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Calling it agri reconstruction, they pushed suspect seeds into flooded Pakistan

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A submerged street near Nowshera, Kyhber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Rising water in dams could create more havoc © Abdul Majeed Goraya/IRIN

A submerged street near Nowshera, Kyhber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Rising water in dams could create more havoc © Abdul Majeed Goraya/IRIN

In the third week of September 2010, Huma Beg, a journalist who works in Pakistan, sent out this alarm by email: “Dear friends. I raise alarms from Pakistan and solicit your help. Floods and its consequences are bringing many potential issues and challenges at a speed which is not allowing us to debate and make right decisions.”

“A major issue that has come to light is the question of seeds as sowing season in flood and agricultural areas is between 15 Oct to 15 Nov. Monsanto and others have focused on the devastation as an immense opportunity to freely distribute their seeds. Our governments are involved as well.”

“Please raise alarm and assist if you can advice us. We are starting a campaign on “Local seed for local farmer…” using floods as an opportunity to focus on issues of genetically modified seeds. We can later tie up other potential ideas like multi cropping techniques and high value crops…dos and don’ts etc.”

“But for now seeds and non-GMO seeds are on the table. We have no time as ‘others’ are planning to flood the flood with seeds. Please help fast. Kind regards, Huma.”

Now, a release from Grain, Roots for Equity and PANAP (Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific) has confirmed Huma’s worst fears.

A man uses a large cooking pan as a boat near the Reikhbaghwala village in Rajanpur district in Punjab. Photo: IRIN News / Jaspreet Kindra

A man uses a large cooking pan as a boat near the Reikhbaghwala village in Rajanpur district in Punjab. Photo: IRIN News / Jaspreet Kindra

“In October, a consignment of 2,000 bags of wheat seeds was dispatched to flood-hit farmers by the Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman Foundation (MKRF) and the Imran Khan Flood Relief Fund (IKRF),” says the release. A scheme was launched to provide wheat seeds to farmers owning 25 acres of land in every flood-hit province without discrimination. Under the scheme, certified and good quality seeds were provided to farmers covering 150,000 acres of land. Also since early November, the United States government has provided about US$ 62 million to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to expand an agriculture recovery program to the Province of Balochistan. The program includes provision of seed and fertilizer to flood-affected farmers, to help salvage the winter planting seasons and restore livelihoods for farmers in flood-affected areas.”

“Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, has said last month that the government’s attention is focused on the rehabilitation of more than seven million flood-affected people and efforts are being made to give Rs100,000 (US$ 1,165) as well as seeds and fertilisers to each survivor family free of cost. There are reports, however, that not all of this is free, as the seeds are being tied to micro-finance packages where fertilisers and services are only provided to small farmers through loans.”

As part of its rehabilitation program, Pakistan’s agriculture ministry entered a deal with Monsanto for a large-scale importation of its Bt Cotton seeds, despite strong opposition from local seed producers and farmers groups. The Seed Association of Pakistan (SAP) has warned the Punjab government to refrain from signing an agreement with Monsanto, believing this will “annihilate national seed companies, besides causing huge financial burden on the national treasury.” The group also believes that the importation of Bt cotton seed by the Pakistani government will cost the country millions of dollars in compensatory and royalty payments.

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