Pakistan –A biotech country


According to a recent publication by the International Society for Southeast Asian Agricultural Sciences (ISSAAS), Pakistan has achieved a 96 per cent adoption rate of Bt cotton, or 3 million hectares of the national total area planted to cotton which was 3.11 million hectares.

ISSAAS was established in 1994 to strengthen cooperation among agricultural scientists in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, and to bring together groups of professionals from many different countries with common interests in the development of the regions.

In the 8th year of commercial planting in the country, around 725,000 smallholder cotton farmers in Pakistan planted and benefitted from Bt cotton in 2017.

Bt cotton is a genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically modified pest-resistant plant cotton variety, which produces an insecticide to bollworm.

It was estimated that the economic gains from Bt cotton in Pakistan for 2010 to 2016 was $4.8 billion, and $483 million for 2016 alone.

Since 2010, IR cotton has been consistently adopted by cotton farmers in Pakistan with Punjab being the first province to adopt large IR cotton areas, followed by Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and Balochistan.

In 2007, IR cotton cultivation in Pakistan reached an all-time high of 3 million hectares. This increase was possible through the introduction of a substantial support package for farmers including fertilizer subsidies, reduced loan interest rates, and other measures introduced by the government of Pakistan.

During the 48th meeting of the Punjab Provincial Seed Council (PSC) in March 2017, four additional varieties of IR cotton expressing the cry1Ac gene were approved.

Other IR cotton varieties and hybrids expressing single and double genes developed by both the public and private sector institutions were awaiting commercial approval, but were deferred because it could not get the required certificate by the National Biosafety Committee (NBS).

Single and stacked IR/HT maize varieties were approved for commercial cultivation in 2016. In 2017, field performance trials of IR/IHT maize hybrids were conducted as part of regulatory requirements for varietal registration.

For the first time, maize farmers in Pakistan were requested to plant IR/HT maize developed by Monsanto Pakistan and Dupont Pioneer in the autumn growing season.

Smallholder farmers in Pakistan have benefited from IR cotton for the last eight years.

A new research in 2017 examined the effectiveness of IR cotton and evaluated the impacts of IR cotton on profitability, productivity, and farm inputs in Pakistan.

The studies carefully looked at the concerns about the prevalence of IR cotton varieties possessing weak or non-performing insect-resistance traits conferred by the cry gene.

Biotech in Pakistan reached an all-time high in 2017 facilitating the increase in cotton production by 14.04 million bales, stated the publication.