Use of Biotechnology in Pakistan

By adopting modern technology, spectacular success may be achieved in the agricultural sector which is now subjected to lot of mishaps. The agriculturally developed countries of the world, like USA, Canada, Australia and Netherlands have attained maximum success with the help of advanced technology. Perennial problems like scanty rainfalls, shortage of cultivatable land, insufficient irrigation water, pest attacks, salinity and a host of such other problems were tackled successfully by means of modern technology in these countries who are now earning lot of foreign exchange by exporting their surplus production. It is now time that we in Pakistan introduce genetic engineering in our agricultural sector. This would not only bring appreciable decrease in the cost of production but we would also be able to produce more and better quality commodities in less time and on less acreage.

Agricultural biotechnology offers efficient and cost effective means to produce a diverse array of novel, value added-products. It has the potential to increase food production, reduce the dependence of agriculture on chemicals and lower the cost of raw materials, all in an environment friendly, sustainable and productive  manner.

Pakistan is the 4th largest producer of cotton after China, USA and India according to the statistics from the All Pakistan Textiles Mills Association. Cotton or white gold as it is aptly called is grown for its lint and seed, which yield cotton fibre and seed oil respectively. This crop occupies 70-75 million acre of the world area with an average yield of 485 kg/acre or 210 kg/hectare of lint and 500 kg/acre of seed cotton. To meet the challenges of this century with a population of more than 170 million, a total production of 12 million bales is required as against the 7-8 million bales of today.

This can be achieved by the use of improved crop production practices, coupled with appropriate pest management tactics. In addition to generation of novel, bio-technology can help to achieve the near impossible. Genes that have been identifies as potentially profitable, if engineered into acceptable cultivator methodology can be used to generate such transgenic. Among these are genes imparting resistance to herbicides, insects, pathogens and biotic stresses. It is also widely accepted now that a number of other qualitative characters can be improved, such as fibre strength, fitnesses, colour and thermal adaptability of the fibre. By biotechnological cotton, Pakistan can increase per acre yield from 14 to 30% which means that on the one hand, it will bring prosperity to the Pakistani farmers, on the other it will bring a boom to all industries and business activities which are directly or indirectly associated with the agricultural sector.

There are a number of benefits in producing and using bio-fuels, aside from the transportation fuel supply issue. First, bio-fuels are produced domestically, and the feed stocks for them are grown domestically too. This helps reduce our country's trade deficits and creates jobs, both of which are good for the economy. Our agriculture community stands to benefit specially, since the bio fuels are made from crops and agricultural residues, providing options for new valuable crops and new uses for the existing crops and residues. Producing our fuel domestically also improves our energy security; we become less dependent on the strategic, political, and economic whim of other countries.

Pakistan can gain economic benefits from biotechnology projects in three ways. First, they provide employment in the agriculture, health, energy and manufacturing sectors. Secondly, there is likely to be some downstream processing which adds value to the product before it leaves Pakistan, providing skilled employment, adding to our pool of knowledge and to the production infrastructure, Thirdly, where the intellectual property is held in Pakistan we can use it in a way, which is most appropriate for us.  Hence, this illustrates the breadth and implies the positive potential of biotechnology for our economy.

Copyright © 2010 Saadia Khan, 
Contributed By Saadia Khan 
Biochemistry scholar, 
Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad
 exclusively for Weed Media 


Arslan Saeed said... [Reply]

That is all very well.

But don't you think that before anyone can begin modernising this place, somebody needs to educate the governance in agriculture?

I remember in one of my classes when we talked about farmers in Pakistan; the reason why they still rely on conventional techniques to get on with their business is because they don't know how to use state-of-the-art facilities or techniques.

Besides, I think the government doesn't want to educate our people. They can't get enough of people who give into hollow promises. :/

I really like how much effort you put into writing. It shows from the facts and figures.

Saadia Khan said... [Reply]

@Arslan Saeed

I agree with you. Since independence agriculture is the backbone of our economy but instead of developing agriculture policy on sound economic parameters for sustainable growth of agriculture, the continued neglect and poor planning by successive governments has resulted in Pakistan becoming a chronic importer of food and feed grain since 1954. It is a pity that we import agriculture related products worth more than US $2.5 billion which is certainly a great burden on the scarce dollar resources. Political will, good governance aided by proper checks and balances is the key to transform the present agri structure.

Btw thank you for your interest and positive feedback.