Biotech-derived food saved millions from hunger

Biosafety regulators should fast-track the approval process, say speakers

Had there been no biotech derived food in the world, an additional 2.5 billion people would have potentially faced the challenge of hunger and food insecurity. 

Agricultural biotechnology comes as a blessing in a world faced with the challenges of population increase, climate change vulnerabilities and less availability of vital resources i.e., arable land and irrigation water.  

Speakers made these remarks on Tuesday, the first day of a two-day an international conference being held at a city hotel under the aegis of South Asia Biosafety Program (SABP), Agriculture and Food Systems Institute (AFSI), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL).

They emphasized biosafety regulators in Bangladesh fast-tracking the regulatory approval process so that scientists’ good work and crops with higher yields and other beneficial traits derived thereby go to the farmers’ fields.    

Agriculture Ministry Additional Secretary Ruhul Amin Talukder, and Agricultural Attaché at the US Embassy Dhaka Megan Francic spoke at the inaugural session of the “Biotechnology Outreach Conference” as the chief and special guests respectively.

SABP Country Coordinator Prof Dr Rakha Hari Sarker delivered the welcome speech while AFSI chief executive officer Dr Andrew Roberts gave vote of thanks.

In the first working session of the day, Dr Md Shahidul Haque, a professor of the Biotechnology Department of Bangladesh Agricultural University; Dr Swapan Datta, a former deputy director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR); and Dr Stuart Smyth, an associate professor of University of Saskatchewan, Canada, gave three presentations highlighting global status of biotechnology and innovations in agriculture at home and abroad.

The audience heard three other presentations on the second half of the day – biotechnology regulation in Bangladesh by Mohammed Solaiman Haider, a director at Department of Environment; biotech research at Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) by the Institute’s biotech division head Dr Md Abdullah Yousuf Akhond; and biotech research at Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BBRI) by one of the Institute’s principal scientific officer, Dr Md Abdul Kader.   

AFSI Manager Dr Bhavneet Bajaj moderated the question-answer sessions participated by a galaxy of scientists, academics and representatives from government and private sectors.

Washington-based AFSI is a non-profit organization that advances and disseminates science for public benefit while SABP has been working with governments in South Asia since 2005 to strengthen institutional governance of biotechnology.

This two-day conference is intended to be a biotechnology knowledge sharing effort and a platform for outreach to several stakeholders in Bangladesh including government officials, academics, researchers, the private sector, and other interested parties.