62% of farmers’ seed requirement in Pakistan is met by the informal sector. In the absence of regulatory oversight, most of the informally provided seed is of low quality. Consequently, farmers are unable to harness the full potential of their labour. Ironically, this widespread informality is a product of an archaic and bureaucratic legal and institutional structure, which was created in the 1970s and has failed to keep pace with structural changes in agriculture. Let me illustrate this using cotton as an example. Based on a province-wide sample of cotton cultivation in 2020, Punjab’s Crop Reporting Services observed that 21 approved varieties were being cultivated on 50.56% of cotton area in the province and 52 unapproved varieties were being cultivated on the remaining area (i.e. 49.44%). All but 5 of the unapproved varieties were genetically modified (GM) insect-resistant varieties. This means in Punjab – and there is no reason for other provinces to be any different – about half of cotton seed is provided by the informal sector.