LAHORE: Justice Sayyed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi of Lahore High Court on Friday referred the matter to chief justice to constitute a larger bench with respect to the Plant Breeders Rights Act. The judge observed that the issue was of public importance and could endanger the food security of the country by giving multi-national companies a free hand to sell their genetically modified seeds at high prices. The judge also observed that the issue should be referred to a larger bench which will decide whether to declare the law unconstitutional or not. The judge was hearing a petition filed by a non-governmental organisation Human Voice challenging the Pakistan Amended Seed Act, 2015 allegedly for being a violation of farmers’ fundamental rights and passed at the behest of United States multinational seed manufacturing companies. Petitioner Counsel Sheraz Zaka said that the impugned seed act has been passed without the approval of cabinet and under article 144 of the Constitution, the Amendment made in seed act could not have been passed by the federal legislature as it is a provincial subject. He argued that the impugned act had been passed depriving the farmers from their traditional farming practices and instead the multinational corporations had been accommodated to protect their genetically breeding practices which was contagious to the environment and anti competitive harmful for the national economy. He contended that neither any resolution has been passed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly nor by any other assembly and in such a situation, the parliament could not pass the bill without such resolutions from the provinces. He submitted that the scope of his petition was wide and requires the attention of the court keeping into consideration the federal government had ratified convention on biological diversity but the federal government has not heeded attention to the protection of traditional breeding practices. Sheraz Zaka earlier had said that under the impugned law, farmers would be fined and imprisoned for preserving, selling and exchanging seeds, a tradition that has been in vogue for centuries. He had said that it would badly affect the local farmers who were procuring and using the seed according to our soil. He said that the impugned law had made it mandatory for farmers to buy seeds from a licensed company or its agent and they had to do so every time they cultivate a new crop. He stated that this restriction would create a monopoly of companies and make farmers dependent on multinational corporations. He said that it was injustice to millions of small and landless farmers whose food insecurity would be aggravated by this law. He submitted that conditions required under the impugned Act would lead to increase in prices of agricultural products and a food security threat in future is likely to happen. He had also said that the experience of growing genetically modified crops, like Bt cotton, has been disastrous in the country and the government unfortunately intended to promote them through this law is unfortunate. He had said that many European countries had already banned GM crops because of their severe adverse impact on environment and Pakistan should also do the same. He had asserted that this law was not acceptable as first presented before Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and later in Punjab but the government had to face strong resistance from farmers from both provinces. He had said that even after resistance from two elected houses, the national assembly passed the impugned law. He had requested to set aside the amended Seed Act of 2015 for being unconstitutional. Published in Daily Times, October 13th 2018.