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Return of Pakistani Seeds from Chinese Space Station

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal said that the new phase of seed cooperation between Pakistan and China was critically important for Pakistan to meet our food security challenge in the future.

He said that the South Asian country was in dire need of seed cooperation to meet the climate change challenges.

He was talking at an event here Friday to mark the successful return of the seeds, on the sidelines of “Celebration of the Return of Pakistani Seeds from Chinese Space Station”.

China helped Pakistan take seven herbal seeds to the Chinese space station for space breeding by exposing them to cosmic radiation and micro-gravity to mutate their genes.

“Pakistan is very vulnerable to climate change, due to which we need smart agriculture, for which we need new varieties of seeds, which are resistant to the new weather challenges, and which are more suitable to the climate change risks,” Iqbal said in an interview with Xinhua.

Liu Xinming, a chief scientist from China’s Ningbo University, said the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs transferred the seeds to China Manned Space Agency on April 12 last year.

The seeds were launched into outer space carried by Shenzhou-14 spaceship on June 5 2022, and after six months of flying, returned to the earth with the Shenzhou-14 astronaut crew on Dec. 4 last year, Liu added.

Atia-tul-Wahab, a professor at the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences, University of Karachi, said her institute proposed the government to send the herbs’ seeds to space.

“We sent some grains to the space and kept the same quantity in our laboratory. Now upon their return, we will closely examine them and do their tests at our laboratory. Then both seed varieties will be sowed separately to see the end results through comparison,” she said.

Atia said that it was for the first time that Pakistan sent seeds to space and it was a landmark achievement for the country, adding that her lab was eying for sending food staples including rice, wheat and pulses to space for further research.

She said that the herbs sent to space are used in traditional Pakistani medicine, and that it is hoped that the space breeding will enable scientists at her institute to produce medicine for incurable diseases.

Pang Chunxue, charge d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, said the experiment will surely be recorded in the history of China-Pakistan friendship as a landmark of the science and technology cooperation of both countries, Xinhua reported .

China’s international science and technology cooperation is an open, shared and inclusive cooperation that insists on conducting cooperation in space exploration on the basis of equality, mutual benefit, peaceful use and inclusive development, she said and added, all countries are welcome to actively participate in space exploration with China.

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