GENET archive


6-Regulation: Bangladesh biotech policy to be formulated soon

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  News analysis: GM crop or not
SOURCE: The New Nation, Bangladesh, by Mostafa Kamal Majumder
DATE:   24 Aug 2005

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News analysis: GM crop or not

Is biotechnology the only way for the world to feed its population which is
expected to hit a 9 billion mark by the year 2020? The US embassy in Dhaka
in association with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC)
held a day-long conference in Dhaka on Wednesday primarily giving a
positive answer to this question.

A number of US experts in biotechnology having wide experience in the use of
molecular techniques for genetic modification of crops for increasing yields
as well as improving their food value spoke unequivocally in its favour.

On the sidelines conference opponent of genetically modified crops
circulated papers carrying messages like “Say no to GMOs”.

The debate on GMOs is global with the United States strongly promoting GM
food and the whole of Europe opposing its consumption equally strongly.
Countries like Bangladesh often cannot decide which argument of the debate
to side with even though GM crops not certified by the national seed
control committee are finding ways directly to farmers’ lands.

A number of GM vegetable species like tomato, pumpkin and cucumber are
already being cultivated and marketed in Bangladesh. The Grameen-Monsanto
deal of the late nineties to establish a laboratory for research in
biotechnology in Dhaka had attracted strong criticism from both within
Bangladesh and outside forcing Grameen Bank’s founder Dr. Muhammad Yunus to
scrap their agreement. But there has neither been effective official
surveillance, nor non-governmental watch-groups which could have prevented
the influx of hybrid and GM seeds not certified by the authorities

What makes opponents so strongly critical of GM food is the artificial
introduction of ‘good’ genes and removal of ‘bad’ ones from crop plants
with a view to making those insect resistant and give higher yield of crops
of ‘better’ food value. New genes introduced are not only plant genes but
also bacterial genes. A state of the art technology indeed - a byproduct of
the green revolution.

Opponents are apprehensive of the likely mutagenic effects of artificial
modification of natural plants and their crops. Proponents of GM food say
on the other hand that plants, so to say crops, modified naturally through
processes like cross-pollination over the centuries and GMOs are nothing

Dr. Nina V Ferdoroff of the Pennsylvania State University. USA, says that
the argument of GM crops leading to loss of biodiversity does not hold
good, because planned agriculture through selection of preferred species
itself can also be accused of causing this loss.

T Clint Nesbitt of the US Department of Agriculture told newsmen on the
other hand that the opposition to GM crops in Europe might be due to some
extent to the fact that people in the continent generally do not have high
degree of respect for their regulatory bodies and their decisions. In the
US the situation is the reverse, the people respect decisions of regulatory
authorities. This explanation is too simplistic because people in almost the
whole of Europe are obedient and law abiding citizens of their respective

If the European fear of adverse health effects of GM food is turned aside,
as is done in the US, only logically explainable argument against such food
thought of by US experts is the urge of Europeans to protect their own crops
and farm communities by continuing farm subsidies. But subsidies are given
also in the US.

Fear raised by proponents of application of indigenous knowledge and
protection of local crop varieties as safeguards for the future that
introduction of GM crops would cause further loss of indigenous varieties
and increase dependence on multinationals, is not accepted by US experts.
They say, traditional varieties can well be, and actually are, stored in
gene banks and may be brought back to use when felt necessary. They also
say that there has been no proven adverse effects of the intake of GM

Scientists in Bangladesh are divided and belong to both sides of the debate.
The government is finalising a national biotechnology policy and
establishing a national institute on the discipline. Knowledgeable circles
believe that before giving a seal of approval to GMOs the government should
promote a national debate on it and deal with the issue with informed

                                  PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Biotech policy to be formulated soon
SOURCE: The New Nation, Bangladesh
DATE:   24 Aug 2005

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Biotech policy to be formulated soon

A National Biotechnology Policy draft finalised recently awaits adoption,
Science, Information and Communication Technology Minister Dr Abdul Moyeen
Khan informed yesterday.

Addressing a conference on 'Biotechnology in Agriculture: Myths and
Realities', Dr Khan said a taskforce headed by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda
Zia has been formed to consider the policy that he expected to be
transparent and easily comprehensible.

"The construction of National Biotechnology Institute to conduct research on
latest issues is nearing completion at Savar. All these attempts
categorically indicate how much importance the government has attached to
this field," the minister said.

The conference jointly organised by the US Embassy in Dhaka and the
Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) at the Brac Centre in the
city called for adoption of biotechnology in the country's agriculture to
boost up production and feed the growing population.

Agriculture Minister MK Anwar was present at the inaugural session of the
day-long conference as the chief guest, while Environment and Forest
Minister Tariqul Islam and Science and ICT Minister Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan
were present as special guests.

Regional Director of the USDA, New Delhi Chad Russel presented the keynote
paper. First Secretary of the US mission in Dhaka David Renz and Executive
Chairman of the BARC Dr M Nurul Alam made the welcome addresses.

MK Anwar said though the biotechnological research in Bangladesh was at a
very initial stage, it could be a viable option for the agricultural
improvement of the country to meet the demand of the growing population.
"By 2020 farmers of Bangladesh will need to produce sufficient food at
affordable prices for an additional 30 million people. Accordingly, to meet
the projected demands for 170 million people, the average yield of food
grains must be doubled in the next 15 years," he said.

The Minister said, "We need much more sophisticated tools and techniques
along with the conventional technology. This can be achieved through
broadbased plant genetic resources and its utilization in biotechnology
research and development."

Regarding the existing misconceptions about transgenic/GM crops, MK Anwar
said public education on the risk and benefits and total transparency on
the development and evaluation of technology were the appropriate means to
infuse confidence in farmers and consumers.

"Considerable efforts are needed to pave the way for the benefits of these
new technologies benefit to reach farmers and consumers," the minister
said. He urged the US government to provide more support in developing
research capacity on biotechnology in Bangladesh.

Referring to Vietnam as an example that achieved a great success in crop
production using biotechnology, Tariqul Islam said Bangladeshi experts
could share experiences of other countries to increase production
sustaining the productivity of the land for generations to come.

He called upon scientists to pay a conscious attention to the environment
while innovating and implementing biotechnology.

Moyeen Khan said technological advancement encouraged monoculture that posed
a threat to bio-diversity. "We have already lost most of the indigenous
species of food grains. The taste of rice has been lost to a great extent."

However, the ICT minister lauded the efforts of the International Rice
Research Institute (IRRI) to recover the lost species.

The opening function was followed by sessions where experts from home and
abroad presented papers and participated in lively discussions.

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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