Pakistan tightens regulatory checks on cargoes to curb GM rice trade

26.04.2018

Pakistan has tightened grip on international rice trade with a view to getting rid of any impression of involving in the trade of tainted genetically modified (GM) rice, officials said on Wednesday.

Federal government, early this month, issued instructions to Department of Plant Protection, Ministry of Food Security & Research (MFS&R) for strict regulation of inbound and exporting rice consignments.

This move was initiated following serious concerns raised by Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) about incidence of detecting GM rice from some shipments, resulting in rejection of exporting consignments from European Union.

Echoing similar concerns, Punjab government on April 10, 2018 wrote a letter to express strong reservations about tainted trade of GM rice.

We do not produce GM rice nor do we import it. Hence, there is no possibility of any involvement of local companies in the processing of GM rice,” a government official said. “If at all it is detected from some consignments, it could have sourced from outside country, which needs to be checked thoroughly.”

As a result of the tight regulation, Pakistan blocked entry of a Chinese rice seed shipment last week. Chinese Embassy in Islamabad raised the issue with the Minister Food Security & Research.

The Chinese diplomat wrote in the letter dated April 19, 2018 that a shipment of more than 2,000 tons of hybrid rice seed is being stuck in the Karachi port and prohibited from entering into Pakistan due to the negative results of GMO testing.

It further stated that Chinese government does not allow any Chinese company to produce or export GMO hybrid rice seeds home and abroad as well. “The GMO testing conducted by Chinese quarantine authorities shows these hybrid rice seeds are non-GMO.

The Chinese exporters of these seeds are regular business partners of Pakistani importers and all of the exporters pledged these seeds are non-GMO,” the letter said.

Considering the discrepancies of the testing results from both sides, the Chinese diplomat said, it is requested to perform again the testing procedure with the participation of experts from both sides to ensure justice and transparency.

Syed Waseem-ul-Hassan, Director General, Plant Protection Department confirmed that a consignment of about 1,800 tons of hybrid rice seed was stopped from entering into Pakistan due to presence of GM rice.

Following tests conducted recently, about 1,500 tons of hybrid rice is being released while 300 tons has been held due to positive lab reports about presence of GM rice.

Shahzad Ali Malik, leading rice exporter, welcomed steps being taken to check mixing of GM rice in domestic value chain.

“We need to be vigilant on this front in order to make our rice trade fair. I am always firm believer of conducting regular lab tests of all importing and exporting shipments of rice,” Malik said.

“Chinese government has also taken strict measures in this regard and there should be zero tolerance on this issue here in Pakistan also.”

The ban on GM rice trade was strictly enforced further early this month following a letter written by secretary agriculture Punjab to federal secretary MFS&R having subject of “Ban on import of GMP rice and rice seed”.

It is stated in the letter that ‘strict quarantine measures be enforced to stop any import/export of GMO rice and rice seed through regulatory arm of the MNFS&R, especially through monitoring and scrutinizing the lots of imported rice seed.

It is noted in the letter that ‘rice is second most important food crop of Pakistan and is famous export commodity in European countries.

These countries have some serious human health concerns about genetically modified organism (GMO) rice and have zero tolerance policy for GMO rice entry into EU countries.

Because of strategic importance of this crop, provincial Secretary Agriculture stated, Pakistan too has zero tolerance policy for R&D and import / export of GMO rice.

Despite that, some GMO rice consignments are reported now and then. REAP has reported that a rice consignment from Pakistan to Europe was detected in the past with GMO and was rejected, which damaged the country's image as a major Basmati exporter, he observed.


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