Archive for October, 2009

Imbalanced use of fertilisers

Post Source: Dawn Economic and Business Review

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For the last many years, the official effort is largely riveted on supply and price management of urea alone. Occasionally, the government has spared some thoughts and money for phosphorous fertiliser (DAP), but potash fertiliser has not received the due attention, resulting in imbalanced use of fertiliser, and huge production loss. The overall fertiliser picture for the just-ended Kharif (April-September) season also shows a lopsided fertiliser usage.

During this period, the farmers used 3.1 million tons of urea, 800,000 tons of DAP–, iInterestingly, it was 247 per cent improvement over the previous Kharif season – and only 7,000 tons of potash.

Agronomists believe that the ratio should be 2x1x1 – two bags of urea, one bag of phosphorous fertiliser and one bag of potash. It means, the country should use six million tons of urea, 3.5 million tons of DAP and 3.5 million tons of potash fertiliser.

Agronomists also say that the government prefers working on urea more due to political exigencies. It is cheaper and its use is wide-spread – three times more than DAP, even in the best of times, though it had a ratio of one-tenth in some years. Since urea is meant for vegetative growth, making crops lush green, it is visually more appealing to the majority of farmers. That is what precisely moves the government more on the urea front. It has allocated Rs34 billion for urea subsidies.

All its efforts on urea are now bearing fruit, and the country is close to self-sufficiency if it can check smuggling. This Rabi, its stocks and supplies (3.2 million tons) are enough not only for the season but also for carrying over till the end of it.

Two more urea plants of around one million tons a year will start production this season. Once these plants come online, the urea crisis would hopefully be solved on permanent basis. Increased domestic production would also reduce chances of hoarding. Thus, smuggling of urea remains the only potent threat. With urea needs almost taken care of, the government should now focus on other varieties of fertiliser, especially potash.

The current weather changes, where water and temperature stresses have become frequent, have only multiplied the importance of potash fertiliser. Its benefits are tailor-made for the new weather changes. According to agronomists, it improves plant’s drought resistance and reduce water loss and wilting. It helps in photosynthesis, regulates production of high energy plant growth compounds, and creates synergy and increases pest resistance. Had it been applied to crops in required quantity this Kharif, the negative impacts of water and temperature stress could have been contained.

Despite all the benefits, its usage and supplies have been allowed to decrease dangerously. Its consumption was recorded at 31,318 tons in 2006-o7, 20,415 tons in 2007-08 and 17,752 tons in 2008-09, and the country has zero stocks this Rabi as potash fertiliser was not imported in the beginning of this year.

If one keeps in mind the recommended yearly usage of 3.5 million tons, it is not hard to explain seven to eight per cent yield drop in almost all crops this Kharif.

In early 2009, potash fertiliser was not imported because of higher international price (around Rs2,400 per bag) and the government’s refusal to give any subsidy on it. The Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) refused subsidy despite advocacy by Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture (Minfa) Nazar Muhammad Gondal and the Punjab government.

The ECC’s argument was that potash is used by rich farmers, and they do not deserve subsidy. It ignored the fact that potash fertiliser is a requirement of the soil, not of rich farmers. The proposed subsidy bill on potash that was refused was Rs0.75 billion. Compare it with Rs22 billion subsidies on urea last year and around Rs12 billion this year.

The government has to understand that it would have to plan a new kind of agriculture factoring in new weather realities (salt, drought and temperature stresses). It now has to undertake varietal improvement – assessing which variety of crop can absorb those stresses better.

Agronomists insist that the government has to get out of urea-fixation and take a holistic view of the soil requirements under changed circumstances. National fertiliser picture, which currently is urea-specific, must change – phosphorus and potash must be given their due role to play. — Ahmad Fraz Khan

Modern-day land grab: rich foreign countries owning vast farmlands in poor countries

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Post Source: Trendsupdates.com

New colonialism in a globalized world is a curious thing. Countries buying vast parcels of farmlands in poor countries poses new emerging problems. In such cases, only the countries’ respective heads of state know the full details. It gets complicated when provincial governors have auctioned off their land to the highest international bidders such as in Laos and Cambodia where the national governments have lost track of what’s left of the national territories the countries can still call their own.

The International Food Policy Research Institute can only make a guess. The UN agencies rely on newspaper reports in such queries. The World Bank wants countries to read carefully the fine print on such multinational agreements. The land policy division of the World Bank ‘estimates that 10 to 30 percent of available arable land could be up for grabs, although only a fraction of the potential number of lease and sale agreements have been signed.’

It was a particularly busy sale season in 2008, for instance, ‘when plans and applications in many countries more than doubled, in some cases tripled’ One such case was Mozambique where ‘foreign demand is more than double the existing cultivated farmland, and the government has already allocated 4 million hectares to investors, half of them from abroad.’

In many cases, the buyers of foreign land are not private investors but foreign governments themselves. Some examples of these are Sudan that has leased 1.5 million hectares of prime farmland to the Gulf states and where Egypt and South Korea have lease contracts for 99 years; Cambodia where Kuwait has leased 130,000 hectares of rice fields; Uganda where Egypt has leased 840,000 hectares to grow wheat and corn; the Democratic Republic of Congo that has offered to lease 10 million hectares to the South Africans; and hunger-stricken Ethiopia in whose land Saudi Arabia grows what it boasts as its export rice.

Almost all of these host countries are impoverished and incapable as food exporters. Their most important asset which is land is compromised as far as local farmers and local food production are concerned. Kazakhstan and Pakistan, for example, suffer from water shortages. Sub-Saharan Africa may have ample water resources but also own huge populations that necessitate huge productions for local consumption.

Instead of land acquisition, experts advice contract farming where ‘foreign investors provide the technology and capital, while the local farmers own or lease the land and supply rice or wheat at fixed prices.’ But while this is the ‘classic, tried-and-tested model,’ it is not what foreign investors want as they dangle to weak and susceptible governments such tempting lures as aid, infrastructure in the form of schools and paved roads, world-class technology, and most importantly, cold hard cash.

 

India-Pakistan criticised on World Food Day

Post Source: Defence.pk

Brazil and China have been praised for their efforts to tackle hunger, in a development charity’s report released to coincide with UN World Food Day.

But the ActionAid report criticises India and others countries for not doing enough to alleviate the problem.

The agency also ranked rich countries, saying Luxembourg is trying hardest to end global hunger, while the US and New Zealand rank bottom.

Studies estimate that one billion people are malnourished globally.

That figure, given in studies by a number of think tanks and aid agencies, represents roughly one in seven of the world’s population.

ActionAid’s report, Hunger Free, says hunger is “a choice that we make, not a force of nature”.

“Hunger begins with inequality,” it says, and then grows because of “perverse policies that treat food purely as a commodity, not a right”.

“It is because of these policies that most developing countries no longer grow enough to feed themselves, and that their farmers are amongst the hungriest and poorest people in the world,” says ActionAid.

‘Unacceptable’

Among the developing countries ranked, Brazil wins the top spot, with the aid agency praising President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s support for land reform and community kitchens for the poor.

ActionAid said Brazil’s success shows “what can be achieved when the state has both resources and political will to tackle hunger”.

China is also praised for cutting the number of hungry by 58 million in 10 years through strong state support for smallholder farmers.

But the report criticises economically liberal India where, it says, 30 million people have been added to the ranks of the hungry since the mid-1990s and 46% of children are underweight.

It says hunger exists in India not because there is insufficient food, but because people cannot access it, and that the exploitation of natural resources has led to “horrific displacements” of people, pushing many into poverty.

“When people are already on the brink of starvation this is simply unacceptable,” it says.

The report said some progress had been made, with a scheme to protect rural employment in the case of drought, but it needed to be implemented more effectively.

Neighbouring Bangladesh is praised for reducing the number of chronically food-insecure people from 40 million to 27 million in the past 10 years and for improving childhood nutrition in the past two decades.

But the report says Bangladesh has a long way to go to reduce overall malnutrition and build a sustainable agricultural system.

This scandal could easily be ended if all governments took determined action
Anne Jellema, Action Aid

The Democratic Republic of Congo is at the bottom of the list, with 76% of the population listed “chronically hungry”.

The cost of foods is growing in the country, there has been very low investment in agriculture and the government offers no social protection.

Robert Dekker, the World Food Programme’s (WFP) DR Congo director, told the BBC that Congolese people live almost exclusively on a diet of cassava flour, which is low in nutritional value.

He said health experts recommend adults eat 2,100 kilocalories a day for a healthy diet but in Congo the average is 1,650 a day.

The BBC’s Tomas Fessy, in the capital Kinshasa, says decades of war and neglect have meant there is no proper agricultural infrastructure in the country, while a poor road system makes it hard for people to reach food supplies.

In Ethiopia, Action Aid says famine is “once again stalking” the country, as a result of continuing drought, a growing population and damaging land policies.

Although the government has begun to introduce reforms, 7.5 million Ethiopians are classed as “food insecure”.

ActionAid also assessed richer, developed countries, praising those that have invested in agriculture in the developing world but criticising others that have promoted biofuels which, the report says, have displaced food crops.

A palm oil plantation in Ivory Coast
Western demand for biofuel takes up valuable land in developing countries

It says Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana and Ethiopia have seen an “invasion” of agrofuel producers from the West, using up land that could be used to grow food.

The rankings are weighted to account for what ActionAid calls effort and progress, not just outcomes – that is how the winner in the rich country list is tiny Luxembourg, with all the Nordic countries close behind.

New Zealand is at the bottom of the rich country list, accused of making particularly harsh cuts in its official aid to agriculture.

And the US is second from last, described as “miserly” in its aid to developing world farmers.

“The US owes a huge climate debt to developing countries and it must not delay in agreeing to find the finance to help developing countries adapt to climate change, and in signing up to a just global deal,” said the report. ActionAid said the level of hunger in the world is “perhaps one of the most shameful achievements of recent history” and that there is no reason for anyone to go without food.

“Every six seconds a child dies from hunger,” said the charity’s policy director, Anne Jellema.

“This scandal could easily be ended if all governments took determined action.”
BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Mixed messages in hunger report

If you check map on the link pakistan and india are in the same boat.

Erratic weather’s impact on Kharif crops

Post Source: DAWN Economic & Business Review – By Ahmad Fraz Khan
Monday, 19 Oct, 2009

 AGRICULTURE this Kharif has suffered the first serious blow of an international weather phenomenon called “El Nino,” which, according to initial estimates, has cost farmers and the country over Rs10 billion.

All Kharif crops – cotton, rice, sugarcane and maize – have suffered varying degrees of yield losses due to erratic weather, and these losses are now official: production estimates of cotton, rice and sugarcane have been revised downwards.

The government expected 14.3 million cotton bales, but revised it to 13.3 million bales … some farmers fear even less. The cane estimate has come down to 48 million tons from the target of 56.8 million tons. Even the reduced rice target of 5.9 million tons now looks doubtful; the production last year was seven million tons.

The cumulative market value of the crops, if original targets were met, stood at Rs800 billion. With the El Nino costing seven to eight per cent of production losses, the farmers fear Rs100 billion hole in their income this year.

Though weather variations are affecting agriculture in the developed world as well, its impact on countries such as Pakistan could be disastrous because agriculture in underdeveloped states is purely a natural phenomenon – human management part (for want of modernisation of farmin), which can mitigate the effects, is largely missing.

The farmers in countries like Pakistan generally depend on their traditional knowledge about weather, which has become largely outdated, and the states don’t have dependable weather forecast systems. Both these factors jointly hurt the sector.

These weather changes are affecting almost the entire range of human activity, but the most vulnerable among them is agriculture – the world so far has mainly practiced climate-agriculture. Controlled agriculture does not constitute even one per cent of the entire sector. Unfortunately, the El Nino has created new weather realities, which are “un-predictable,” both in general behaviour and timing and quantum of rains and droughts it produces.

The extended drought caused by El Nino effect during the four-month (June, July, August and September) has underscored the extent of the damage it could wreak. It has also exposed the weakness of the current metrological set-up in forecasting of weather and added urgency to water planning.

In May, the meteorological managers had forecast a “highly wet month of June” in a meeting of the Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA) and the entire water distribution planning was based on this meteorological assessment. The month of June, however, turned out to be “total drought” period, putting the entire official planning on its heads.

To make the matter worse, the meteorological officials in June came up with forecast of 30 per cent more rains for the next three (monsoon) months. But the forecast was revised down to 20 per cent within a week. Then it further cut it to 10 per cent another week down the line. It again revised estimates to 10 per cent less than normal rains, then to 20 per cent and ultimately it settled at 30 per cent reduction in monsoon rains.

All the forecasts, starting from 30 per cent more to 30 per cent less rains, were made within a span of two months – a fluctuation of 60 per cent in as much days, with a price tag of Rs100 billion. Ultimately, the country received 26 per cent less rains. Provincial breakdown of rains further complicated the task of agriculture managers. Against national average loss of 26 per cent, the NWFP suffered 36.9 per cent loss, the Punjab 25.6 per cent, Sindh got five per cent above normal rains and Balochistan received 40 per cent less rains.

How one could plan agriculture in such a situation? Some countries in the world have already started responding to the phenomenon because of current and future projections attached to it. Pakistan is yet to wake up to it. The Kharif losses should serve as an eye opener and goad the government into a befitting response. For that, the country needs to move in three directions simultaneously – scientifically asses the losses, improve its meteorological set-up and invest in water sector – to contain weather effects.

To start with, documentation of the effects of changing weather phenomenon on its agriculture must be started so that bigger and more reliable picture starts emerging. Many countries are already doing it and the guidelines how to do it could even be downloaded from the Internet. Thus it should not waste time any more. This year’s estimated loss of Rs100 billion should be enough to shake any civilised country into action. The amount is just a few billion short of what the government is begging for from the US. Checking domestic financial losses can be one way of saving ourselves from the disgrace of begging.

Second, investment must be made in metrological infrastructure. Equipment that makes at least two-season advance weather forecasts, by and large close to reality, is available in the international market. The loss that the country would suffer because of faulty forecasts would be much higher than what such equipment would cost. Agriculture planning needs to be at least a year ahead of actual production. Even if the meteorologists get it right at the last moment, as happened this season, there is no benefit because agriculture cannot respond to it. Only a credible, efficient and fully equipped meteorological system could save the country from such disasters.

Third, there is a need to invest heavily on the water sector so that water fluctuation could be absorbed. The country is already late by 30 years in its water planning. The recent weather phenomenon has only added urgency to it. Though the government has moved on small dams – building 32 of them in next three years – but it is guilty of ignoring bigger ones. The level of efficiency could be gauged from the fact that the ground-breaking of Diamer-Bhasha dam was performed in April 2006, and not a brick has been moved on the project even three-and-a-half years down the line.

The planners must show sensitivity to the weather phenomenon because it is now part of human life and agriculture. Its losses, if not checked, can ruin the agriculture economy.

Hostile weather deals blow to crops in Thar

Post Source: DAWN By Prem Shivani – Tuesday, 20 Oct, 2009

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MITHI: Unfavourable weather conditions and insufficient rains have dashed hopes of Thari growers who had sown different crops during the first spell of monsoon rain, hoping in vain it will rain sufficiently for the crops to mature and give them good yields.

This correspondent saw during a visit to the arable areas of Mithi, Diplo, Nagarparkar and Chhachhro that crops of millet and guwar sown during the first spell of rains failed to attain full maturity, intensifying growers’ fears they would barely be able to recover expenses.

Chandro Bheel, a grower from Mithi taluka said: ‘I spent Rs30,000 on buying seed, hiring tractors and labour and about a month ago my crops seemed in promising condition. I was expecting to earn more than Rs50,000 from it.’

‘But the crops could not attain full maturity because of lack of rain and unfavourable weather conditions. I fear I would get barely half the produce,’ said Chandro Bheel.

Nobat Khoso, a landlord of Nagarparkar taluka, said that unfavourable weather has caused 30 to 40 per cent damage to crops.

Radho, a grain dealer of Chelhar, alleged that just a month ago he was expecting to get recover all his loans from growers of various villages but with large-scale damage to crops chances to get back the loan were very slim.

Kewal Ram Meghwar, a grower from Diplo taluka, pointed out that bad weather and lack of rain had damaged at least 40 per cent crops in entire Thar.

A revenue official who wished not to be named said that it would not be wrong to estimate that Thari growers had to bear at least 30 per cent loss to their crops this year.

Formal trade in Indian Bt cotton seed

Post Source: By Ashfak Bokhari – Monday, 19 Oct, 2009

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THE case of Bt cotton which failed to formally make inroads into Pakistan market despite a vigorous campaign by its sponsor firms, has taken a new twist. It may now enter Pakistan from India.

On October 4, The Hindustan Times reported that India’s regulatory body for genetically modified (GM) crops, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), has approved export of Bt cotton seeds to Pakistan. It said that the GEAC, working under the environment and forest ministry, gave permission to top GM seed companies like Monsanto, Bayer and Nath Biogene in September to export GM hybrid seeds to Pakistan for trial. “Our bonhomie with our neighbours (Pakistan) on environment issues from climate change to GM is good,” Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh is reported to have said.

Whether it is in response to Pakistan’s request or Indian companies’ own desire that the export is being permitted is not clear. What is clear is that Monsanto had recently applied for permission to export Bollgard II seeds to Pakistan. As per the new procedure adopted by India, the export of any transgenic material for research purposes requires approval of the GEAC and the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA).

The GM companies have generated a great hype in India to convince farmers that Bt cotton cultivation reduces bollworm attack by 58 per cent, raises yield by 24 per cent and results in an extraordinary profit. And the companies boast that it is the Bt cotton seeds that have helped India double its cotton production since 2002 when it was officially allowed for cultivation in certain states. The impression being created is that cultivation of Indian Bt cotton seeds in Pakistan would produce similar results.

Jagresh Rana, director of Monsanto’s Indian subsidiary, stated after obtaining the permission, “it provides us a good opportunity to test highly successful GM cotton seeds in a similar geographical terrain in Pakistan. Bt cotton is grown on the Indian side of border in Abhor in Punjab, and normal cotton is grown on a similar soil in Pakistan. One can see the difference. We have no reason to believe that India’s cotton success story cannot be replicated in Pakistan,” he said.

The other side of the picture, however, is quite opposite. The convenor of Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity, PV Satheesh, says that contrary to the claims of Monsanto, Bt cotton has failed in Andhra Pradesh. Farmers who cultivated Bt cotton in recent years suffered severe agricultural and financial losses and many families have committed suicide. The region has come to be known as suicide belt. In 2005, Andhra Pradesh government revoked permission to grow three varieties of Bt cotton.

According to Vandana Shiva, a prominent physicist and activist, “the clearance to commercialise Bt cotton was granted by GEAC on grounds that it had been fully tested in Indian conditions, that it does not require pesticide sprays, that it gives higher yield and farmers have higher incomes. “All the claims on the basis of which the clearance was granted have been proven false by the total failure of Bt cotton in states where it was cleared for planting including Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.” Last year, Mahyco-Monsanto applied to the GEAC for approval of

a Bt cotton variety for cultivation in north India, but that variety was rejected as it was found susceptible to the dangerous leaf curl virus.

Monsanto whose GM products have been the focus of controversy throughout the world for their effects on crops, human health, environment and land despite a dramatic rise in output, is still resisted in Europe. The US multinational has been consistent in pursuing its case with the officials concerned in Pakistan and using various means and skills to obtain permission for marketing its Bt cotton seeds.

In May last year, it succeeded in obtaining Letter of Intent (not permission) from the ministry of food, agriculture and livestock (Minfal) for marketing certified Bt cottonseed. On December 4, its officials gave a briefing to the steering committee on Bt cotton which was attended by the federal agriculture minister and the ministry appeared inclined to finally let it enter the Pakistan market. Its application is, however, lying with Law and Justice Division for vetting. Meanwhile, a great craze has been witnessed among farmers for using Bt cotton seeds, thanks to Monsanto’s PR offensive. And they have been sowing unspecified varieties of Bt cotton, smuggled from India, on large tracts of land.

Pakistan is the fourth largest cotton growing country in the world and its total cotton acreage is equal to 40 per cent of total cotton cultivated in India. Federal textile minister Rana Mohammad Farooq Saeed Khan said in August that from next year farmers would be allowed to cultivate BT cotton. And on October 13, agriculture minister Nazar Muhammad Gondal confirmed it saying its cultivation would begin from kharif season in 2010. Initially, about 20 per cent certified BT cotton would be planted and the cultivation area would increase with the passage of time.

His ministry officials say that the current production was low because almost 80 per cent of cotton farmers use substandard and unapproved seeds. It can go up only after they begin using certified seeds. Four years ago, less than two per cent area was under BT cotton on illegal basis but majority of growers use BT cotton seeds and the production was declining. These seeds have low resistance and are prone to various diseases that is causing a decline in production and an increase in input cost. Pakistan’s research bodies have developed disease-resistant seeds of BT cotton seeds.

The ministry is in the final phase of negotiations with two local and six international firms, including Monsanto which would be importing BT cotton seeds from its facilities in India. The imported BT cotton seeds may dominate the market in 2010 but local certified seeds would have a major share of the market in coming years. Meanwhile, two Chinese experts in Bt cotton technology visited Pakistan in May and discussed with officials of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) steps to experiment BT cotton production on 800 acres in Punjab and Sindh.

There is a growing resentment among farmers, agriculturists and NGOs over plans for boosting cultivation of Bt cotton and their representatives are campaigning for a ban on the use of genetically modified seeds, which they say, is highly poisonous and harmful for humans as well as for animals. Organisations such as Pesticide Action Network and Roots for Equity have demanded that the government should keep a check on the activities of

agro-chemical companies because they were trying to mislead farmers in their efforts to promote genetically modified crops, especially Bt cotton.

The smuggled BT cotton seed being used in Pakistan is from its first generation and plant insects can develop resistance against it. Experts say once BT cotton loses its resistance, the insect could damage the crop and the seed itself. It requires continuous improvement in order to cope with growing immune power of insects. In India, second generation BT cotton seed with weed control capability was currently being used and has boosted its cotton production to 30 million bales from 18 million. Pakistan can increase its output to 18 million bales from the current 12 million by using GM technology, says the textile adviser.

Food Crisis in Pakistan

Post Source: Sheikhupura Chamber of Commerace & Industry

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Pakistan with a population of 164 million has a health profile characterised by high population growth     infant and child mortality and maternal mortality rates. Malnutrition is among the major causes of morbidity and mortality in children. Nutritional surveys point towards serious systemic deficits in nutritional status. Nationally 24% of people are below the calorie-based food plus non-food poverty line.

             

The calls for “Atta” from all quarters of the society are rising to a chorus. Due to the food shortage in Pakistan    the new government of Pakistan Democratic Alliance is all set to become a glutton for punishment and humiliation in very near future. Though it would be unfair to blame them for the looming food crisis in the country but an empty stomach doesn’t understand logic or argument.

                                                           

One may ridicule United States in many regards     but when it comes to statistics the auxiliary offshoots of this world body often prove right. United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has predicted that Pakistan is in the grave danger of becoming an acutely food insecure country in the very near future and according to other sources it is expected that food riots would break in the streets.                                                              

WFP country director Wolfgang Berbinger has told media that currently 60 million food insecure people are present in the country the increase of 35 per cent in wheat prices and more for some other food items  did not match the increase in wage rate that was 18 per cent as compared to last year. According to the WFP stats 38 per cent of Pakistanis are food insecure and that basically means that they are not able to afford poverty line intake of 2350 kcal per day. WFP also reveal that approximately 12.5 of wheat is wasted on way from field to the consumer whereas vegetable loss is 30 per cent.   

           

The food insecurity is in every district of Pakistan. In the most populated province of Pakistan in Punjab out of 34 district only 9 are almost food secure. In NWFP out of 16 districts  only five are food secure. In Sindh   out of 15 districts only 9 are food secure. In Balochistan out of 25 districts only 4 are food secure.

 

These statistics are alarming and demand immediate attention from the high-ups. The restoration of judiciary and the matter of war on terror are extremely important but prolonged hunger can turn any nation into angry animals frantically searching for food to appease their natural instinct.

                                                     

So it is the need of hour that government should start working on war footings about extending the crop maximization plans to balance food price inflation and improvement in storage and harvesting-thrashing to control wastage of food. Government needs to understand that easy and cheap food availability access and deliverance to everyone at everyplace is the key to their survival.

India okays export of Bt cotton seeds to Pakistan

Post Source: Dawn (October 14, 2009)

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NEW DELHI: India’s regulatory body for GM crops, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), has approved export of Bt cotton seeds to Pakistan.

Hindustan Times reported that the GEAC working under the environment and Forest Ministry, gave permission to top GM seed companies, like Monsanto, Hyderabad-based Bayer Hybrid Seeds and Aurangabad-based Nath Biogene, in September to export GM hybrid seeds to Pakistan for trials.

India’s Bt Cotton seeds have helped the country double its cotton production in seven years.

Bt or Bacillus Thuringiensis is a bacterium that produces crystals proteins that are toxic to many species of insects and pests, the daily said.

‘It provides us a good opportunity to test highly successful GM cotton seeds in a similar geographical terrain in Pakistan,’ the daily quoting Jagresh Rana, director, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech said.

‘Bt Cotton is grown on the Indian side of border in Abhor in Punjab, and normal cotton is grown on a similar soil in Pakistan. One can see the difference. We have no reason to believe that India’s cotton success story cannot be replicated in Pakistan,’ he said.

‘Our bonhomie with our neighbours (Pakistan) on environment issues from climate change to GM is good,’ said Indian environment Minister Jairam Ramesh. —APP