–Media can help in highlighting technological developments, says Dr Malik
LAHORE: In order to create awareness among journalists about science-related communication, the Lahore chapter of Pakistan Biotechnology Information Center in collaboration with The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) organised a one-day workshop at the Forman Christian College University (FCCU) Lahore on March 3, 2019.
The workshop was started with the address of FCCU Dean of Postgraduate studies Dr Kauser A Malik about science communication. He was of the opinion, “Science communication can help the people to understand science as part of their real lives. Our media can play an important role in informing the public about scientific and technological developments. Science writers and journalists play an important role in creating awareness among the general public about science. They are also instrumental in bringing the work of scientists from the lab to the public spotlight. Their work is important in bridging the gap between the language of the common person and scientists resulting in public opinion which ensures the formulation of appropriate government policies conducive to the development of science in the country. Science communication has the potential to kick start a stronger science culture which is most essential for a liberal and progressive Pakistan.”
During the workshop, Malaysian Biotechnology Information Center (MABIC) Executive Director Dr Mahaletchumy Arujanan gave a brief presentation on biotechnology, Genetic Modification (GM) Technology and the industrial challenges. While informing the participants, she said, “Various types of plant products of biotechnology are available in the market. These modified crops look like their traditional counterparts but they possess special characteristics that make them better. These crops offer several benefits both farmers and consumers. Farmers gain higher crop yields and have increased flexibility in management practices while consumers have healthier crops. Plant products of biotechnology approved for food use have been modified to contain traits such as insect resistance, disease resistance, herbicide tolerance and altered nutritional profile.”
“GM crops are thoroughly evaluated for environmental effects before entering the marketplace. They are assessed by many stakeholders in accordance with principles developed by environmental experts around the world,” she added.
While talking about the ethics and agriculture biotechnology, Dr Arujanan said, “Through the advancement of technology, scientists have been able to develop more precise and powerful tools to produce crops and animals with selected traits that aim to benefit farmers and consumers. Similar to other emerging technologies, biotechnology has instigated worldwide debate and confusion as a result of mixed messages from various people – be they scientists, academics, critics, industry, religious representatives or consumer bodies.
“The worldwide debate on the pros and cons of biotechnology have been likened to a battleground and a prominent place for virtually every ethical concern. It has stirred conflicting ideas and opinions and has polarised sectors not only among stakeholders but even between countries. Despite the diversity of ethical issues in agricultural biotechnology, there is a need to understand beliefs and doctrines as this allows coexistence within and across societies, and prevents social conflict.”
“A technology’s acceptance is based not only on technological soundness but on how it is perceived to be socially, politically, and economically feasible from the viewpoint of disparate groups. An understanding of ethics helps determine what information is needed by society and how to deal with different opinions. A process of negotiation based on trust is essential to enable stakeholders to participate in debates and decision making,” she said.
Industrial perspectives of crop industry were also shared at the workshop by Muhammad Asim from Crop Life Pakistan. The workshop was concluded with the question and answers session about GM crops and what strategies media can adopt to promote science communication.