The two-day event entitled, “Capacity Building Sessions with the Bio-safety Regulators”, was held in Islamabad during 11-12th, August, 2016 at Serena Hotel, Islamabad. Top biotechnologists from Pakistan and other countries are participating in this International event. This event was jointly organized by the Pakistan Biotechnology Information Center (PABIC), Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC), Forman Christian College (A Chartered University), Lahore, and the United States Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service US Embassy, Islamabad, Pakistan. Top biotechnologists and regulators from different countries including Pakistan, Philippines (Ms. Julieta Fe L. Estacio, Project Development Officer, Department of Science and Technology and Head Secretariat I, National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines and DOST Biosafety Committee), Malaysia (Dr. Mahaletchumy Arujanan, Executive Director Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre) and Austria (Dr. Yusuf Zafar, Department of Technical Co-operation, IAEA, Vienna International Centr, Vienna, Austria) has participated in this capacity building event.
The inauguration ceremony was honored by the presence of His Excellency Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan, Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research and Mr. Syed Abu Ahmad Akif (Secretary Ministry of the climate change), the Chief Guest and Guest of Honor, respectively. Former Member Planning Commission, Prof. Dr. Kauser Abdulla Malik H.I., S.I., T.I., (Director, Research, Innovation and Commercialization, Forman Christian College, Lahore), Prof. Dr. Anwar Nasim S.I. (Patron PABIC, General Secretary Pakistan Academy of Sciences and Chairman Biotechnology Commission Pakistan), and Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Choudhary H.I., S.I., T.I., (Director PABIC) were also present at the occasion.
Excellency Sikandar Hayat Khan Boson also Launch the ISAAA Breif 51. Before the Launch Prof. M. Iqbal Choudhary (Director, PABIC) briefed the audience regarding important facts and figures in the ISAAA brief 51 written by Dr. Clive James and inform them that it is the 20th Anniversary of the global commercialization of biotech. crops. He talked about the role of Dr. Norman Borlauge for the promotion of Agribiotechnology globally.
While Addressing the inaugural session Minister said that rapid adoption of GM crops in industrial and developing countries clearly showing the importance of this technology.
The minister added that 20 years of commercialization showed that the crop biotechnology had enormous prospects, as the technology had far-reaching economic, environmental, social and health benefits. Sikandar Bosan enumerated the challenges faced by the country in form of energy crisis, food security and rapid urbanization and climate change. By 2050, he said there would be an enormous increase in the population of the country and hence water and land scarcity, adding that in face of such challenges, country took a bold step towards resorting to biotechnology.
The minister expressed pleasure at the progress made in the field of biotech crops in the form of genes manipulations through exotic means and thereby using them into crops to gain positive results which include insect resistance, protection from disease, and drought soil salinity.
The ceremony was attended by more than 70 researchers, members of institutional Bio-Safety Committees and regulators, representatives of various private sector seed companies and university faculty.
The technical session of first day was chaired by Syed Abu Ahmad Akif (Secretary Ministry of the climate change). and begun with the lecture of Dr. Yousuf Zafar (Department of Technical Co-operation, IAEA, Vienna International Centre, Vienna, Austria) who talked about the regulatory issues related to new gene editing (GE) technology followed by a comprehensive talk on Philippines experience in bio-safety regulation of GMOs delivered by Ms. Julieta Fe L. Estacio (Project Development Officer, Department of Science and Technology and Head Secretariat I, National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines and DOST Biosafety Committee). Dr. Asif Ali (Vice Chancellor, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Agriculture University Multan) talked in detail about the issues of food security and climate change in Pakistan.
The day was ended up with a conclusion by Syed Abu Ahmad Akif (Secretary Ministry of the climate change). The participants urged that as the agriculture is the backbone of national economy, therefore, it is imperative to adopt science-based agriculture at the national level in order to meet the constantly growing food, fiber and fodder demands in Pakistan. However, lack of coherent policies and clear implementation strategy to adapt agribiotech are the sectors need to be properly addressed and improved in order to feed the growing population and to provide raw material for high value exports.
The second day (August 12th 2016) was started with the second technical session of the event chaired by the Dr. Asif Ali (Vice Chancellor, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Agriculture University Multan). Dr. Shahid Manssor (Director, NIBGE) was the first speaker of the event talked about the Capacity Building related to the Biosafety Evaluation of Transgenic Plants followed by a comprehensive talk of Dr. Qaiser Khan (Head Environmental Biotechnology Division, National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE), Faisalabad), regarding the Toxicological Risk Assessment of Genetically Modified Crops and related available facilities in NIBGE. Third and last speaker of second session was Dr. Tayyab Hassnain (Director, CEMB) who talked regarding Biosafety issues of GMOs. The session was ended with a long discussion among speakers and participants regarding further improvements required for existing biosafety clearance system of GMOs in Pakistan.
The last session of the event was jointly chaired by Dr. Anwar Nasim (President Pakistan Academy of Sciences and Patron PABIC) and Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Choudhary (Director PABIC). Dr. Mahaletchumy Arujanan, Executive Director Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre, delivered a detailed training lecture entitled, “Fighting the GM Debate as an Underdog” for scientists as effective science communicators. She explained in detailed about the required acts needed for scientists to communicate with common people of society and media.
Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Choudhary, Director PABIC, and Dr. Anwar Nasim while concluding the activity said that Application of biotechnology in agriculture has great potential for promoting the efficiency of crop improvement, food production and food security for poverty reduction. They jointly thanked the United States Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service US Embassy, Islamabad for their financial support to organize the event. They appreciated the efforts of Prof. Dr. Kausar Abdullah Malik, a prominent national scientist, contribution in the field of biotechnology and bio-safety in the country.
The participants of the workshop including leading national and international biotech scientists from local public and private research institutes, biotech regulators, students, farmers, food and agricultural researchers and journalists highlighted that
- Food is the basic need of common man and as such food security is vital for the health of a nation
- Pakistan is considered a low-income developing country. Agriculture is its most important sector due to its primary commitment of providing healthy food to the fast growing population. With the current rate of population growth, the population is expected to get doubled by 2050—making Pakistan 4th largest nation by 2050 from a current status of 6th most populous state of the world.
- Production of quality food is not growing enough to meet the population growth rate thus increasing the gap of food availability. It is estimated that around 60% of Pakistan’s total population is facing food insecurity (Pakistan’s National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2011)
- Achieving sustainability in food grain production and food security in its totality continue to be a challenge in the developing world including Pakistan. Tremendous efforts are needed to narrow the gap between population growth and domestic food production.