ISLAMABAD: The Minis­try of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) on Thursday decided to set up a four-member committee to consider changes in ‘Seed Rules’ in a bid to speed up the approval process for locally developed seed varieties.

Secretary MNFSR Omer Hamid Khan will prepare the Terms of Reference within three weeks and recommendations will be made for changes in the rules.

Difficulties are being faced in the introduction of new crop varieties since multinational companies monopolise on latest seed technology. According to the ministry, some of the research establishments in public and private sectors in the country have developed multiple gene varieties which have proved to be promising in preliminary trials.

The genes have passed through clearance from the National Biosafety Centre (NBC) of the Ministry of Climate Change. The normal approval process requires two years testing and trials, followed by clearance from the NBC.

In this regard, Punjab has proposed to the federal government to shorten the approval process and give go ahead on the basis of one-year trials to varieties having new technology or extra-ordinary traits.

However, the MNFSR notes that approval can only be given when necessary changes in Seed Rules under the Seed Act are made, according to the ministry.

On Thursday, Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhr Imam, held a video-link meeting with Punjab Minister for Agriculture Malik Nauman Ahmad Langrial and discussed seed issues in the province.

Imam informed Langrial that as per rules of business, MNFSR is a policy planner for the country’s agriculture and despite the 18th Amendment, the ministry and provincial agricultural departments must work in harmony.

After the 18th Amendment, Punjab promulgated its own pesticide rules and regulations and enforced them accordingly. One the other hand, federal government regulates pesticide import, and its quality has the mandate to ensure pesticide quality at import and pesticide formulation plants.

Punjab government has also requested the federal government to notify agricultural officers as seed inspectors under the Seed Act of 1976 to enhance regulation and crackdown against brown bag seed business.

The revitalisation of Punjab Seed Corporation (PSC) was also discussed during the meeting. The PSC was a source of cotton and wheat seeds not only for Punjab but also used to cater to the seed requirements of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2020

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