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Bio-technology, a powerful tool for sustainable agriculture: APEC

Update: August, 21/2017 - 09:21
Dr Nguyễn Thị Thanh Thủy, HLDPAB chair this year, talks with a colleague at the Cần Thơ meeting on Sunday.VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Vũ
Viet Nam News

CẦN THƠ – Agricultural bio-technology policies, promotion of public-private partnerships in agricultural bio-technology research and applications and the use of agricultural bio-technology in response to climate change were on the agenda of the annual APEC High-Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology (HLPDAB) Meeting in Cần Thơ on Sunday.

Dr Nguyễn Thị Thanh Thủy, director general of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s department of science, technology and environment, who is HLDPAB chair this year, said climate change has exacerbated the challenges to agricultural, especially in the most vulnerable economies and geographies.

By 2050 the world’s population would reach nine billion with food demand increasing by 70 per cent from now, while natural resources, climate and production resources would be increasingly scarce, she said.

That would require global agricultural production to adapt rapidly to climate change to ensure food security, she said.

Việt Nam faces multiple challenges like climate change, population growth, shrinking agricultural area, land degradation due to urbanisation and salinity intrusion due to sea-level rise, according to Thủy.

Natural disasters and epidemics occur suddenly and often and with greater impacts.

Many parts of Việt Nam are suffering from the severe consequences of extreme weather.

In seeking to meet the increasing demand for food, modern agriculture is using new technologies such as bio-technology to facilitate the development of new varieties.

“We recognise that bio-technology provides a set of powerful tools for the sustainable development of agriculture, fisheries and forestry, as well as the food industry," she said.

“Modern bio-technologies have proven to be successful means for the micropropagation of virus-free plants, and have provided plant disease diagnostic kits, marker-assisted selection and a whole range of well-known techniques to improve agricultural productivity.”

When appropriately integrated with other technologies for the production of food, agricultural products and services, bio-technology can be of significant assistance in meeting the needs of an expanding and increasingly urbanised population this millennium, she said.

“In the case of using bio-technology for the production of genetically modified organisms, however, we are also aware of the need to assess the potential risks to the environment and human and animal health.”

In view of the potential contribution of bio-technology in increasing food supply and overcoming food insecurity and vulnerability, “efforts should be made to ensure that developing economies in general and resource-poor farmers in particular benefit more from bio-technology, while continuing to have access to a diversity of sources of genetic material,” she said.

"This needs to be addressed through dialogues between the public and private sectors," she said.

“The progresses in life sciences and their application in bio-technology are crucial to providing solutions to the most critical global challenges facing our societies today.”

At the meeting, a draft of the HLPDAB statement for the Cần Thơ Statement on Enhancing Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture in response to Climate Change was put out to seek contributions from participants.

Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, Regina Nukundj, chief livestock officer, food security branch, Department of Agriculture and Livestock, Papua New Guinea, which will host the 2018 HLPDAB, said agricultural bio-technology has not really developed as much as in Asia and elsewhere.

In terms of addressing climate challenges that are now impacting it, Papua New Guinea has undertaken activities in agricultural bio-technology such as tissue culture in sweet potatoes and creating varieties that are resistant to pests and diseases, according to the officer.

“Ninety to 95 per cent of our population is rural-based, so we assist people in increasing farm production using technologies. We introduce packages and solutions that are friendly to our rural farmers.”

Thủy said the annual APEC HLP DAB meeting was a cornerstone to addressing common problems and building world-class alliances in research, promoting sustainable development and economic growth world-wide and providing a valuable platform for stakeholders to exchange views and open up new opportunities among APEC economies. - VNS

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