The two-day workshop entitled “National Dialogue on Biotechnology & Bio-Safety for Food & Feed Security in Pakistan and Capacity Building Workshop for Representatives of IBC Members & Media Practitioners” will be held in Islamabad during 17-18th, January, 2014. Top biotechnologists from Pakistan and other countries are participating in this international event. This event is jointly organised by the Pakistan Biotechnology Information Center (PABIC), PARC, Forman Christian College , Lahore, PAS, Crop life Pakistan and the United States Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service US Embassy, Islamabad, Pakistan.
Speakers at the press conference that was organised to announce the event, said, Pakistan, being the 6th most populous country in the world, is faced with complex problems, including food insecurity and a large yield gap between the rich and poor resource poor farmers.
In addition, the demographic pressures due to fast growing population, urbanisation, as well as water and energy crises are the other major impediments in national development. By year 2050, Pakistan will have a population of 250 million. Despite the fact that Pakistan is among three Muslim countries, out of 57 nations, who have achieved commercialisation of biotech crops, food inflation is still among the highest in Pakistan.
Agriculture is backbone of national economy. Pakistan is among the largest producers of cotton, maize, rice, citrus, etc. However, the yield and quality of agriculture produce is not at par to the world standards.
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. For the prompt application of agriculture biotechnology in the country, smooth functioning of the regulatory system at the national level, capable of carrying out science based and time bound evaluation, is absolutely essential.
It is also important that leading biotech scientists are made part of the regulatory structure. Pakistan had prepared its Biosafety Guidelines and Rules to ensure smooth development and application of biotechnology in agriculture. These regulations were incorporated in the Pakistan Environment Protection Act. However, after the 18th Constitutional Amendment, a review of the roles of Federal agencies in the implementation of these regulations is needed in order to allow reviews of the applications that have been submitted by public and private sectors research institutes and companies for approval.
It is heartening that the political leadership in Pakistan has realised the importance of the application of modern biotechnology as expressed in its manifesto to establish a Foundation for Biotechnology to meet the enduring threat of hunger, poverty and disease. In addition, the Ministry of Climate Change has drafted a Biosafety Act designed to address some of the outstanding issues. It is hoped that progress will be made to facilitate the commercialisation of different biotech crops developed by both public and private sectors.
The proposed workshop is an effort to initiate national dialogue and address these urgent issues in greater length. The deliberations of renowned biotechnologists from home and aboard in this international event will form the basis of recommendations which we plan to finalise through a broad-based consultative process among experts and submit to the Government of Pakistan for prompt but knowledge based implementation of agri biotech in Pakistan. The programme of the event also includes two capacity building workshops for the representatives of institutional biosafety committees as well as for the key media personnel.