LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday warned Plant Breeders Rights Registry (PBRR), a body said to have been made by the government to protect the interests of the multinational corporations (MNCs) manufacturing the genetically modified seeds, of halting its functioning while issuing summons notices to the officials to appear before the court on the next hearing.
The case was heard by Justice Mazhar Ali Naqvi who said that the body, created under section 3 of Plant Breeders (PBRA) Rights Act 2016, has failed to file a comprehensive report for more than a year about the petitioner’s concern regarding environmental issues emerging from genetically modified seeds.
The body only seems to be working for the interests of multinational corporations at the detriment of local farmers, LHC said. The court expressed its dissatisfaction over Punjab government’s inability to produce a Punjab Assembly resolution, required under the article 144 of the constitution, to permit the federal government to legislate on provincial matters such as agriculture.
The next hearing will be held on June 22.
Earlier on May 26, the petitioner’s counsel Sheraz Zaka had argued before the LHC that the impugned law relates to agriculture which is a provincial subject and not a federal subject.
He had further argued that since no province has passed such a resolution so far, nor was PBRA approved by the federal cabinet, therefore, the law is ultra vires.
It was contended that the disputed act has a wide range of adverse effects on the environment since it was passed to promote genetically modified seeds which would reduce the presence of organic food in the market.
The petitioner had maintained that the law has been passed to facilitate the multinational corporations after which the farmers would be forced to purchase expensive seeds from them, adding that it deprives the local farmers of a fair competition in the market making food expensive in the upcoming years.
It was also said that Pakistan is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity 1993, and the impugned law goes against the commitments that Pakistan has made with the global community.
Concerns regarding a possible food security crisis were expressed before the LHC in which it was said that such a reliance on the multinational corporations is not in the national interest since it also puts the future of farmers at stake.
it is worth mentioning that PBRR works under the Ministry of National Food Security and Research. The ministry remained under Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Sikandar Bosan from August 2017 to May 2018. Bosan recently announced to join Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).