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Food shortage becomes biggest future challenge

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“Food scarcity is one of the biggest challenges of the future. Global food insecurity is the leading threat in the developing world, including Pakistan. More than 820 million people in the world were still hungry in 2018.

Science will help us to meet the challenges of the future. Biotechnology is providing the building blocks for a sustainable future, agriculture, medicine, industries, environment, etc.”

Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Choudhary, COMSTECH Coordinator-General, and Director of the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi stated this while speaking at the seminar on “Science Communication and Public Engagement” held at the COMSTECH Secretariat on Tuesday.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA- Brief 55) was also launched in the seminar.

COMSTECH Islamabad and Pakistan Biotechnology Information Center (PABIC) Karachi jointly organized the seminar.

Prof. Dr. Kauser Abdulla Malik, Director of the Research, Innovation & Commercialization (ORIC) Forman Christian College, Lahore, Dr. Rhodora Aldemita, Director ISAAA SE Asia Center and ISAAA Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, Senior Science Journalist Aleem Ahmed, and PABIC Coordinator Dr. Sammer Yousuf also spoke on the occasion. On the occasion, Prof Iqbal Choudhary also launched THE ISAAA Brief 55.

Prof. Choudhary, who is also heading PABIC as director, said that more than 820 million people in the world were still hungry in 2018 which makes it difficult to achieve the Zero Hunger target by 2030. The world had suffered from a shortage of basic food, or faced hunger due to widespread famine, at least twice in short life span, he said

Globally biotech crops have contributed to food security, sustainability, and climate change by increasing crop productivity and helping alleviate poverty through uplifting the livelihood of farmers and agriculture-related workforce, he observed

Talking about science communication, he said that communicating science to the public was quite important, as fruits of human ingenuity could reach to people who need them the most.

He lamented that Science was losing cultural understanding in Pakistan. Science must become the basis of the common culture replacing myths and misconceptions in the country, he said

A number of newspapers have stopped covering science stories, while a number of newspapers with science pages are only a few, he observed.

Less than one percent time of electronic media is dedicated to the coverage of science and technology in the country, he added.

Dr. Rhodora Aldemita showed serious concerns over the growing food insecurity in different parts of the world, and said that the massive global population required 70 percent more food.

She said, “Safeguarding food security and nutrition is critical in order for countries to overcome problems of hunger and malnutrition.”

The most adopted biotech crops by the 29 countries were soybeans, maize, cotton, and canola, she said, adding that farmers have a good opportunity to use a good variety of biotech crops. Globally, biotech crops’ contribution to the world economy cannot be ignored at all, she observed.

Prof. Dr. Kauser Abdulla Malik underlined the importance of biotech crops, and said that biotech crops were being globally adopted because of its enormous benefits to the environment, the health of human and animals, and contribution to the improvement of socio-economic condition.

Talking about the journey of biotechnology in Pakistan, he said that HEC had played pivotal role in terms of supporting biotech institutions in Pakistan. As many as 50 new biotech departments have been established in the universities of the country, he added.

Aleem Ahmed said that scientists and journalists were operating in two different isolated spheres, which showed that there was a massive gap between scientists and journalists. He lamented that the media coverage of science remained infrequent, inaccurate, and superficial in Pakistan.

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