LAHORE   -  Farmers have been asked to adopt modern methods of farming to meet the rapid demand of maize.

“The demand for maize crop is growing rapidly in Pakistan. Technology and innovation is critical towards addressing the anticipated supply-demand gap,” said representatives of Bayer Pakistan in a media briefing.

They were of the view that biotech corn could help take productivity to the next level. Since biotechnology was scale-neutral, small farmers could gain the same benefits when compared to large corporate farmers, they said. It can help farmers in optimizing yield potential through insect protection and herbicide tolerant traits and reducing cost of input and labour, they said.

Bayer Pakistan, they claimed, contributed to the significant growth of maize crop in Pakistan. It was due to adoption of modern technology that average yields across Punjab had increased from 14 maunds per acre to 60 maunds per acre over the past twenty years, they said.

Cultivated area in Punjab has increased from 0.83m acres to 2.1m acres over the past 20 years while maize production has gone up from 681,000 tons (1996-97) to 5,237,000 tons (2016-17), they said.

The poultry Industry consumed 65 percent of the grain produced, and was growing at 8-10 percent annually, they said.  “Since 2001, there has been a 20 percent increase in per capita protein consumption recorded since 2001 primarily due to the improved economics of the poultry sector.”

Talking about adoption of biotechnology in Pakistan, they said it was identified as one of six priority areas in the Science and Technology Policy. “A National Policy and Action Plan for biotechnology was developed and incorporated in the Midterm Development Framework (2005-2010). The adoption of biotechnology was reinforced in the 2025 vision and Food Security Policy 2018.”

Over Rs2 billion has been spent on research infrastructure and capacity building and at present, there are nearly 500 scientists conducting biotechnology research at 30 universities and R&D organizations, they said.

Pakistan has a functioning National Biosafety Committee (NBC) that has granted approvals for research, cultivation or commercialization for several crops, including maize. Ongoing research on indigenous transgenic crops including, wheat, corn, peas, tobacco and cotton being funded by the Government, they said.