New technologies in agricultural industry
Innovative technologies in the agricultural sector are being introduced in Kazakhstan. Experts of National Biotechnology Center are using genetic engineering to improve the yield and quality of industrial agricultural crops. With the use of genetic manipulation, scientists have created plants that are resistant to herbicides, which are the chemical substances used to kill weeds. Therefore, the chemicals can be used to treat fields without affecting the quality of cotton. The biotechnology centre experts are also engaged in the modification of millet. Besides being used in the production of grain and fodder, millet is also used worldwide for the production of biofuel and pulp and paper industry.
SHUGA MANABAYEVA, HEAD OF LABORATORY, NATIONAL BIOTECHNOLOGY CENTER:
- There are some challenges in using millet for the pulp and paper industry because there is a chemical substance called lignin that complicates the processing. But with the help of genetic engineering methods, we can reduce the lignin content in cells of the plants.
According to scientists, the project can be implemented in the member countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) such as Russia and Belarus. The experts of the National Biotechnology Center plans to conduct a project on genome editing, starting with potatoes. The modification of some genes will allow changing the protein synthesis and improve the quality of the goods. In many countries, plants that undergo genome changes are not considered to be genetically modified. However, genetic engineering for food production is not needed in Kazakhstan, scientists said.
YERLAN RAMANKULOV, DIRECTOR GENERAL, NATIONAL BIOTECHNOLOGY CENTER:
- At the moment, agriculture has the potential of improving productivity and effectiveness without GMOs. The president has set the target for the Ministry of Agriculture to raise the yield of all crops by 2.5 times. We discussed this with a great number of scientists and farmers and they all believe that this target is achievable. In the next three years, if we improve the yield by 2.5 times, we will not have to grow any GMO products for a long time.
Nonetheless, President Nazarbayev repeatedly highlighted the importance of learning the GMO creation and application of the technology. Many countries are increasingly using genetic engineering technologies in larger crop areas. Therefore, Kazakhstan needs to be ready to be able to genetically modify its agricultural crops when the need arises.