With its rapidly growing population, Pakistan faces the risk of serious food insecurity by 2030 unless it adopts biotechnology applications in agriculture.
This was the view expressed by biotech scientists at the launch of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, ISAAA Brief 44, a review of developments in international biotechnology, sustainable agriculture and technology transfer.
Chaired by GCU Vice Chancellor Dr Khaleequr Rahman, the launch of the report was organised by the Pakistan Biotechnology Information Centre (PABIC) at the GCU Institute of Industrial Biotechnology.
The report states that biotech crop growing around the world increased for the 17th consecutive year in 2012, with a total of 170 million hectares coming under cultivation. Developing countries grew a larger percentage of the net global biotech crop, 52%, for the first time in 2012. The top five biotech crop countries were China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Argentina, which collectively grew a total of approximately 78 million hectares, around 46% of global cultivation. These five countries also account for 40% of the global population. Pakistan ranked 9th of 28 countries growing biotech crops, with 2.8 million hectares of biotech cotton being grown in 2012.
Dr Clive James, the author of ISAAA Brief 44, said in a recorded message played at the ceremony that the provision of food to the continuously growing population of the world was a great challenge. By 2050, Pakistan’s population would reach 250 million and would require greater resources. He highlighted the need for the cultivation of crops which required less maintenance and reaped greater yields. He said that the increased biotech crop cultivation in developing countries in 2012 was an encouraging sign.
GCU Institute of Industrial Biotechnology Director Prof Dr Ikramul Haq stressed the need to open training centres for farmers where they could be taught about the significance of genetically modified crops.
Pakistan Academy of Sciences General Secretary Dr Anwar Nasim said there could be a national crisis and rioting if the issue of food shortage was not addressed. Biotechnological advancements must be employed to counter the challenges posed by food insecurity in Pakistan, he said.
National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Director Dr Sohail Hameed said Pakistan needed technology innovations in agri-biotechnology to address food shortages in the long run.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2013.