GENET archive


9-Misc: Biotechnology for food security and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Biotechnology for food security and poverty alleviation
SOURCE: The Independent, Bangladesh, by Mohammad Terequl Islam
DATE:   7 Sep 2005

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Biotechnology for food security and poverty alleviation

Biotechnology, broadly defined, includes any technique that uses living
organisms or part of such organisms to make or modify products to improve
plants or animals or to develop microorganism for specific use.

During the1970s, scientists developed new method for precisely making
recombination some portions of de-oxy-ribonucleic acid (DNA); the bio
chemical material in all living cells that govern inherited
characteristics and for transferring portions of DNA from one organism to
another. This enabling technique is referred to as DNA technology or
Biotechnology. Biotechnology can significantly strengthen crop-breeding
programmes and help produce new varieties with higher yield potential and
greater yield stability. It can improve the efficiency of crop production
and preventing food shortage from occurring as demand for feed increases
because of population growth and economic development.

With the advent of gene transfer technology there is hope for achieving
higher productivity and better quality, including improved nutrition and
storage properties of food. There are also possibilities to ensure
adaptation of plants to specific environments to increase plant tolerance
for stresses, to increase pest and disease resistance and to achieve
higher prices in the market place. Genetically improved food will have to
be developed under adequate regulatory process with full public understanding.

Science and technology underpinned the economic and social gains in Asia
over the past 30 years, which in agriculture came to be known as green
revolution. Between 1970-1995 cereal production in Asia doubled, caloric
availability increased 24 per cent. Although the region's population grew
by 1 billion people, overall food production increased which was achieved
largely by cultivation of high yielding varieties from plant breeding. In
the next 25 years, the population in Asia is anticipated to increase from
3 billion to 4.5 billion. The need for food is predicted to increase by
about 40 per cent from the present level of 650 millions tons.

That will have to be achieved with less labour, water and arable land,
since there is no scope for increasing the cultivated land. Agricultural
biotechnology is expected to contribute significantly towards poverty
reduction and food security in Asia through increase in productivity,
lower production cost and food price and improved nutrition.

Modern plant breeding method may help to achieve productivity gains,
strengthen resistance to pest and diseases, reduce pesticides use,
improve crop tolerance for a biotic stress, improve the nutritional value
and enhance the durability of products during harvesting and storage.
Biotechnology may offer cost-effective solution to vitamin and mineral
deficiencies by developing rice varieties containing vitamin A and
minerals. Rise in productivity could increase small holder's incomes,
reduce poverty, increase food access, reduce malnutrition and improve the
livelihoods of the poor.

Agricultural biotechnology will contribute to poverty reduction and food
security if scientists can develop technologies to increase quality and
yields of food crops and the technologies are adopted by small farmers.
During the next 25 years, Asia, specially Bangladesh, India, China,
Pakistan will need a Second Green Revolution often called Bio revolution
or double green revolution. It must also increase incomes and increase
access to food by the poor. Modern Genetics, Plant Breeding and
Biotechnology used in conjunction with other techniques can act as
powerful tools in the fight against poverty and food security. On current
trends in population and food production in Asia, there is likely to be a
large gap between production and demand by 2025. The present conventional
approach will not be able to produce the desired result within a limited
time. The advantage of modern biotechnology rests on the speed at which
desired crop varieties are produced. In some cases the desirable genetic
combination of traits is simply not possible through common breeding
method. This can be done only through genetic engineering. In Bangladesh
49 per cent people are under poverty level, so we need more efficient
biotechnology research for food security, and sustainable development. In
conclusion we can say as long as product safety, environmental and
ethical concerns are adequately addressed, biotechnology has the
potential to significantly increase the quantity and quality of the food
supply, food security and poverty alleviation for developing countries.

The writer is an Assistant Director, Agriculture and Environment Division
of Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD).

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

TITLE:  South Asia Biosafety Program
SOURCE: posted at AgBios, Canada
DATE:   2005

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South Asia Biosafety Program

Developing countries need to be in a position to establish systems of
governance that diligently and judiciously respond to national and
international developments associated with biotechnology. The South Asia
Biosafety Program is intended to support governments and their
stakeholder communities as they continue to develop and respond to
national policies and regulations governing biotechnology products to
spur economic growth and food security while ensuring the protection of
human health and the environment.

Modern biotechnology offers powerful new tools for improving agricultural
productivity, environmental sustainability, and nutritional quality of
staple foods. These new technologies are helping to guide more precise
crop and livestock breeding efforts, to diagnose crop and livestock
diseases, and to develop more effective livestock vaccines. New crop
varieties developed using biotechnology are being rapidly adopted by
millions of large and small farmers in both industrial and developing
countries. From 1996 to 2003 a cumulative total of over 300 million
hectares of biotech crops were planted globally in 21 countries and in
2003 more than 85% of the 7 million farmers benefiting from these crops
were resource-poor farmers in developing regions.

The South Asia Biosafety Program (SABP), with support from the United
States Agency for International Development (USAID), is dedicated to
assisting the Governments of Bangladesh and India in further
strengthening institutional governance of biotechnology. The program
builds on existing efforts to advise governments on enhancing and
streamlining government systems to realize the benefits of agricultural
biotechnology within a transparent, efficient and responsive regulatory
framework that ensures the safety of new foods and animal feeds, and
protects the environment.

Through a combination of public and private consultations, SABP
activities are both responsive to local needs and are designed to add
value to existing regulatory, communications and policy capacities within
India and Bangladesh. This is being achieved by collaborations with
ministries of agriculture, health, science and environment; district
governments; national research and policy institutions; stakeholders in
the agricultural sector; non-governmental organizations, farmers groups
and other development agencies.

Over the next three years, SABP will work with its in-country partners to:
- Identify and respond to technical training needs for food, feed and
environmental safety assessment.
- Develop a sustainable network of trained, authoritative local experts
to communicate both the benefits and the concerns associated with new
agricultural biotechnologies to farmers and other stakeholder groups.
- Facilitate systems for permitting the safe conduct of experimental
field trials of new crops developed using biotechnology so that
scientists and farmers can evaluate them.
- Raise the profile of biotechnology and biosafety on the policy agenda
within India and to address the policy issues within the overall context
of economic and agricultural development, international trade and
environmental sustainability.


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