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December 14, 2019

Agriculture biotech termed vital for food security


December 14, 2019

Islamabad : Pakistan Biotechnology Information Centre (PABIC), in collaboration with Forman Christian College University (FCCU) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), organised the National Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology.

The purpose of the two-day dialogue was to review the status of agricultural biotechnology and highlight the constraints in its successful adoption in Pakistan. The event was attended by scientists, policymakers, representatives from leading biotech institutes, academia, crop science industry, farmers and other stakeholders.

The participants were provided an overview on the development of biotechnology infrastructure and expertise in Pakistan over the years, the impediments for commercialization and the laws and regulations governing this technology,

In his introductory presentation, Dr. Kauser Malik, Dean of Postgraduate studies FCCU and Director of PABIC, highlighted that Pakistan was one of the earliest countries to show interest in biotechnology, starting with a nomination to host an international biotechnology research centre back in 1981. He further lamented that despite all the early promise, the country has not fully benefitted from this innovation.

“Pakistan has a longstanding policy to adopt biotechnology, reflected in the establishment and funding of numerous research institutes and academic programs across the country since 1994; however, a policy disconnect amongst relevant ministries and regulatory bodies continues to create roadblocks in the way of technology approvals.” Dr. Kauser explained.

“The Government and its relevant ministries must provide an enabling environment to introduce innovative technologies in accordance with international standards,” he added.

The guest speakers also reiterated the importance of adopting biotechnology to grow enough food for a growing population while using fewer resources. They also urged the government ministries and departments to create policies and reforms backed by science rather than disinformation and anti-science propaganda.

The chief guest, Fawad Chaudhry, Federal Minister for Science and Technology, reinforced the sentiment that the Government should establish a legal and regulatory environment that is conducive to investment and transfer of technology.

“Pakistan must take advantage of the latest technologies, in particular biotechnology, for the advancement of agriculture. It is therefore a top priority of the Ministry of Science and Technology to promote the development and commercialisation of agriculture biotechnology in the country and they are developing a biotechnology park in Jhelum,” Chaudhry stated.

He further promised that “we will revive the National Biotechnology Commission in the Ministry to expedite the introduction of biotechnology.” The two-day event succeeded in bringing together relevant stakeholders on a single platform to discuss the issues and impediments of introducing biotechnology in Pakistan. There was a clear consensus amongst the stakeholders that biotechnology is a key solution in addressing the food, feed and fibre security challenges and further the development of Pakistan’s agriculture sector.

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