Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam on Wednesday said that through agriculture research and introducing innovation, Pakistan can eradicate the shortage of essential nutrients in the country. “We need a knowledge economy, where it is essential to introduce new dimensions through reforms in various sectors of the country so that Pakistan can become a modern developed country,” the minister said. He was speaking to the media workshop “Addressing Zinc Deficiency through Biofortification of Zinc Wheat.” The workshop was jointly organized by Harvest Plus, PANAH and National Fortification Alliance at the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination. The workshop was attended by a large number of journalists, representatives from various government departments, civil society organizations and United Nation agencies. Addressing the occasion, Fakhar Imam said that the government has also sent the young people abroad for good university education like China and other developed countries so that new dimensions could be introduced in various fields and quality food can be provided in the country. The minister said that Pakistan is currently the largest country with a young population not only in the region but as whole in the world and its young population needs a balanced and healthy diet, which the government is focusing on. “We focused on food and crop production but did not focus much on quality food and seeds, that’s why there is a shortage of basic food ingredients in children and adults in the country today,” he said. Fakhar Imam said that 7.8 billion people of the world are currently suffering from food shortage and other problems in which Pakistan, a country of 222 million people, is also facing these issues, on which the government is working hard. “The basic ingredients of food, including zinc, iron and other vitamins, are essential components of our diet and are essential for a healthy life,” he said. He added that the media and related institutions must make people aware of this so that this important issue can be addressed. The Minister said that there are 45000 villages in Pakistan, where people are not aware regarding this sensitive issue of human life and there is need for more work in this area, adding that the private sector should cooperate with the government in this regard. “We need to improve food production as well as its quality,” he said. He said that genetic engineering has now made great strides in seeds Bio-fortification, which can overcome these problems. He said that more than 1.6 million metric tons of bio-fortified wheat grain production is expected with the current crop at the time of harvest, Bio-fortification is progressing well in Pakistan. Syed Fakhar said that the micronutrient deficiencies are widespread in Pakistan and have profound effects on immunity, growth, and mental development of children. At present 180,000 children die before the age of five every year due to lack of basic essential nutrients in the diet in the country, he said. Syed Fakhar Imam, Federal Minister, National Food Security and Research, said that more than fifty million people in Pakistan have inadequate zinc intake which is an important micronutrient for our health. He said that more than 1.6 million metric tons of bio-fortified wheat grain production is expected with the current crop at the time of harvest. Bio-fortification is progressing well in Pakistan and has great potential to help reduce zinc deficiency and stunting in the children of our country, he said. Earlier, General Secretary PANAH, Sana Ullah Ghumman welcomed the participants and said that malnutrition and dietary risk factors are top human risks contributing to increased morbidity and mortality. He said that a healthy diet and better nutrition could help in reducing disease burden and mortality in the country. Consultant/Adviser Harvest Plus, Munawar Hussain said while sharing the objectives of the workshop that the role of the media is important in raising awareness among the population about issues like Zinc deficiency. He asked the media to play their due role in raising awareness among farmers and other value chain actors about the significance of bio-fortification of wheat in addressing zinc deficiency. Director Crop Science Institute, National Agricultural Research Center, Dr Imtiaz Hussain said that wheat constitutes 60 percent of the diet of the common population. Bio-fortification of Wheat is the most suitable and sustainable strategy to address the Zinc deficiency. The government of Pakistan has included bio-fortification as a part of its strategies to address malnutrition in the country, he said. Chairperson National Commission on the Rights of the Children, Afshan Tehsin Bajwa said that good nutrition is a fundamental right of every Pakistani. She appreciated the progress made in the development of bio-fortified wheat in Pakistan and hoped that more people will be able to receive wheat having high amounts of zinc. Country Manager HarvestPlus, Dr Muhammad Yaqub Mujahid thanked all the participants, media, government representatives and nutrition development partners for making the workshop successful. He reiterated the commitment of HarvestPlus to continue supporting the relevant stakeholders both in public and private sectors addressing zinc deficiency through bio-fortification of wheat.