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Rice scientists reject Indian claim of ‘seed technology piracy’

LAHORE: Pakistan’s rice scientists have rejected an Indian claim that ‘two high-yielding basmati varieties being sown in the country are stolen from India’, with the industry urging the government to initiate concrete action to foil fresh Indian propaganda to undermine the nation’s rice exports.

“The claim is completely preposterous and merely propaganda. It has no leg to stand on,” the director of the Rice Research Institute (RRI), Dr Muhammad Ijaz, says.

India’s agricultural scientists have recently accused the Pakistani rice growers and exporters of ‘seed technology piracy’, claiming that Pakistan has “renamed basmati rice varieties developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), PUSA 2011 and 1509.

IARI director A K Singh was widely quoted by India’s mainstream media as alleging that the “Pakistani rice export companies are selling them in the international market” as Kainat 2011 and Kissan Basmati. He also went on to urge both the Indian government and rice industry to initiate a legal action against Pakistani seed firms involved in piracy in order to protect the interests of Indian rice farmers and exporters.

Rice institute director says DNA of two basmati varieties entirely different from Indian seeds

Dr Ijaz maintains that the DNA of the two Pakistani varieties was entirely different from the Indian seeds. “I believe the rapid growth in rice exports from Pakistan prompted the IARI director to make such wild, baseless allegations,” he adds.

In the meanwhile, the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) has reached out to the RRI for providing it the samples of four Pakistani and Indian rice varieties each, and their DNA profiles if already done. The request has been made for the third-party assessment and DNA sequencing for comparison between them, the acting chairman of REAP, Haseeb Ali Khan, asserts.

The Indian allegations and propaganda drive against Pakistan’s rice exports has set alarm bells ringing across the industry. Many have called upon relevant government authorities, particularly the commerce ministry, to take immediate notice of the Indian propaganda and officially counter as it might affect rice export shipments from the country.

Pakistan Hi-Tech Hybrid Seed Association Chairman Shahzad Ali Malik is deeply concerned over the allegations. “This is a very disconcerting situation for every stakeholder: farmers, millers and exporters,” he notes while speaking with this reporter on Tuesday.

“Our government must take a serious note of the Indian accusations, and join forces with the rice industry to foil the Indian designs to prevent them from damaging our basmati exports,” he adds. He reminds the authorities that “this is not the first time that an effort has been made by Indians to steal our basmati heritage from us, and, hence we must give them a befitting response”.

Mr Malik was referring to India’s failed attempt to claim the “exclusive Geographical Indication (GI) tag” for basmati rice a few years ago. “Indians are worried about Pakistan’s surging rice exports and are bent upon damaging us by hook or by crook,” he says. “It is a very serious issue and the government should take proactive action to foil another attempt to impede Pakistan’s basmati exports,” he emphasised.

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Published Date: April 3, 2024

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