Monday, April 22, 2024

Biotechnology can help boost food production: Matia

Agriculture minister Matia Chowdhury, on Saturday, said biotechnology can play a key role in increasing agricultural production and address environmental concerns. “In the era of globalisation, biotechnology can play an important role in increasing crop productivity. It has great potential to enhance agricultural production and in the development of genetically modified crops,” she said. Matia made the observation at the inaugural ceremony of the two-day international conference on biotechnology, organised by Committee of Action for Research, Extension and Services (CARES), in collaboration with Bangladesh Academy of Sciences (BAS), Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), and Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU), at a city hotel. “Biotechnology can offer opportunities to solve agricultural problems and ensure food security, where traditional techniques have limitations,” the minister said.
Matia also said that though Bangladesh has increased crop productions over the last 42 years, it has also faced challenges, including natural disaster due to climate change. “We have 8.2 million hectare of cultivable lands for crop production, but it is decreasing steadily, due to urban growth and land degradation,” she said. “There is an urgent need to boost agricultural research, to address crop productivity, by redesigning crop pattern,” she added.
Biotechnology as a modern tool can help sustainable development in livestock, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, as well as food and pharmaceutical industries, she observed.
She, however, said that though biotechnology research in the country has a long way to go. “Though we have limited resources, we need more efforts to solve social problems on sustainable basis,” she said.
She expressed hope that the seminar would highlight opportunities related to the development of agricultural biotechnology and help understand the benefits of biotechnology through deliberations and discussions.
Among others, Dr Atiur Rahman, governor, Bangladesh Bank, Prof. Anwar Huq, Pathogen Research Institute, University of Maryland & President of ASBM, Prof. Mesbauddin Ahmed, secretary of BAS, Prof. Mohammad Rafiqul Huq, vice-chancellor of BAU, Dr Tissa Vitahrana, senior minister for science and technology, government of Sri Lanka, professor Ahmed Shamsul Islam and professor M. Shamser Ali, vice chairman of CARES, spoke on the occasion. While Prof. KMS Aziz, secretary-general of CARES, delivered the vote of thanks.
Dr Atiur Rahman said biotechnology has the potential to boost food security, by developing new bio-pesticides, new drought and saline resistant food crops. “It’s a huge potential area where both the government and private sector can invest for sustainable economic growth,” he added. Dr Rahman also urged the private sector to invest in this area, under corporate social responsibility.
About biotechnology research, he said, “Biotechnology is also capable of developing new preventive and curative pharmaceutical products.”
Prof. Mohammad Rafiqul Huq said the increasing world population is putting additional pressure on food, nutrition, healthcare and environment. “However, biotechnology can enhance food production, improve health quality, and manage environment,” he added. Prof. Rafiqul also suggested national biological policy to harvest full benefit of biotechnology, and urged the government to implement it.
He also called upon the donor agency, private sectors and NGOs to fund in the biotechnology research in Bangladesh.
Tissa Vitahrana said the South Asian region has been facing acute poverty and rapid, effective and socio-economic development in the region is of paramount importance.
“Though we have tremendous human and agricultural resources, we could not come out of the colonial mindset. We still export raw materials. But we need advanced technologies to utilise the raw materials and export finished goods,” he observed.
He also said that the conference would help create a link among the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to work together in biotechnology.
Prof M. Shamser Ali said that the field of biotechnology needs special attention from both public and private sector, for the development of the country. “Biotechnology has become a common ground for research. It has great economic importance for the country’s development. We need collaboration here,” he said. The theme this year is “Application of Bio-technology in addressing the development needs of Bangladesh”.
Distinguished Professor Rita R Colwell from Maryland University of the US, delivered the keynote speech at the conference.
Over 90 scientists and experts from the US, Canada, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, Nepal and Bangladesh will present findings of their research and ideas in seven scientific sessions. About 250 participants, from home and abroad, are attending the conference.
The conference is covering different areas like agriculture, horticulture, fisheries, animal and husbandry, biomedical and pharmaceutical, nutrition and food science, environment and climate change issues and economic resources and economic impact of research on life sciences.

-With The Independent input

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