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MAY 2009



Pakistan to Focus on Genetic Crops to Increase Output

Daily Times (Pakistan),
April 25, 2009
Pakistan would have to focus on genetically modified and hybrid crops to tap true potential of agricultural productivity in the country in the shortest possible time.

This was the upshot of speeches made at a seminar on Challenges and Opportunities in Agbiotec in Pakistan. Provincial Minister for Agriculture Ahmad Ali Aulakh, LCCI President Mian Muzaffar Ali, Vice President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh and former LCCI Vice President Shahzad Ali Malik threw light on the issues being faced by the agricultural sector in Pakistan.

The Provincial Minister, while stressing the need for establishment of institutes both at provincial and federal levels for creating awareness among the farming community about Genetically Modified (GM) technology, said that sustainability and improvement in crops yield are the major challenges to meet upcoming threats of increasing population and depleting water resources.

He said Biotechnology has shown considerable potential to raise agricultural productivity by addressing problems not solved through conventional research. Among other application of biotechnology, development of genetically modified organasims is the promising tool to facilitate plant breeding in development of crops to insect and tolerant to herbicide.

The Minister said that GM crops have contributed to sustainable development in several significant ways including: Contributing to food security and more affordable food, conserving biodiversity, alleviation of poverty and hunger, mitigating climate change and reducing greenhouses gases, contributing to the cost-effective production of biofuels and above all by contributing to sustainable economic benefits.

In addition to aiding in issues of food security, genetically modified crops have an important role to play in lessening the environmental impact and improving the sustainability of food production. Insect-resistant rice, for example, has the potential to benefit about 1 billion people.

LCCI President Mian Muzaffar Ali said that Pakistan's agriculture sector was losing heavily due to insufficient utilization of biotechnology as the magic progress of worldwide- agriculture sector is only due to Genetically Modified crops. He said that agriculture sector in Pakistan has a huge potential. It continues to be the single largest and dominant driving force for growth as well as the main source of livelihood for 66 percent of Pakistan's population. But it has always faced two major problems: first, productions per acre are lower than many countries. Secondly, around 40 percent of production is wasted in the form of post-harvest losses due to insufficient utilization of biotechnology.

Shahzad Ali Malik speaking on the occasion said that in India BT Cotton Hybird was approved for commercial cultivation in 2003 and by 2008 in 5 years time India more than doubled its cotton production from 16 million bales in 2003 to 34 million bales last year. While Pakistan has reversed its production to 11.5 million bales after touching the peak of 14.5 million bales in 2004-5.

He said that survival of Textile Industry will come with revolution in cotton production - through BT Cotton hybrid and not through BT cotton only.

He paid tributes to the government of Punjab for breaking the deadlock of last 10 to 12 years in introduction of BT Cotton by signing agreement with Chinese Academy of Agriculture Sciences (CAAS). He said that BT cotton hybrid technology would not only revolutionise cotton production in the country but would also revitalize sick textile industry.

He said that the government of Pakistan had allowed Monsanto to import BT cotton hybrid from India for six to seven years till the development of local hybrid. The national seed companies should be allowed the same facility for creating a level playing field.