GLOBALLY, 800 million out of 7.6 billion people suffer from hunger. Although the number has decreased in recent decades, roughly one in 10 people goes to bed hungry every day, many of them from developing countries.
In a tragic irony, an estimated 30 to 40 per cent of food in developed countries is lost to waste. Malaysia, a prosperous developing country itself, is not spared of this notoriety. We are touted as the most obese country in Southeast Asia. The food left-over during Ramadan every year is evidence enough of our indulgence.
Food security is a concern in Malaysia as it is everywhere. Indeed, it ranks among the world’s greatest challenges. It is ranked second among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the United Nations 2030 Development Agenda which proclaims, “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”.
By 2050, the world population is expected to reach 9.2 billion — meaning an additional 1.6 billion people to feed, 200 million people more than today’s population of China. To ensure food availability for everyone in 2050, the world needs to increase food production by 70 per cent. Faced with dwindling agricultural land, less water for irrigation, rising energy and labour costs, and major grain crops already reaching yield plateau, it will be a daunting task.
Under the Transformasi Nasional 2050 agenda championed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, economic planners and policymakers have deliberated in great depth a wide range of issues and concerns about our food security status.
Further discussions should be welcome and continue unabated to address all issues and concerns comprehensively.
Last November, Malaysia’s National Professors Council and Indonesia’s Association of Professors convened more than 250 participants in “Forum Pertanian IPIMA 2017” (IPIMA Agriculture Forum 2017) to discuss imminent challenges and collaboration in agriculture, which also highlighted the bilateral food security issues.
Equally commendable, Universiti Putra Malaysia Alumni Association, under the able leadership of Perlis royal Datuk Seri DiRaja Syed Razlan Syed Putra Jamalulaill, organised a seminar on Agriculture and Food Security 2050 last month, engaging distinguished agricultural practitioners, both active and retired, to reflect on our future food security.
Will Malaysia prevail to meet these challenges by 2050? By then, it is expected that Malaysia will have added 9.7 million to its present population of 31 million. In 2015, food import bills hit RM45.4 billion, while exports were RM27 billion, giving a deficit of over RM18 billion. If such a trend persists, Malaysia is likely to face a food crisis in the future.
We may be able to grow or produce food locally at high self-sufficiency levels, but that does not mean the country has attained the desired food security status.
Food security is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation as “when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food preferences for an active and healthy life”.
In 2013, the International Conference on Food Security deemed food security as a multifaceted issue with four dimensions: availability, access, utilisation and stability. This led to the establishment of the Global Food Security Index (GFSI).
The GFSI informs food systems around the world with a common framework for understanding the root causes and risks of food insecurity, at the core of which are affordability, availability, quality and safety.
Thus, GFSI provides a measure of food security at country level, as influenced by culture, environment and geographic location.
Last year, Malaysia ranked 41st with a GFSI score of 66.2, while Singapore was 4th with 84. Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar ranked 55th, 79th, and 80th, with scores of 58.5, 47.3 and 44.8, respectively.
About 60 per cent of 113 countries experienced declines in food security scores last year compared with 2016. Malaysia declined by 3.2 points, followed by Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, and Singapore by 1.0, 0.7, 0.7 and 0.6, respectively.
When natural resources and resilience are factored into the GFSI, Singapore drops 15 ranks, from 4th to 19th (49.2) because of the dependence on food imports and its susceptibility to environment-related events.
However, Malaysia drops only two spots in rank (52.1), largely due to lower dependency on food imports.
Universiti Putra Malaysia Adjunct Professor Dr Heong Kong Luen carried out an analysis of countries with high and low GFSI scores, and pointed out major issues that drag down Malaysia’s and other Asean countries’ scores seem to be related to quality and safety.
The quality and safety index for Malaysia is 71.1, compared with scores of France, Australia, and Singapore of 88.7, 86.4, and 78.3, respectively. Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Laos record much lower scores of 56.8, 54.0, 44.1 and 31.0, respectively.
One concern Malaysia and some Asean countries may immediately address is the overuse and misuse of pesticides.
Studies in Indonesia and Vietnam find that heavy use of pesticides in rice production did not translate into yield increases.
It is timely to review our approach to sustainable agriculture using science and modern technologies in addition to taking into account the role of traditional knowledge.
Also, we need to learn and apply valuable lessons from many case studies worldwide of successful efforts to stem and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss, the subject of major reports to be launched next month by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
A more environment-friendly agriculture landscape would enhance Malaysia’s score on the global food security index.
The writer is science adviser to the prime minister and chairman,
National Professors Council
News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/02/336821/sustainability-2050-food-challenge
IT was one of those tragic news moments forever remembered — I was at a conference in Hawaii on Dec 8, 1980 when a bulletin came in from New York that John Lennon had died, shot at the entrance to his Manhattan apartment building.
TIME magazine’s headline said it all: “When the Music Died.” Like many ardent Beatles’ fans, I was dumbfounded and left with a profound sense of loss.
It was déjà vu all over again to be similarly shocked beyond words in recent days by the loss of two long-time friends and colleagues.
Most recent was the death of Fidel Castro’s eldest son, Fidel “Fidelito” Castro Diaz-Balart on Feb 1. Reports said he had killed himself, after suffering from depression in his last few months.
Fidelito, 68, a father of three, was scientific adviser to the Cuban government and vice-president of Cuba’s Academy of Sciences.
He studied in Cuba and Russia (where he received two degrees, including a doctorate in physics, and was fluent in English, Russian, French and Spanish), and was considered an expert in nuclear energy, nanotechnology and the biopharmaceutical industry. He regularly attended global scientific conferences and was involved in the creation of a new nanotechnology research and development centre in Cuba, which became part of an extensive global network. In Kazakhstan just last year, he was promoting renewable energy and Cuba’s innovative technologies.
The internationally-recognised excellence of his and Cuba’s scientific achievements, especially in the field of medical science, is all the more remarkable given the decades-long animosity between Washington and Havana that inhibited collaboration between Cuban scientists and their US colleagues so near.
Three weeks earlier, Kenyan-born Harvard professor Calestous Juma had died after a long battle with cancer. Calestous, 64, was remembered for his contributions to the study of technology and innovation in Africa. In 1988, before embarking on distinguished public service and academic careers, he founded the African Centre for Technology Studies in Nairobi, a pioneering group that married government policy with science and technology to spur sustainable development and foster distinctly African perspectives on science.
He received international recognition for his scholarly work, winning the 2017 Breakthrough Paradigm Award and the 2014 Lifetime Africa Achievement Prize. He also earned induction into the United States National Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of London, World Academy of Arts and Sciences, and African Academy of Sciences, among other honours.
Beyond gratitude for our friendship, I owed much to both men, whose interests converged with mine on a number of international platforms.
I worked closely with Calestous in the late 1990s when he was the founding director of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montreal and I was elected chair of the CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA). It was during this time that I realised the crucial role that scientific consensus and advice could play in informing policymakers to develop sound strategies, plans and programmes in sustainable development.
Increasingly, international relations and diplomacy — once confined to diplomats and career civil servants — now involve academics, corporate figures and civil society leaders. This broadened perspective and engagement is especially important as the global community grapples with the reality of climate change and complex interlinked problems of water and sanitation, energy, healthcare, food security and biodiversity loss.
Calestous was as instrumental in advancing this evolution in policy-making as he was in convincing our then scientific colleagues to elect me and Sir Robert Watson as co-chairs of the governing board of the UN’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). Conducted from 2001 to 2005 and involving 1,360 experts from 95 countries, it remains the largest-ever audit of biodiversity and the condition of and trends in the world’s ecosystem services.
The then UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, in his Millennium Report, hailed the MA as “an outstanding example of the sort of international scientific and political cooperation that is needed to further the cause of sustainable development”.
The MA gave birth to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in April 2012, which I had the honour of chairing during its first three years.
I became friends with the junior Castro when I was working at the United Nations University in Tokyo. Fidelito had an uncanny resemblance to his famous father. Physically imposing, but, gentle and soft-spoken, he was, like Calestous, a natural “thought leader” who often spoke out on the needs and aspirations of scientists from the developing world. He was also a frequent lead speaker at the annual meetings of the Science for Society Forum in Kyoto, the scientific equivalent to the World Economic Forum conceived by the former Japanese minister of finance, Koji Omi.
It is not unreasonable to conclude that the leadership, friendship and camaraderie extended by these two iconic figures helped to advance the scientific enterprise, fostered international collaboration and promoted world peace through science diplomacy. All of us are left poorer by their unexpected departure.
Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid is science adviser to the prime minister and chairman of the National Professors Council. News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/02/334720/when-music-died
RECENTLY, there was an uproar in the news about rice production woes faced by local farmers.
Two rice varieties, named MR220 CL1 and MR220 CL2, were introduced about seven years ago to control the menace of weedy rice or padi angin.
The two varieties are unique because they have genes which confer tolerance to herbicide. When sprayed on the rice crop,
a special herbicide named
“OnDuty” will kill the padi angin, but, will spare the rice plants from being affected. “OnDuty” is bundled and sold with the rice varieties in the Clearfield production system.
The emergence of weedy rice is a phenomenon essentially triggered by the recent rise of direct seeding — the uniform scattering of seeds across fields. In the past, rice farmers grew rice by transplanting — a method of weed control for wet or puddled fields. Transplanting requires less seed, but much more labour then direct seeding. Also, transplanted rice takes longer to mature due to transplanting shock.
Farmers started to practise direct seeding in early 1990s and it is now widespread in all our 10 rice granary areas — which feature major irrigation schemes (more than 4,000ha) and are recognised by the government as the country’s main rice producing areas.
Due to heavy infestations, padi angin has now put our rice productivity under siege.
There are several hypotheses which suggest how padi angin originated. However, there is strong evidence to support the hypothesis that weedy rice varieties are actually progenies
of hybrids formed naturally
between cultivated rice and a species of wild rice which is prevalent where rice is usually grown.
Weedy rice resembles cultivated rice. Farmers call them padi angin because the seeds are easily shattered by wind before or during crop harvest, and fall on to the soils. Because the seeds have a strong dormancy, they quickly build up into a potent weed seed bank in the soils, which provides the reserve of viable weed seeds from season to season.
They compete for sunlight, water and nutrients, and quickly dominate the field. They take up most of the fertilisers applied to the rice crop, and the yield loss can reach between 60 and 90 per cent, or, may even result in complete crop failure. In 2004, the production loss due to padi angin was estimated at RM90 million. Now, widespread infestations have drastically reduced farmers’ rice yields and incomes.
Previously, farmers removed padi angin manually or killed them by spot spraying with herbicides. Such practices were time consuming, and are no longer practical and effective.
When Clearfield varieties were introduced, they quickly gained popularity. Farmers, who previously had yields of less than three tonnes per hectare, began enjoying harvests three times greater.
Now, those farmers are seeing an ugly side of the new technology. The same herbicide used before no longer kill padi angin effectively. Padi angin has become kebal or herbicide resistant and yields have plummeted back to between and three and four tonnes per ha.
The Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) and the multi-national Germany-based chemical company BASF developed the
Clearfield special purpose varieties. They are scientifically proven to be a good solution to weedy rice, but farmers must strictly follow a set of do’s and don’ts for the system to work. For example, seven days after direct-seeding, the herbicide must be applied when the soil is saturated (wet but not flooded).
The varieties were recommended only as a stop-gap measure to combat weedy rice. Farmers were supposed to grow them in only two successive planting seasons in a year, leaving an interval of one planting season. Once the weedy rice is no longer a problem farmers then have the option to grow any other varieties.
Attracted by the high yields, farmers grew the Clearfield varieties more often than prescribed. And, large numbers of farmers also had easy access to
uncertified seeds, planting them without using the required herbicide.
Population of weedy rice in the fields increased drastically. It became prone to cross breed with rice and evolved into hybrids. The process resulted in the transfer of the herbicide-tolerance gene, thus, turning the progenies of the hybrids into super weeds.
Padi angin is not a unique problem to Malaysia. Worldwide, weedy rice affects about 10 per cent of total rice production.
The super weeds have emerged as another new devastating menace to our rice production. Undoubtedly, farmers’ incomes, rice prices, crop yield levels, and our global food security index status will be at stake, sooner rather than later. Therefore, we urgently need to get our act together and review current approaches and come out with new strategies to achieve sustainable solutions for our weedy rice management.
In the final analysis, one thing is for sure: to be progressive, we need to support new technologies such as the Clearfield rice system and others that improve yields and help crops adapt to changing conditions. The point seems to be that the importance of using these technologies properly is as great as the importance of these technologies to our long term ability to feed a growing world population.
The writer is science adviser to the prime minister and founding president of the Genetics Society of Malaysia (1994-2000).News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/02/332147/rice-crops-under-siege
IN an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, changes are happening at an unprecedented speed.
Therefore, public and private organisations are employing approaches to understand and plan for the future.
This ability to explore the future with imagination and wisdom can be achieved through a structured approach called foresight. Imagine driving a car; the faster you drive, the further ahead you need to see. That ability to look further ahead is foresight.
As a discipline, foresight could be defined as the systematic, participatory, future intelligence gathering part of a medium- to long-term vision-building process.
The effort is conducted to inform present-day decisions and mobilise joint action. Foresight encourages decision-makers — whether in public or private organisations — to think and plan for the long term so that negative futures are avoided (or at least anticipated), as positive alternative futures are identified and promoted.
What futures do we want, do we need, and which do we want to avoid (the “disowned future”)?
With this understanding, we can identify opportunities, risks and threats, thus allowing us to innovate, to capitalise on opportunities, to minimise risks and nullify threats.
The future is not linear, a simple continuation of the past. If we could go back 20, 10 or even just five years, how many of the things we have, of the developments happening now, could most of us imagine?
Such insights require the best understanding of the drivers of change and megatrends. This skill set is needed by policymakers who now have to deal with complex, multi-dimensional issues, many of them interconnected and interdependent.
Despite critical uncertainties, foresight has a vital role in policymaking, where governments are trying to keep up with the growing complexity of their operating environments and the rapidly changing demands of their citizens.
Developed countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Korea, and Japan have emphasised the importance of foresight in strengthening their ability to be agile against the changes and disruptions caused by social, technology, economy, environment and political forces.
Since the 1990s, Malaysia’s use of systematic foresight techniques has been largely in the realm of technology and industrial development, conducted by the likes of Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry and the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology.
However, to expand the use of foresight approaches, the Malaysian Foresight Institute (myForesight) was created in 2012 to build the national capacity to use these tools and mainstream their use for better decision-making.
Since its creation, myForesight has been involved with various national initiatives and public institutions.
As part of the Public Service Transformation Programme, a joint initiative of the Public Service Department and the United Nations Development Programme, aptly titled “Future of Public Service 2020 and beyond” was conducted to increase the awareness and knowledge about the foresight methodology and its benefits.
A training module was developed at the National Institute of Public Administration to equip the public sector with foresight and futures thinking capacity.
Working with the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit, a set of guidelines was developed for the public officials on the use of scenario planning.
Today, foresight activities in Malaysia have gained further traction, fuelled by Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50) and the global phenomenon of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has also acknowledged the importance of foresight in realising TN50 — providing plausible scenarios after taking into consideration the interplay between major social, technological, economic, environmental and political trends.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is bound to create massive uncertainties and bring many disruptions. Government, business enterprises and educational institutions now looking at how best to respond will be well served by sophisticated foresight methodologies.
Malaysia is one country which has taken serious note of the 4IR and how it would affect our national wellbeing in the future.
Numerous ministries are in various stages of deliberating the kind of actions to be taken to mitigate its impacts. Our efforts have not gone unnoticed.
In a publication released by the World Economic Forum in Davos last week entitled, “Readiness for the Future of Production Report 2018”, Malaysia is listed among 25 “Leading Countries” well-positioned to benefit from Industry 4.0.
All the leading countries are high-income countries except for China and Malaysia.
This assessment corroborates the findings in the 2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index, a report published by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and the US Council on Competitiveness.
The latter report predicts that by 2020, Malaysia is expected to pierce the top 15 nations in the index, based on its ability to provide competitive labour, agile manufacturing capabilities, favourable demographic profiles, market and economic growth.
To move the country forward, however, foresight alone is not enough.
To meet the transformative challenges, to grasp opportunity, to realise our preferred future, we must also take many necessary actions to build our national capacity, especially our human capital.
To quote Joel A. Barker, futurist, filmmaker and author: “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”
TAN SRI DR ZAKRI ABDUL HAMID is science adviser to the prime minister and chairman of the Malaysian Foresight Institute. News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/01/329846/policymakers-need-foresight
ON Dec 25, the New Straits Times reported the heartbreaking death of an adult Malayan sun bear, struck by a motorcyclist around dusk on an expressway near Kuala Dungun.
Known scientifically as Helarctos malayanus (sometimes also known as the “dog bear” due to its small size, short snout and ears, and short, glossy fur), it was simply trying to cross a road. Sadly, news about roadkill — animals killed by vehicles — is growing more common.
Roads alter and isolate animal habitats and populations, deterring movement and resulting in extensive mortality. To be sure, roadkill is not unique to Malaysia. It is a global aberration, a consequence of human encroachment on animal habitats in the name of development.
About 2,100 animals were killed in traffic accidents in the past five years, according to a recent report quoting Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Dr Hamim Samuri, mostly endangered species such as tapirs, sun bears, elephants, mountain goats and tigers.
“Most of the accidents occurred because the animals were trying to cross roads or highways to find shelter, food, mates and habitats,” he said. He advised motorists to be careful and pay attention when driving near forests.
At the rate these animals are being killed due to human callousness, more than advice is needed. A more comprehensive plan to prevent roadkill must be considered in the context of the National Policy on Biological Diversity, launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak two years ago during the opening ceremony of the fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Kuala Lumpur.
As recently suggested by Malay-sian Nature Society president Henry Goh, “a concerted effort, involving government agencies and departments, namely the
Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan), the Forestry Department, police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers, is vital to find a long-term solution to the issue”.
The number of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and other animals killed by vehicles each day is hard to imagine. The official roadkill numbers in Malaysia surely underestimate the true toll.
Widely reported insurance industry statistics, for example, reveal that United States drivers hit an estimated one million to two million animals every year, the equivalent of a collision every 26 seconds. Note that those are just the incidents reported for insurance purposes, usually involving a large animal and serious vehicle damage. Uncounted are the millions of smaller animals crushed by tyres or hit by windshields.
European authorities estimate that as many as 27 million birds are killed by vehicles each year. A Brazilian study estimates 1.3 million animals die every day under cars and trucks.
The effectiveness of some well-known measures to reduce roadkill has been widely documented. These include animal bridges or tunnels — viaducts for animals to safely cross over or under highways — and other human-made barriers. A recent Canadian tunnel and fencing project reduced by 89 and 28 per cent respectively the number of turtles and snakes venturing onto a road in a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve. Other helpful innovations include solar-powered alert panels that line a highway and help nighttime drivers see animals more easily.
Our authorities are certainly aware of the problem. Just last February, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar directed Perhilitan and the Forestry Department to step up surveillance and preventive measures along highways and roads identified as hotspots for animal crossing. Identified now are 126 roadkill hotspots nationwide, with plans by the ministry to build viaducts at 37 hotspots to facilitate the movement of animals. This is an encouraging start.
Ultimately, however, the rakyat must take collective responsibility. We cannot leave it to the government or “nature champions” like Henry Goh or Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma, chief executive officer of WWF Malaysia, who rightly opined that Malaysia has failed to sufficiently protect its fauna. A paradigm shift in attitudes is needed immediately.
FIRST, we must accept the right of fauna to coexist with humans. This is not to say that we should regard them as domesticates, but rather that we develop a healthy respect for their continuous survival in this country, one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth;
SECOND, the term “wildlife” or “wild animals” (binatang liar or worse, binatang buas in Malay) has threatening, human-unfriendly connotations. Let’s simply refer to our fauna as animals or haiwan; and,
FINALLY, and most importantly, our deference to animals that find their way onto our roads and highways must be at the same level we would accord a child crossing the street on the way to and from school. Then, and only then, can roadkill be reduced or prevented altogether.
Tan Sri Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid is the science adviser to the prime minister and joint recipient of the 2015 Merdeka Award (Environment). He can be reached via email@example.com and Twitter: @zakriZAH. News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/01/322831/when-will-animals-get-right-way
BIOECONOMY refers to the production of renewable biological resources for food, feed, chemicals, energy and healthcare wellness products via innovative and efficient technologies. And, in 2005, Malaysia began a drive to make bio-based industry a key economic driver, launching the National Biotechnology Policy (NBP) under the stewardship of then visionary minister of science, technology and innovation, the late Tan Sri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis.
The ambitious target set for the sector: contribute five per cent to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020. The NBP, a well-crafted, 15-year masterplan, provides a comprehensive roadmap to that destination, one that helps foster a conducive ecosystem for accelerated industry growth.
Since 2005, strategies have been implemented in three five-year phases:
PHASE I — Capacity Building (2005 – 2010);
PHASE II —Science to Business (2011 – 2015); and,
PHASE III — Global Business (2016 – 2020).
We are midway through Phase III, positioning Malaysia’s bio-based industry on the world stage, consolidating our strengths and capabilities in developing home-grown bio-based innovations, boosting commercialisation and penetrating international markets. Malaysia aims to produce at least 20 global companies to spearhead the value creation process for the bio-based industry beyond 2020. Two of them are on the way there:
PURE CIRCLE SDN BHD — manufacturer of stevia sweeteners for the food and beverage industry, and listed on the London Stock Exchange; and,
BIO ALPHA HOLDING BHD — food and supplement products listed on the Bursa Malaysia.
On Bioeconomy Day (Jan 11), Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) Minister Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau revealed some encouraging figures.
As of December last year, the Malaysian Bioeconomy Development Corporation (BioEcorp) has 77 trigger projects under the Bioeconomy Transformation Programme (BTP).
Together, the projects are expected to provide more than 26,700 job opportunities, with cumulative approved investments of more than RM17 billion in 2020. BioEcorp has also implemented 37 Bioeconomy Community Development Programme (BCDP) projects, involving more than 2,800 participants. These projects will impact more than 13,000 residents around the project areas.
The minister pointed out that bio-based companies continued to be the main pillar in catalysing holistic changes encompassing economic, governance, and social development.
From 2016 to last year, there has been an increase of RM150 millions of total approved investments captured by 283 BioNexus companies (from RM6.66 billion to RM6.81 billion). The companies created 10,665 jobs, an increase of 4.2 per cent compared with 2016 (10,238). Furthermore, the BioNexus companies recorded an average annual growth rate of 18 per cent in terms of revenue generation from 2008 to December last year.
Madius said the growing bio-based sector had positioned Malaysia well as an investment destination.
“Biotechnology has been transforming the industry from commodities to value-added products. Malaysia has also been a favoured investment destination due to biotechnology developments, such as the Palm Oil Industrial Cluster in Lahad Datu, Sabah, as well as Bio-XCell Malaysia in Nusajaya, Johor.”
The BioNexus and BTP-status companies will have to establish themselves as pioneers of leading edge bio-based businesses. Malaysia is well-primed to excel by focusing on high-impact, high-growth and high-technology areas capable of driving the continuous development of home-grown technologies.
In the long run, the sector is expected to generate new economic opportunities and create a broad spectrum of novel bio-based sectors in the country. Bioeconomy, being at the heart of many technological advances, has the potential to address some of the most pressing challenges, such as feeding a growing population and offering alternatives to dwindling natural resources. It is a game changer for Malaysia’s economic growth.
Tapping into and sustainably using the country’s vast biodiversity has the potential to increase the country’s economic competitiveness, creating jobs, enhancing health, food security while addressing environmental concerns. With three years to go until 2020, the challenge lies in increasing the number of bio-based industry players and to have a stronger global presence for locally-produced products.
A few notable programmes designed to achieve that are already in place. For instance, the BCDP will focus on enhancing the socio-economic wellbeing of the rakyat by providing opportunities for higher income rural employment.
BTP participants and BioNexus-status companies, meanwhile, will focus more on the downstream industries and using bio-based technologies to manufacture value-added products. Bio-based companies will be supported with mentoring and commercialisation programmes, such as BioNext and BioShoppe that help our bio-based products penetrate the international market. And, BioEcorp will continue to be the lead bioeconomy development agency.
In arguing for the realisation of Transformasi Nasional 2050, which he launched last year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had this to say: “Bioeconomy — through innovation and technological advancement — has the potential to make a significant contribution towards our country becoming a knowledge-based, high income nation.”
The writer is science adviser to the prime minister and chairman of the Malaysian Bioeconomy Development Corporation (BioEcorp) News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/01/327513/delivering-bioeconomy-promise
ONE New Year gift that must surely cheer up all Malaysians is the appointment of Penang Mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif as executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements programme (UN-Habitat).
Maimunah makes history by becoming the first Asian to hold this prestigious job, and her appointment helps meet one of UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres’ promises to see women in more of UN’s senior most positions.
UN-Habitat is considered one of the most active agencies of the international body. Maimunah will oversee 400 core staff, up to 2,000 project-based employees, four regional offices and activities in more than 70 countries.
A key focus of the agency will
be UN’s New Urban Agenda, a
20-year vision for sustainable cities adopted at the 2016 Habitat III conference in Ecuador.
UN-Habitat predicts the number of people living in cities will almost double to seven billion in 2050 from 3.7 billion today, with many mired in squalor if urbanisation is poorly managed.
Encouraging and overseeing adoption of UN’s sustainable urban living goals worldwide is an awesome challenge, to say the least, especially so given recent declines in funding for the 40-year old agency.
Malaysian women have proven themselves up to such international challenges many times, however. In fact, holding key UN positions is part of a tradition of public service par excellence rendered by our female compatriots.
Maimunah follows in the path of Tan Sri Rafiah Salim, who served as assistant secretary-general for human resource management at UN headquarters in New York from 1997 to 2002. Rafiah was instrumental in the reform agenda at UN laid out by then secretary-general Kofi Annan in five core missions: peace and security, economic and social affairs, development cooperation, humanitarian affairs, and human rights.
As head of human resources, Rafiah’s mandate was to improve the efficiency of the UN machinery, which included heading a task force of experts from different world regions sharing diverse human resource management experience from the public and private sectors.
Similarly, Malaysian astrophysicist Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman was also appointed by Annan in 1999 to serve as director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) in Vienna. At our government’s request, she returned to Malaysia in July 2002 to serve as the founding director-general of the Malaysian National Space Agency (Angkasa), where her work led to the launch of
the first Malaysian angkasawan (astronaut), Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor.
After five years, Mazlan returned to Vienna to reassume the directorship of UNOOSA, appointed to a second term by then secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. In that reprised role, she addressed such daunting issues as international cooperation in space, prevention of space debris and collisions, use of space-based remote sensing platforms for sustainable development, coordination of space law and the risks posed by near-earth asteroids.
A third highly notable example of Malaysian women in leadership roles at the world body is Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood, who, since January last year, has served as under-secretary general for partnerships at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Before joining IFRC, she served at UN in New York as chief of the World Humanitarian Summit and of the UN Population Fund’s Humanitarian Response Branch.
Before her UN career, Jemilah in 1999 founded Mercy Malaysia (Malaysian Medical Relief Society), a medical charity inspired by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). In 2008, she was one of 16 members appointed by then UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to the Advisory Group of the Central Emergency Response Fund.
It is a source of great pride to Malaysians to see the contribution to world affairs of our women leaders. Having my own window on the UN, I can testify that these top posts are hotly contested and strictly awarded on merit; government lobbying can only do so much. When a UN secretary-general signs an appointment, you can be sure the nomination passed a rigorous search process in which a committee vetted and pared a long list of candidates down to a very few final choices.
Why do Malaysian women excel at such stratospheric levels? I can venture a few reasons: First, a solid education from an early age available in our country and the high female enrolment rate in our universities. Second, a robust public service working environment. After all, these high-flyers were plucked from the prime of their public careers back home.
Some 35 per cent of top management posts in our public sector are filled by women, as noted recently by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who wants
even further improvement in keeping with Malaysia’s strong track record in women’s rights.
It won’t be a surprise, therefore, that in the not-too-distant future, we will have a woman chief secretary to the government — perhaps even a secretary-general of the United Nations.
The writer is science adviser to the prime minister and former official of the United Nations University News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2017/12/319695/united-nations-and-malaysian-womens-power
GRIEVING the loss of his grandfather to a heart attack, a 14-year-old in India learned that a unique enzyme is found in victims of heart attack. Indeed, our bodies produce the enzyme in the hours beforehand.
Intrigued, he wondered, what if someone at high risk of a heart attack could watch for that enzyme in real time? What an advantage it would be to be forewarned in such a situation and to immediately take the medical steps known to avoid or reduce the impact of a heart attack.
The boy pursued his idea and learned that the enzyme can be detected on a patient’s skin. Therefore, he reasoned, it’s possible to create a non-invasive monitor for the telltale heart attack marker. The result of his curiosity was the recent award of a valuable patent for just such a device, now being clinically tested, with the potential to save many lives.
The story was told by India’s legendary Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys and chairman of Axilor Ventures during the inter-sessional meeting of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council on Sept 30, making a point about breakthrough thinking — the Nobel mindset.
It illustrates well the sometimes simple makings and process of scientific innovation. Certainly, a genius mind helps, but isn’t required. Education, observation and curiosity combine to create an idea for improving some aspects of our lives, leading to a test which, more often than not, will fail at first. But, with perseverance, good ideas succeed. And, even those that don’t work out often lead to others that do.
Malaysia is blessed with many brilliant young minds and we owe it to them, and to ourselves, to create an environment in which they get their chance to change the world.
It was my proud honour, therefore, to join the British high commissioner, Vicki Treadell, to recognise some of our brightest researchers with the prestigious Newton-Ungku Omar Prize, one of five awards used to advance and scale up promising scientific ideas in Malaysia, India, Thailand and Vietnam.
There were five projects shortlisted for the prize in Malaysia this year, and the recipient of the RM635,000 award was Professor Dr Phang Siew Moi and her team from Universiti Malaya (UM). In partnership with researchers from Cambridge University, the UM team successfully demonstrated how tropical algae from agro-industrial wastewater could be used to create bioelectricity. It represents a true win-win-win: produce electricity, lower carbon dioxide emissions by using green energy and treat wastewater. The team’s next challenge: power an entire rural house with this energy source in five years.
Others in prize contention:
A TEAM from City University of London and UM’s Photonics Research Centre developed novel rain and humidity sensors to
detect landslide movement, a way for Malaysians to mitigate future monsoon damage and casualties.
A TEAM from the United Kingdom’s Cardiff University and the United Nations University’s International Institute for Global Health, based in Kuala Lumpur, researched links between health in urban centres and such variables as a city’s walkability, river restoration and food systems, identifying lessons urban planners might also draw from indigenous knowledge.
A TEAM from UK’s University of Southampton and Universiti Sains Malaysia created a network focused on infectious disease vaccines that target a limited number of bacterial strains, which allows new, more pathogenic, antibiotic resistant strains to emerge, increasing the risk of epidemics. The problem is expected to grow with climate change, industrial air pollution and changes in seasonal monsoon patterns.
All four projects, supported by the London-based British Council and the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (Might), through their joint Newton-Ungku Omar Fund, were dedicated to addressing climate change and sustainable urbanisation.
The UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering and Malaysia’s Academy of Sciences, meanwhile, partnered to support the fifth finalist project, led by researchers from Liverpool John Moores University and UM. They developed a way to make electronics systems, including wireless medical devices, more reliable and secure from, for example, the threat posed by hackers.
Seeing what our researchers can do, we are encouraged as we struggle to achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals, and to adjust to the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). It may be trite to believe that there has never been a more pressing need for curious, innovative and creative thinkers. Perhaps every generation has considered their time more perilous and challenging than any before. But, it certainly feels justified saying so these days as we confront daunting issues stemming largely from our species’ overwhelming success, to the point where humanity constitutes such a dominant force that we define a new geological epoch.
Pessimists have been a constant throughout human history. I’m not one of them. Ours is a smart species; we will find
the way forward. My hope, though, for the sake of future generations, is that we, in our time, are smart and mature enough to anticipate and prevent the problems we’re creating before they, in theirs, must react and cure.
In either case, we need all brains on deck. The maximised creative talents and innovative potential of every young person in Malaysia will be essential to success. And, we are grateful, therefore, to the many international colleagues and collaborators who share their resources and expertise with us in such effective ways.
The writer is science adviser to the prime minister and joint chairman of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (Might). New Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2017/12/313172/we-need-all-brains-deck
Ian Wright posted on November 28, 2017
Well, I thought we were entering the age of additive manufacturing, but it’s the age of optimization that’s next on the docket, at least according to the Global Innovation Summit 2017. The summit was organized by the Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils (GFCC) and the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), which has apparently been taking acronymizing lessons from NASA.
“The digital, biotechnological, nanotechnology and cognitive revolutions are colliding and converging to re-write the rules of production, consumption and work in ways we could only imagine a decade ago,” said Deborah Wince-Smith, president of the GFCC and CEO of the U.S. Council on Competitiveness. “These technologies could also answer the grand global challenges of adequate food, clean water, energy, the environment and global health.”
Although the summit itself was fairly broad in scope—touching on everything from agriculture to urban planning—manufacturing clearly plays a key role in what its participants describe as “a technology-driven Age of Optimization.” Wince-Smith’s remarks regarding digitization made this clear:
“We will have the ability to illuminate the operation of every machine and device, the cut of every blade, every movement of material and the consumption of energy minute by minute—providing insight for greater efficiency, waste reduction and lower energy consumption,” she said.
10 Principles for Fostering Sustainability Through Innovation and Competitiveness
Although these principles, formulated by the GFCC, were created with nations, regions and cities in mind, it should be clear that they can also be applied by manufacturers and other private organizations looking for a competitive edge. The essential qualifier here is sustainability, which was the theme of this year’s summit.
So, here are ten principles of competitiveness for a sustainable future:
1. Build Coalitions and Public-Private Partnerships to Drive Future and Sustainable Growth
Public and private sector collaboration is critical for scaling sustainable future production and consumption systems, as well as for developing the future workforce. Technologies, standards, regulations, investments, policies and initiatives need to be coordinated through consultation, cooperation and joint investment mechanisms.
Establishing buy-in on opportunities, challenges and common goals from government, academia, business and civil society will be critical for creating a common sustainable future.
2. Make Innovation the Centerpiece of Sustainable Growth Strategies
Innovation is a fundamental driver for sustainable production systems and a key factor for creating new businesses. To drive sustainable future growth, we need to combine STEM, business and creative capabilities; favorable regulatory regimes; advanced infrastructures; capital availability and smart finance with effective business connectors and knowledge brokers.
3. Invest in Developing Future Skills and Transitioning the Workforce to a New Economic Paradigm
The transition to future production systems will require a massive adaptation in the workforce, powered by STEM and social sciences. New skills will be needed; new jobs will emerge that do not exist today; many jobs will disappear. Government, academia, businesses and civil society will need to come together to effectively develop a future workforce that respects local cultures and values.
4. Enhance Local Capabilities and Leverage Local Assets to Build Global Competitiveness
The emergence of future sustainable production-consumption systems will primarily take place in cities and their surrounding regions. It will be essential to mobilize local actors in government, business, academia, non-profit, international organizations and financial institutions and leverage local innovation capabilities to create new sustainable technologies, businesses, jobs and production systems.
5. Implement Functional, Fast and Forward-Looking IP Regimes
New technology solutions and business models will make future production systems possible. They will emerge and deploy in places where innovators and businesses are sure they will receive rewards for their efforts. Speed is critical for IP regimes as technology and global competition continue to accelerate.
6. Bridge Technology Development and Sustainable Business Models with Infrastructure Development
Sustainable, resilient and secure physical and cyber infrastructures will be essential to address global challenges in areas such as water, energy, climate, mobility, food, housing and natural resources. Countries, regions and cities should tap into the potential of infrastructure investment as a key accelerator for sustainable technologies, businesses and production systems.
7. Scale Sustainable Technologies and Business Models via Global Markets
Future competitiveness will result from local innovation combined with global perspective and scale. Global flows of goods, capital, information and ideas will be essential for future production systems. Stakeholders should support open and transparent markets as drivers for economic growth around the world.
8. Create Sustainable Value Chains and Decouple Resource Pressures from Economic Growth
Emerging technologies open up enormous opportunities to increase the efficiency and productivity of energy and other natural resources—from minerals to water. To maximize this potential, these technologies should be combined with smart regulation and systemic business, production and urban networks concepts. This mix can help decouple economic growth from natural resources depletion, while combating biodiversity loss, desertification and land degradation.
9. Implement Regulations that Create Favorable Conditions for New Business Models and Sustainable Technologies
Efficiency, transparency and predictability are key attributes for functional and innovative business environments. A fast-paced global scenario also requires flexibility, adaptation and accelerated learning. The emergence of future production and consumption systems will require experimentation and institutional learning.
10. Turbocharge Sustainable Development Through Global Benchmarking
To compete and cooperate in building sustainable production and consumption systems, we need to track key metrics and constantly assess new solutions and practices that can be implemented globally. Learning and adapting will only be possible with systematic global engagement and benchmarking.
Want to know more about the future of manufacturing competitiveness?
Follow the link to find out why now is a great time to be in manufacturing.
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