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9-Misc: Bangladesh government formulates National BiotechnologyPolicy

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TITLE:  Govt formulates policy to exploit bio-tech potentials
SOURCE: Fiancial Express, Bangladesh, by M Shafiqul Alam
DATE:   6 Jul 2004

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Govt formulates policy to exploit bio-tech potentials

The government has formulated the first ever National Biotechnology
Policy of the country with a view to utilising the latest innovations in
the field. The innovations will be utilised for the development of the
country's agriculture, food, industry, environment and health, sources
said. A 19-member national committee led by Science and ICT Secretary
Omar Faruq formulated the draft policy, which would be finalised at an
inter-ministerial meeting on July 10.

Based on the Policy, the government is set to announce a 20-year
Perspective Plan to keep pace with the fastest growing fields of
biotechnology and genetic engineering. The sources said the Policy would
be sent to the National Taskforce on Biotechnology for approval. Headed
by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, the Taskforce was formed early this year.
Though biotechnology has emerged as the fastest growing industry in the
world with total turnover crossing more than $100 billion (10,000 crore),
Bangladesh has yet to make any headway in the field.

Biotech firms in India have proved to be successful commercial ventures,
wooing investments from the multinational companies and going joint
ventures with the local food and pharmaceutical companies. Plant
biotechnology was initiated in Bangladesh in late 1970s and a number of
research laboratories, universities and R and D organisations are
involved in its research. Presently, a few NGOs are also working on plant
tissue culture.

However, commercially, biotechnology still remained in the primitive age
despite the fact the country has a pool of foreign-trained biotech
researchers now working in different universities. Besides, the country
has over 30 biological and agricultural R and D laboratories where
biotechnology could be developed with minimum support to infrastructure
and human resource development. Under the Policy, the government would
set up biotech incubator parks in collaboration with experienced foreign
organisations in different places depending on the availability of bio-
resources. The parks will be structured on a commercial format and they
will mainly focus on food and cash crop, medical biotechnology including
herbal medicine and industrial product having market demand.

A national authority on biotechnology will also be set up to work as the
umbrella for the development and regulatory work of the country's public
and private biotechnological initiatives. It would also create an
enabling environment for the growth of bio-tech industries through
simplification of procedures for getting clearances for commercialisation
of biotech products. The government has already announced the biotech
sector as a thrust area. The Policy declares that government will
facilitate venture capital funds and bank credit to emerging
biotechnology companies. The Policy aims at addressing some of the core
issues involving Intellectual Property Rights, Bio-safety, Bio-
surveillance and Bio-ethics with due emphasis on knowledge, innovation
and indigenous practices.

The government will also conduct a detailed inventory of the country's
bio-resources with the help of universities, research and development
organisations, NGOs and private agencies in order to promote sustainable
exploitation of bio-resources. The Policy identifies some priority areas
in biotechnological applications around which the entire biotechnological
research would function. All research in biotechnology will have to be
product-oriented and assured in terms of investments and returns, the
Policy stated.

Under the Policy, the government will create a necessary seed fund and
encourage the private organisations to come up with specific areas in
biotechnology to be solved through the Contract Research Programme. The
government will also approach international funding organisations for
financing important biotechnology projects of national interest,
particularly those related to poverty alleviation, food security and
health and livelihood improvement.


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