Govt plans to introduce genetically modified cotton

Star Business Report
The government plans to introduce a genetically modified variety of cotton to scale up production of the key textiles raw material and meet rising demand, the agriculture minister said yesterday.
“Bangladesh wants to introduce genetically modified Bt cotton within a short time, as it did in the case of Bt brinjals, so the country can double its production and farmers have additional income," said Matia Chowdhury.
The government has already introduced a bio-safety rule for the introduction of genetically modified organic crops, she added.
"We are eager to expand production but we will have to find suitable land first, so farmers don’t give up rice cultivation for cotton farming."
As cotton is not a food item, the government can easily allow the production of genetically modified cotton, Chowdhury said.
The minister spoke at the inauguration of the sixth meeting of Asian Cotton Research and Development Network (ACRDN) of International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) in Dhaka.
In association with ICAC, Krishi Gobeshona Foundation and National Agricultural Technology Project, the Cotton Development Board is hosting the three-day event.
Genetically modified cotton, which has already been introduced in China, South Africa and India is said to have strong immunity against pests and herbicide, better productivity and greater fibre elasticity.
Millions of farmers around the cotton producing countries have gained significant socioeconomic and environmental benefits as well as advantages in health protection as a result of growing of Bt cotton.
Cotton is the second biggest cash crop after jute in Bangladesh. However, its production has failed to keep pace with growth of the textiles sector.
A leading consumer, Bangladesh requires about 4.5 million bales of cotton every year to feed the country’s textiles industry. However, the country produces only 150,000 bales of cotton, which is around 3 percent of demand, making local textile industries heavily reliant on imports.
The country spends Tk 1,200 crore annually to import cotton from countries such as India, Uzbekistan, the USA and some African countries.
Bangladesh plans to raise its production to 10 lakh bales by 2021, said Md Abdul Latif, executive director of CDB.
Research is the key to improving productivity and livelihood, said Mike Robson, representative of Food and Agriculture Organisation in Bangladesh.
Kamal Uddin, executive director of BARC, said Bangladesh would be unable to make its cotton production sustainable without research.
The three-day meeting aims to create an opportunity for cotton scientists and experts from the public and private sectors in Asia to share their experience, views and ideas for development of the research network among the cotton growing countries in the continent.
About 120 scientists and experts from countries such as China, Egypt, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Bangladesh are taking part.
"Asian countries need to deepen collaboration among themselves to boost productivity, to meet growing demand for the raw material," Abid Mahmood, chairman of ACRDN.
M Rafiq Chaudhry, of International Cotton Advisory Committee, urged the minister to take steps for become a member of the inter-governmental body.
SM Nazmul Islam, secretary of the agriculture ministry, and Md Farid Uddin, additional director of CDB, also spoke.