Bangladesh should focus on using biotechnology in the agriculture sector to increase production and subsequently ensure food security so that no one goes hungry in the future, according to experts.
Agricultural biotechnology can give the country a massive boost in facing the challenges of population growth, climate change and decreasing availability of vital resources such as land and water for irrigation, they said.
These comments came at a view exchange, styled “Take Agribiotechnology Forward: Policy Advocacy Coalition”, organised by Farming Future Bangladesh (FFB), a firm that promotes biotechnology in agriculture.
The event was held at the Six Seasons Hotel in Dhaka.
A number of government officials from different institutions, academia, sectorial specialists, representatives from private sectors, scientists, environmentalists and lawyers took part in the event.
The speakers also criticised the environment ministry in regards to its “silent” and “sluggish” role in approving new varieties of agricultural products.
Md Abdul Kader, principal scientific officer of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), said they submitted an application for the environmental and food safety assessment of GR2E Golden Rice in 2017 but have yet to get the final evaluation report from regulators.
“We are trying to form an effective advocacy alliance platform in Bangladesh to raise awareness of biotechnology and make the current regulatory framework effective and functional,” said Md Arif Hossain, chief executive officer and executive director of the FFB.
Speaking as chief guest, Md Ruhul Amin Talukder, an additional secretary of the agriculture ministry, said that Bangladesh’s agricultural success should be acknowledged and celebrated.
“But we must develop more high yielding, sustainable crop varieties,” he added.
Talukder then asserted that the government is playing a proactive role in the agricultural sector.
“We need to prioritise embracing innovative technologies like gene editing and genetic engineering to create high-yielding, stress-tolerant crops,” he said.
Anwar Faruque, former secretary of the agriculture ministry, said both farmers and consumers can benefit from the adoption of biotech crops being developed by local scientists, including the BT brinjal, BT cotton, blight-resistant potato and Golden Rice that is vitamin A-enriched.
BRRI Scientific Officer Kader gave a presentation on the existing challenges faced by Golden Rice while Faruq Hasan, senior manager (advocacy and policy affairs) of FFB, presented the existing rules and regulations of the bio-safety regulatory process.