Challenges to Biotechnology in Pakistan

April 20, 2013

Sayyar Khan Kazi

Challenges to Biotechnology in Pakistan
Challenges to Biotechnology in Pakistan

We are living in an age, where almost all aspects of human life have been revolutionized by the highly sophisticated and advanced technologies. In recent years, we have witnessed on print and electronic media, several scientific endeavors to target innovations and discoveries beyond the boundaries of our planet Earth.

Technologically advanced countries such as the USA, European Union, Japan and emerging powers like China and India are beating one another to have speedy access to the mysteries of other planets. In the quest of unraveling scientific mysteries, several missions from these countries have been launched to Moon, Mars and other planets in order to lead and dictate the terms upon which the human future will rely. Overall, there has been unprecedented progress towards industrialization that revolutionized every aspect of human life including medical and health care, aviation, urbanization, infrastructure and agriculture. This off course presents a bright picture of the evolution of human civilizations as a result of thousands years of transformation from living in an age of stone to highly civilized societies equipped with social and scientific tools to govern this planet Earth.

Like other scientific disciplines, Agriculture science has received much importance due to the growing needs of expanding populations for more food, feed, fiber and alternative energy resources. In this connection, the advent of modern biotechnology and genetic engineering tools has enabled scientists to manipulate the genetic material of organisms in order to exploit its hidden enormous potential. In the past two decades, biotechnological tools have brought a paradigm shift in the orthodox and traditional ways and means of improving our various industries, health sciences, environment and agriculture. For example, in agriculture, since 1995, there has been a sudden boom in the production of transgenic varieties of agricultural crops with enhanced protection from insect pests and diseases. Farmers around the world have gained maximum economic gains from the adoption of these improved crop varieties. The wide adoption of these improved crop varieties by farmers around the world has resulted a huge economic benefit and positive effects on the environment by less pesticide application.

After the successful production and adoption of disease resistant crop plants, agriculture biotechnology is entering into a new phase of developing second generation transgenic crops that will be able to grow on marginal lands with high water and soil salinity and drought stresses. It is anticipated that the development of these crop varieties will help to feed the growing populations, particularly in regions of Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where majority people are facing hunger, poor quality and malnourished food. Keeping in view the promising role of biotechnology for securing the future of our coming generations, increasing number of countries, public, private sectors and multinational companies have joined the race and invested billions of dollars for research and development activities. In some areas, scientists have excelled and accomplished significant targets like crop disease resistance as mentioned above and development of accurate laboratory tools for genetic dissection, diagnosis and research on human genetic diseases.

Pakistan, a developing country is facing multi-faceted challenges including energy crisis, food security, rapid urbanization and declining fresh water resources in the wake of increasing population and the more global phenomenon of climate change. Like other countries, Pakistan also took a bold step towards adoption of modern biotechnology and started to establish biotechnology centers across the country. In all key national science and technology policies, the role of biotechnology as a potential tool for the growth and socio-economic development has been well acknowledged. In National science and technology policies launched in 1997 and later in 2009, biotechnology was emphasized one of the priority areas. Pakistan also contributed and pioneered the establishment of an International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), initially proposed to be built in Pakistan but later on jointly built in India and Italy. Despite the initial recognition and quick response, biotechnology did not take roots as an emerging source of socio-economic development in the country. For example, we started research on insect resistant transgenic cotton varieties back in 1995 and developed some transgenic lines but it took almost 15 years to launch legal commercial cultivation of these varieties in 2010. The other leading cotton producing countries namely USA, China and India adopted and commercialized transgenic cotton varieties in 1996, 1997 and 2002 respectively and farmers in these countries earned huge economic gains. In addition, we are also lagging behind other countries in development of second generation transgenic crops with improved tolerance to environmental stresses and crops for bio-energy production. The dependency on fossil fuels as energy sources is on the decline because of the enormous potential of bio-feed stocks (crops, trees and grasses) to produce bio-energy products such as ethanol, biodiesel, butanol and petroleum on industrial scale. (To Be Continued)… Source The Frontier Post

Published: Zarai Media Team

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