In November, 2010, bureaucracy almost managed to get the Monsanto proposal approved by the Punjab Government. However, the Chief Minister Punjab came to know about the relevant issues and stepped in to prevent a hasty decision. It was learnt that Bollgard-1 and 2 technology is completely ineffective against Cotton Leaf Curl Virus (CLCuV), White Fly and Mealy Bugs. These pests are the main reason why Pakistan Cotton crop loses 2-3 million bales every year. Thus, while the company would have been selling the seeds and making money through Government ‘compensation’ and sovereign guarantees every year, the real problems were still there and the ‘latest technology’ would have cost the Punjab government between 30-70 million U.S dollars every year with no guarantees of yield increase. The regulatory trials by this company in 2010, proved its technology was ineffective against the main pests (CLCuV etc) in Pakistan.
It seems that non-technical persons started evaluation of the Bollgard technology in Pakistan and therefore, could not properly handle the situation. For instance, it could not realize that how much yield increase would happen and negotiated with the company without the benefits of actual field trial results in Pakistani agro-climatic conditions. They also failed to see the actual perspective in the claims of high yields due to Bollgard-2 technology in India. Fact is that per acre Indian cotton yield is lower. It grows hybrid seeds while we use varietal seeds and India has rain dependant cotton while we have virtually 100% irrigated cotton. Also Bollworms instance in the cotton field is far higher in India than Pakistan. So comparing Indian cotton with Pakistan is like comparing apples with oranges.
Many competent persons are working in our research and development sector. Institutes of cotton research like CCRI Multan, NIBGE and NIAB at Faisalabad, and others are established research outlets. These have produced results and given Pakistan, cotton seed varieties which have been acknowledged as high yielding and world class. Instead of hankering after commercial seed companies and side tracking the R&D system in Pakistan, we should be looking to collaborate with eminent global institutes and try to gather knowledge rather than marketing tools.
We need to move forward, adopt agricultural technology but after proper evaluation and with involvement of the relevant technical people during this process. Marketing and seed companies are required to run the commercial side of the business but not be allowed to propagate marketing messages and hijack the agenda. Regulatory process must be independent of the involvement of commercial seed sector whether local or multinationals.