Vol. 5 Num 444 Thu. August 25, 2005  

Nat'l biotechnology policy soon: Moyeen Khan

The government will soon formulate a national biotechnology policy to give a boost to the country's farm output.

Science and ICT Minister Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan said this while was addressing a conference titled 'Biotechnology in Agriculture: Myths and Realities' in the city yesterday.

Dr Moyeen said a taskforce, headed by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, has been formed recognising the importance of the technology.

Moyeen Khan said setting up of National Biotechnology Institute at a cost of five million US dollars is nearing completion. "The entire project has been funded by our own resources, which reflects the government's priority to the technology," he added.

Agriculture Minister MK Anwar inaugurated the daylong conference jointly organised by Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (Barc) and the US Embassy in Dhaka.

Forest and Environment Minister Tariqul Islam and Moyeen Khan were present at the conference as special guests.

Barc Executive Chairman Dr M Nurul Alam, First Secretary of the US Embassy David Renz, Prof Emdadul Haque Chowdhury, Dr Nina V Fedoroff and Dr Uttam Kumar Deb also spoke. USDA Regional Director Chad Russell made the keynote remarks on the occasion.

The speakers it is essential to adopt biotechnology in agriculture of the country along with other developing nations for ensuring food security against the backdrop of its increasing population and decreasing farmlands.

If biotechnology can be widely used in the country, productivity of crops may rise by 20 per cent, they said.

The speakers, however, stressed the need for safeguarding the human health and environment because people around the globe are skeptical about the genetically modified (GM) foods.

They said strong assurance of the safety of public health and environment is needed to make the technology acceptable to all.

They said biotechnology will help the farmers improve food and nutritional security, enhance production efficiency, and empower the rural sector through income generation apart from reducing economic inequality.

MK Anwar said biotechnology can play an important role in crop production throughout the country, as farmlands are shrinking fast for various reasons, including urbanisation and land degradation.

Emphasising the importance of public awareness, he said the technology should be used sensibly and responsibly to gain public confidence in GM foods.

Describing the biotechnology research in the country still at initial stage, he said the country needs to develop and improve the capacity of biotechnology research to meet the food demand of the growing population.

He urged the US government to extend more support in developing research capacity in this field.

Tariqul said food production has to be raised to meet its growing demand for the country's increasing population. "The appropriate biotechnology will have to be invented and applied to increase the productivity," he added.

He said efforts have to be made to grow crops on unfertile and saline lands.