Pakistan has been ranked seventh among the 26 countries growing biotech crops.
This fact was presented as part ‘Global Status of Commercialisation Biotech/GM Crops: 2016’ report at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) of Karachi University.
Out of the 3 million hectares that are used for agriculture in the country, Pakistan achieved a 97% adoption of Insect Resistant (IR) biotech cotton, which roughly equates to around 2.9 million hectares.
Having achieved this milestone last year, the stakeholders are looking for an economic boost through biotech varieties of Maize.
About the Report
Prepared by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, the report throws light on countries where varieties of crops that utilize biotechnology are grown. It lists the quantities of crops, global trends, future prospects, distribution and adoption of biotech crops last year.
According to the report,
“The adoption of IR cotton increased from 75pc in 2010 to 97pc last year. This is indicative of farmer satisfaction with Bt technology that may be replicated with the upcoming adoption of biotech maize in Pakistan”.
Having started in 2010, the number of farmers growing biotech cotton crops reached up to 725,000 in 2016.
In addition to boosting the agricultural sector, biotech crops have had a huge impact on the economy as well. The growth of these crops helped strengthen the economy by $398 million in 2015 and $4.3 billion from 2010 to 2015.
Factors Hampering Growth
The report underlined the following factors which hampered the growth of biotech crops:
- Dependence on old IR technology
- Supply of low-quality IR cotton varieties
- Increasing threat of pink bollworms, and bollworms in general, due to lack of timely insecticide application
- Absence of control measures leading to cotton leaf curl viruses due to white fly and leaf hoppers
However, the report highlighted the positive trend of biotech crops in Pakistan, stating that
“Despite the issues, IR cotton has proliferated in cotton growing provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan and occupied almost the entire cotton crop hectarage in Pakistan”.
The Biotech Community
Federal Ministry of Climate Change’s National Biosafety Community has approved the cultivation of IR maize varieties introduced by Monsanto Pakistan. However, these varieties are subject to approval from the Federal Seed Certification and Registration Committee.
The Committee has approved 32 out of 119 single biotech varieties of cotton. 2016 proved to be quite substantial for the biotech crops as the Nobel Laureates showed their support for biotechnology-dependent crops and Golden Rice – the controversial variety of rice.
The report said:
“Pakistan planted over 1.2m hectares of maize, roughly producing around 5m tonnes of maize. Adoption of hybrid maize reached 90pc and 10-15pc of total maize area in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, respectively”.