various sectors in a series of workshops. As a contribution to the collective global response of peoples’ movements, participating farmers and activists formulated concrete demands and developed initial action plans for achieving food sovereignty through genuine agrarian reform, sustainable system change and a radical transformation of the world’s food systems.

Tahir Mehdi from Punjab Lok Sujag, Fozia Parveen from LUMS, Neelam Hussain from Simorgh Publications and Tahira Abdullah, a human rights defender, also raised key issues during their interventions in the panel sessions.

Demands:

Genuine agrarian reform and implementation of just, equitable and self-reliant sustainable food production and consumption systems that are based on small and landless farmers, including women farmers, ownership and control over land and other critical productive resources, access to safe and decent livelihood, and sustainable food production and consumption systems;

Women’s control over land and livestock as a key resource for protecting and promoting a healthy balanced life for women, their children and communities;

Recognition of the role that women and rural communities play in conserving plant and animal genetic resources, ensuring the continuity of biodiverse ecosystems and perpetuating agricultural practices rooted in traditional knowledge;

Promoting environmentally safe technologies that are controlled and owned by communities as the ultimate guardians of our environmental resources;

Prevent farmers’ evictions from indigenous land and ensure that no development work acts as a cover for further land grabbing or resource grabbing by corporations;

Ensuring that all farmers and indigenous populations retain their customary rights over commons/public lands, forests, water resources and other ecologies which is crucial sources of their life and livelihood;

An end to the stronghold of monopolistic agrochemical transnational corporations over global food production and distribution systems;

An end to trade liberalization through dismantling of institutions and mechanisms such as the WTO, and other inequitable bilateral and multilateral trade agreements such as the RCEP, CPTPP among other that allow the monopolization of global trade by TNCs;

Accountability of Transnational agribusinesses for the industrial fossil-fuel based industrial production to the imminent climate emergency vis-à-vis unchecked high levels of greenhouse gas emissions;

Immediate, state-led action towards outlawing toxic chemical pesticides and fertilizers and reinstating sustainable agroecological/indigenous farming and livestock practices based on food sovereignty principles;

Ensure a robust public healthcare system that makes quality healthcare accessible to rural populations, including free testing services for Covid-19 as well as immediate provision of free and accessible vaccination;

Establish markets, led by small farmers, particularly women farmers;

Mobilize farmers and other sectors to form unions and associations that build and strengthen the movement against capitalist corporate hegemony of capitalist countries in food and agriculture.

Release by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek & Roots for Equity

Intellectual property rights over plants and seeds opposed

Our Correspondent; February 12, 2021

Leaders of the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity on Wednesday criticised the Ministry of National Food Security and Research’s recent decision to start the registration process for granting intellectual property rights (IPRs) for plants and seeds under the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 and said that the act would take away farmers’ centuries-old traditional rights of saving and selling seeds.

Roots for Equity’s chairperson Dr Azra Sayeed and PKMT leaders Raja Mujeeb and Asif Khan, while addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, said that as a result of national and transnational seed corporations claiming intellectual property rights over seeds, not only would the country become dependent on corporations for national food security and food sovereignty, but the royalties paid to transnational corporations for IPRs would massively increase seed prices.

They said that it is a criminal act and goes against the ethical dictates of society. They claimed that the implementation of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, like the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015, is dictated by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual property rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

The registration process is due to start on February 15. The agreement makes it mandatory for the government to provide intellectual property rights (IPRs) on new varieties of plants and seeds, they said.

“Essentially, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act provides monopolistic control to IPR holders of the new varieties of plants or seed by prohibiting their use and sale to all others without permission,” said Sayeed.

“The Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, just like the intellectual property rights laws, is delivered through an ‘effective’ sui generis system, patents or a combination of both and provides mechanisms for owners holding intellectual property rights over plants and seeds to seek legal protection for their ownership of plant varieties in each country where they want commercial use of the variety.”

She said that is granted through Plant Breeders’ Rights laws, and the WTO, particularly TRIPS, is thus the biggest imperialist weapon in agricultural production. “Seeds are living organisms and through genetic modification, transnational corporations are commodifying nature and seeking intellectual property rights to gain control of the seed sector,” she said.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/788820-intellectual-property-rights-over-plants-and-seeds-opposed

Farmers condemn launch of Plant Breeders’ Rights Registry

Faiza Ilyas

KARACHI: Describing a recent federal government decision to launch Plant Breeders’ Rights Registry from Feb 15 as ‘illegal’ and ‘unethical’, representatives of Pakistan Kisan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) at a press conference held at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday demanded that all laws granting control over agriculture to “imperialist states and corporations” be nullified.

The briefing was organised in collaboration with Roots for Equity, a non-profit organisation working for rights of vulnerable communities, especially landless farmers.

Sharing farmers’ concerns over a recent public notice of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research inviting applications for protection of new plant varieties of cotton and maize, Raja Mujeeb of PKMT-Sindh said that it’s an illegal step given the fact that a petition challenging the Seed Amendment Act, 2015 and the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 had been pending in court since 2017.

“We filed writ petitions against these two acts before a full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) arguing that these laws could not be passed by the parliament in the light of devolution under 18th Constitutional Amendment and that these laws have ignored and trampled on farmers’ rights recognised by Pakistan, which is a party to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.”

“The Plant Breeders’ Act basically takes away centuries’ old traditional rights of farmers of saving, exchanging and selling seeds. As a result of national and transnational seed corporations claiming intellectual property rights (IPRs) over seeds, not only the country would become dependent on corporations for food security and sovereignty, but the royalties paid to corporations for IPRs would massively increase seed/crop prices.”

Farmers, who were already reeling from the increased cost of production and reduced crop prices, would have to shoulder the added burden of procuring the specific agricultural inputs mandated by the seed companies, said Asif Khan of PKMT-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

‘WTO dictates’

The speakers criticised the food ministry for starting registration of seed varieties for cotton and maize despite a major decline in cotton production due to use of international genetically modified (GM) seeds.

They also highlighted the devastating impact of GM crops on health and the environment which had led many European countries to impose a ban on them.

They claimed that the implementation of the Seed Amendment Act and the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act was dictated by the World Trade Organisation under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

The agreement, it was explained, made it mandatory for the government to provide IPRs on new varieties of plants and seeds. “Essentially, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act provides monopolistic control to IPR holders of the new plant varieties or seed by prohibiting their use and sale to all others without permission. The WTO, particularly, TRIPS, is thus the biggest imperialist weapon in agricultural production,” said Azra Sayeed of Roots.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2021

https://www.dawn.com/news/1606606

Plant Breeders’ Right Act – an Anti-Farmer Law

Press Release; February 10, 2021

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity held a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on February 10th, 2021 to protest against the decision of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to start the registration process for granting intellectual property rights over plants and seeds under the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016. The registration process is due to start on February 15th, 2021.

According to PKMT, implementation of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, like the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015 is dictated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual property rights (TRIPS) Agreement.  The TRIPs agreement makes it mandatory for the government to provide intellectual property rights (IPRs) on new varieties of plants and seeds. Essentially, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act provides monopolistic control to IPR holders of the new varieties of plants or seed by prohibiting their use and sale to all others without permission. The Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, just like the intellectual property rights laws, is delivered through an ‘effective’ sui generis system, patents or a combination of both and provides mechanisms for owners holding intellectual property rights over plants and seeds to seek legal protection for their ownership of plant varieties in each country where they want commercial use of the variety. This is granted through Plant Breeders’ Rights laws. WTO, particularly TRIPS, is thus the biggest imperialist weapon in agricultural production.

Seeds are living organisms and through genetic modification, transnational corporations are commodifying nature and seeking intellectual property rights to gain control of the seed sector. This is a criminal act and goes against the ethical dictates of society. Farmers’ organizations worldwide have been protesting against genetic modification (GM) of seeds and the enforcement of intellectual property rights over living matter since the creation of the WTO in 1995. The negative impact of GMOs on human health and environment has become apparent leading a number of developed European countries to impose a ban on GM crops.

The Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 basically takes away farmers’ centuries old traditional rights of saving, exchanging and selling seeds. As a result of national and transnational seed corporations claiming intellectual property rights over seeds, not only will the country become dependent on corporations for national food security and food sovereignty but the royalties paid to transnational corporations for IPRs will massively increase seed prices. Farmers, who are already reeling from the impact of increased production costs and reduced crop prices, will have to shoulder the added burden of procuring the specific agricultural inputs mandated by the seed companies.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research has requested for the registration of seed varieties for cotton and maize even though national cotton production has been facing decline and destruction due to the use of international GM seeds. Due to this, not only have the small and landless farmers been deprived of local and indigenous cotton seeds but as a result of relentless pest attacks causing crop failure, landless women agriculture workers are also being deprived of their livelihoods. On the other hand, the national economy is dealing with the high costs of cotton imports.

PKMT filed writ petitions challenging the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015 and the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 before the Full Bench of the Lahore High Court arguing that these laws could not have been passed by Parliament in light of the devolution under the 18th Amendment, and that these laws ignore and trample upon farmers rights as recognized by Pakistan, which is party to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resouces for Food and Agriculture. In this light, the formation of the Plant Breeders’ Rights registry and the registration for IPRs on seeds by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research can be considered illegal and unethical. PKMT will be filing a stay application against the launch of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Registry before the Lahore High Court.

PKMT totally repudiates the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 and demands that all laws granting control over agriculture to imperialist states and corporations should be nullified. PKMT and all small and landless farmers of Pakistan humbly request the respected Lahore High Court to recognize the principles of Food Sovereignty by swiftly reinstating farmers’ traditional rights over use, control and access of seeds in context to its sale and exchange.

Release by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) & Roots for Equity

“Rural People are Hungry for Food System Change”

Press Release

October 16, 2020

Roots for Equity and the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) in collaboration with  People’s Coalition for Food Security (PCFS), Pesticide Action Network, Asia and  Pacific (PANAP) and Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) is marking the World Food Day as World Hunger Day on October 16, 2020. A webinar and protest has been organized in this regard in which small and landless peasants including PKMT members participated from different districts.

This event is part of a campaign, launched on the occasion of World Hunger Day, and titled “Rural People are Hungry for Food System Change”. It aims to promote a strategy for highlighting the toxic impacts of industrial chemical agriculture production systems and the acute need for food sovereignty and agro-ecology based food production systems. This year’s global campaign focuses on the plight of rural populations during the pandemic, and their demands for changes in the food and agricultural systems.

Tariq Mehmood, a member of PKMT, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, spoke on the situation of hunger, poverty and unemployment during the Covid19 pandemic, He said that the transnational mega agro-chemical corporations’ domination in the food and agriculture system around the world, their exploitation and destruction of biodiversity and natural habitats is a catalyst for Corona pandemic.

According to a report by the United Nations FAO (The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World), the epidemic could lead another 83 to 132 million people suffering from hunger by 2020, and if the current situation continues by 2030, 841.4 million people in the world will be hungry.

According to a member of PKMT Mohammad Zaman from Sahiwal, it is reported in the Pakistan Economic Survey 2019-20, the corona virus had a severe negative impact on the Pakistani economy and at least another 10 million people are feared to be pushed to living below the poverty line in Pakistan. The number could increase from 50 million presently to 60 million. In the Global Hunger Index, Pakistan ranks 106th out of 119 countries where consumption of meat, poultry, fish, milk, vegetables and fruits is six to 10 times lower than that of developed countries.

The worsening situation of hunger and poverty can be gauged from the statement of Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Poverty and Social Protection, that “almost half of the country’s population will be covered by the Ehsas Program.” The statement indicates that in Pakistan, where almost half of the population is employed in the agricultural sector, the current epidemic of rising hunger, poverty and unemployment has exacerbated the pervasive exploitation and brutality of this rotten food and agriculture system that is based extracting super-profits from the poorest segments of society.

Speaking on the global food and employment crisis, Wali Haider, of Roots for Equity said that rural populations around the world are already aware of these facts and now the food and employment crisis and growing hunger during the Corona virus pandemic has proved that the current system of food and agriculture, which is dominated by the big capitalist countries and their for profit companies, has failed.

This domination of the imperialist powers over the global food and agriculture system has linked the local rural economy, in third world countries like Pakistan, to the global agricultural market. This has resulted in the most important resources like our agricultural produce, our land and water have become a source of surplus profits for multinational corporations.

A clear example of this is the increasing production of sugarcane and other cash crops for the production and export of agro-fuels like ethanol, while the production of the most important food crops such as wheat is declining. This is one of the reasons for the rise in food prices and the consequent increase in hunger.

There is an urgent need to change the system where farmers are forced to depend on seeds, chemicals and toxic inputs of companies. These chemicals also pollute the entire food and agricultural system and destruction of the ecosystems and biodiversity.

In contrast, a sustainable food production system, agro-ecology, provides farmers with a strategy that protects not only their rights but also of other small food producers. Farmers’ right to land under agro ecology guarantees the establishment of collective and individual seed banks and their exchange. It also protects and promotes safe and natural systems of food and agriculture production ensuring food security of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities as well as safe nutritious food and environment for all.

Speaking on the women farmers’ rights Azra Sayeed of Roots for Equity said that the livestock and dairy sector accounts for 56% of the total agricultural production and the majority of farmers involved in milk and meat production are small scale. It consists of cattle breeders, especially women, who make it possible to produce 60 billion liters of milk annually in the country, but these same rural populations are starving themselves as a result of the monopoly of capitalist companies in the food and agriculture sector.

In the name of achieving so called standardization of milk, meat and other foods, corporations are paving a clear path to monopolizing the dairy and meat sector. This will only lead to further exacerbation of hunger and malnutrition in the country. It is important to note that according to the National Nutrition Survey 2018, 53% of children and 44.3% of women in the country are suffering from anemia.

Raja Mujeeb, a member of PKMT Sindh, referring to the small and landless peasants are most affected by the Covid19 epidemic, said that food producers have been forced to depend on poor quality seeds where the companies have established a monopoly and at the same time land is in the hands of feudal lords and increasing encroachment of capitalist systems of production and marketing.

If the farmers have control over all the productive resources including land and seeds, then our farmers, laborers, fishermen and the rural population can get food even in the face of the current pandemic or any kind of emergency. That is why PKMT believes that food sovereignty and self-sufficiency in food and agriculture based an end to feudalism through just and equitable land distribution among farmers and imperialist food policies is critical for a peaceful democratic sovereign state!

Released by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) & Roots for Equity

Press Release in Urdu (PDF) 

PKMT Jazba Farmers’ Cooperative Awareness Program

PKMT Jazba Farmers’ Cooperative organized an awareness session program based on the Agroecology farming and sustainable agriculture on village level at different districts of Sindh, Punjab and KP. In Sindh district Tando Mohammad Khan, Shikarpur and Ghotki, in Punjab district Multan and in KP district Haripur and Lower Dir the session were organized.

The session begins with the introduction of the team and the farmers. The team asks different questions from the farmers like who cultivate the land and which sort of cultivation is going on nowadays?

 

The participants replied that nowadays, we are using artificial means of production, which had chemicals in it, and we use chemical fertilizer in cultivation. Different topics of production and consumption were discussed with the help of pictures.

Unhealthy Production: The participants were told about the unhealthy food production that how modern machinery and chemicals are introduced to increase the production for example, breeding of cows by using artificial means, increasing of milk and meat of animals, increasing chemical spray, fertilizer, use of hybrid seeds and genetically modified seeds. The participants agree that they use the chemicals and machinery which results increase in diseases and unemployment.

Unhealthy Consumption: The participants were told about the unhealthy food like big companies use artificial methods in the preparation of food and are enforced on us for example, Potato chips, burgers, pizzas and unbalanced diet. The participants said that the junk food made by the companies has no energy, the threat of diseases increases and the food is also expensive. Capitalism increases class system. The rich influence on poor just because of this system. The working class is deprived of basic needs of life like food and health; we should not use these things.

Healthy Production: The participants were shown opposite mechanical and artificial method of production. The natural and traditional ways of farming, which includes milking, traditional way of cultivating pure and healthy food. According to our history, we use traditional seeds and eat pure food and live in a clean environment for centuries. The capitalists now capture the markets enforced farmers and labors into poverty.

Healthy Consumption: The participants said that the food from companies are unhealthy, the bread, Saag (local spinach), Lassi, butter, pure ghee are healthy foods. We should promote our own things, which we get through natural means.

Poverty and hunger! Why ? The adopting of chemical methods and an increase in production, the participants said that hunger, poverty and unemployment is increasing day by day. Continue reading

PKMT Demands Land for the Landless!

Press Release

March 29, 2019

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity in collaboration with Asian Peasant Coalition, Pesticide Action Network, Asia Pacific and International Women’s Alliance commemorated the International Day of the Landless, which was marked by the slogan “We Will Take Back Our Land, Our Future!” Globally, the Day of the Landless highlights the struggle of the landless farmers for genuine land reforms and food sovereignty, where they are being evicted from lands that had been tilled for many generations by their ancestors. It is in this context that the many protests and demonstrations have been planned in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Mongolia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia among others Asian countries.

PKMT carried out press conferences at the Peshawar, Multan Press Clubs and a protest rally in Ghotki against the landlessness of farmers, as well as countrywide happenings of land grabs and in the name of foreign investments and development projects.

According to the PKMT National Coordinator Altaf Hussain stated that from 2000 till now, transnational corporations worldwide have land grabbed more than 50 million hectares of land through 1,591 agreements. Further, 200 more negotiations are in ongoing for acquiring 20 million hectares. No doubt, rich capitalist countries along with their imperialist institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO have wrought changes in policies which has allowed the massive push in land grab, drowning the farmers in debt and deprivation, all methods which give transnational corporations control over production and markets.

According to the Raja Mujeeb, Secretary General Asian Peasant Coalition, imperialist corporate agriculture is here to plunder our lands, take away our livelihood and poison our lands. No doubt, most of the land deals are being carried out to in countries like Pakistan that are rich in natural resources. It is draconian that only 8% of these land deals are exclusively for food production and 60% of this is for export. Further, most of these land deals, around 70%, are reserved for agro-fuel production – industry bound oil seed production of oil palm, jathropa, corn, wheat, and sugar. This push for agro-fuel is fulfilling the needs of the rich capitalist countries. In the past few years, China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative has further accelerated land grab, and China is now second to the US, in the number of concluded transnational land acquisitions. In Africa alone, land acquired by Chinese companies range from 240,000 to 6 million hectares.

According to the KPK Provincial Coordinator, Fayyaz Ahmad after leasing an additional 1,000 acres of land in Haripur for a special economic zone, and eviction of farmers from their land for building the Northern Bypass, Peshawar, the next target for investors seems to be Palai in Malakand, a green belt famous for its farmlands and orange orchards. The government of KPK is planning to build a cement factory in the area and has imposed Section 4 for acquiring 400 acres of land. The critical importance of this land for the local communities and its fertility can be gauged by government figures which state that Palai has 171,000 fruit trees which are not only a source of livelihood and food security for the local communities but also critical for the environment; all this happening in a country which is in the frontline of vulnerable countries from climate change impacts. Similarly, for the construction of the Swat Expressway precious agricultural land of local farmers has been acquired for pittance, and on top of that farmers are facing delay in payments for the land.

According to PKMT Sindh Provincial Coordinator Ali Nawaz Jalbani, small and landless farmers were facing exploitation and deprivation because of the unjust distribution of land, corporate agriculture, and the imperialist neoliberal policies inflicted on the command of capitalist countries. At the same time, feudalism is not only forcing misery on the landless farmers but the women face further discrimination based on their gender. They are forced to work under scorching heat for harvesting crops such as wheat and cotton; Hindu are forced to bear not only the oppressive feudal mechanisms but also face further discrimination based on religion. According to Mir Babal, a youth PKMT member from Ghotki, various development projects for energy and infrastructure under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor agreement has resulted in land grab in the area for a number of years.

It was pointed out that in Sanghar, a district where the landless facing acute exploitation with a very high percentage of the population suffering from malnutrition, the government under different guises was taking back land that had been distributed to landless farmers in 2004. The much higher percentage of children suffering from malnutrition in this district was proof of the impact of the industrial agricultural production, which takes its toll on impoverished farmer communities. The Sindh government in many districts of the province for the past many decades has been evicting small farmers. On the other hand, farmers have been forcefully evicted from centuries old villages so that big property dealers and investors, who are well known to have acquired land illegally, are given further opportunities for land grabbing.

PKMT Provincial Coordinator Maqsood Ahmed stated that the government of Punjab after leasing 6,500 acres of land for growing high yielding seeds to foreign corporation in Punjab has recently adopted a policy for leasing state land to national and foreign corporations. The Punjab government has provided state forestland to the corporate sector for planting commercial forests. In South Punjab, proposals by investors for developing commercial forests on 99,077 acres of land have been approved. On the other hand, the same Punjab government in district Rajanpur, South Punjab is bent on displacing small farmers from an area called Rakh Azmat Wala, where the farmers have lived for more than a century.

PKMT demands that development project across the country including those for special economic zones as well as land lease to investors should be stopped. In addition, the role of international corporate sector in agriculture should be eliminated, the ever-increasing allotment of land to the corporate sector should be stopped and instead just and equitable distribution of land to small and landless farmers should be carried out immediately.

Urdu Press Release

Released by Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek/PKMT

News Coverage;

https://www.dawn.com/news/1472729

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/450888-distribution-of-agri-lands-among-landless-farmers-urged

Say no to GM maize

March 01, 2019

Zubeida Mustafa

THERE is bad news and there is good news for our environmentalists, agriculturalists, healthcare givers and all those who care for the welfare of Pakistan. First, the bad news.

In January, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Cargill, the global food and agricultural producer with an annual revenue of $114.6 billion (2018), will be investing $200 million in Pakistan in the next two to five years. This announcement came after two top-ranking executives of Cargill met Prime Minister Imran Khan. It seemed innocuous, at least to people who know little about biotechnology giants.

One of them, Monsanto (now merged with Bayer), fathered the genetically modified organism (GMO) in 1983 which did terrible damage to numerous crops and farmers all over the world. As a result, we saw a spate of high-profile lawsuits in which the company admitted to having bribed officials abroad. At least 35 countries have now banned GMOs.

Obviously our political leadership is not well informed on such matters, nor is transparency its forte. Hence the Cargill heads’ meeting with the prime minister and their offer to create a huge number of jobs in Pakistan raised no scepticism in government circles.

Our experience with GM cotton has been disastrous.

But mercifully the Ministry of National Food Security & Research still has men of integrity and knowledge at its helm. It appears they have resisted this move. That has now prompted the American Business Council of Pakistan (representing 64 companies), a leading foreign investors’ group, to seek the prime minister’s help “to allow commercial cultivation of GM maize”. These American companies want the “obstacles” removed that are preventing them from implementing their controversial plans.

The good news is that the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek has issued a press release titled ‘Peasants Declare “NO TO GM MAIZE!”’ The party has categorically supported the ministry’s refusal to grant approval to genetically modified maize in Pakistan. The PKMT’s own position on GMOs and the seed companies has been clear for over a decade: they violate farmers’ collective rights to seed and will pauperise the small and landless tillers of the soil.

The Seed Association of Pakistan has also “sternly opposed” any commercialisation of GM maize in Pakistan. Civil society is also gearing up to resist any such move which will have a devastating effect on food security as well as agriculture. BT cotton should come as a lesson — that is, if we are willing to learn. Introducing BT cotton proved to be easy sailing in 2010. There was hardly any resistance from those in authority.

The Seed Law was changed by the National Assembly in 2015 to accommodate the seed multinationals. This was done at the behest of the US in spite of the fact that the 18th Amendment was in place and a courageous lawyer, Ahmad Rafay Alam, went to court on behalf of the Kissan Board to challenge its legality as well as the safety of BT cotton. The case has still to be decided.

BT cotton — Monsanto’s GM pet project — has proved to be a disaster for the country. Since its debut in Pakistan — by virtue of seeds smuggled from India in 2005 and later sanctioned by the government in 2010, cotton production has been falling. The figures cited have varied from source to source. It has of late been in the range of 10.5m and 11.5m bales. In 2004, cotton production stood at a record high of 14.1m bales (of 170kg each). Contrary to the government’s claim, the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association says the weight of the bales is now 160kg each.

For years cotton production has failed to meet the target set by the government. This has adversely affected the national economy as cotton is the major element in the textile sector, the mainstay of Pakistan’s exports. BT cotton has also introduced new bugs in the cotton fields requiring greater use of pesticides, produced as can be expected by the biotech companies themselves. With Monsanto monopolising the seed market, nearly 88pc of the area under cotton cultivation is BT. The yield per acre has also fallen. All this adds to the cost of the inputs, causing farmers to switch to other crops.

It is horrifying to think of what the impact would be if maize, which is a thriving crop at present, is handed over to producers of GM maize. Has GM maize been thoroughly tested in our soil and climatic conditions? Without extensive research we cannot assess its impact on human health. We cannot afford to risk a rise in the prevalence of deadly diseases; the pesticide Roundup, which is required to be used, has been declared carcinogenic by WHO. This should be reason enough for the government to resist pressures from the biotech multinationals which are out to destroy our economy.

Let us learn from our own sordid experience of GMO cotton. Let sanity prevail. Besides, we cannot allow our peasantry to be destroyed. It is the backbone of our agriculture.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2019

https://www.dawn.com/news/1466871

Petitioner’s arguments concluded in Farmer’s Rights case

Press Release

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.

Peasants declare “NO TO GM MAIZE!”

Press Release

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

Urdu Press Release

Urdu Press Release GM Maize