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Pakistan
Scientists urged to safeguard agri resources
by Anwer Abbas
14-May-2008 via Agbios

Federal Minister for Environment Hameedullah Jan Afridi has called on scientists, civil society representatives and regulators to take the responsibility of safeguarding agricultural resources and human health by adopting new "Genetically Modified Organisms".

Addressing a seminar on 'GMOs Applications and Implications' organised by Environmental Protection Agency in a hotel Tuesday, the minister said, "GMOs has attained utmost importance due to increasing demand of food products world over.

He said such seminars were essential for awareness raising and educating the masses about the importance of engineered food and non-food items and highlighting the need for environmental protection.

He said biotechnology, its dynamics and rapidly evolving scientific research had created need for GMO applications in lifelines including agriculture, health, industry and environment. Afridi said modern techniques of biotechnology was being utilised to stabilise and enhance crops yield, improve the standard of livelihood of poor population, provide nutrient enriched and better quality food and reduce negative environmental impacts.

"Our institutions like National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, Centre for Excellence in Molecular Biology and National Institute of Agriculture and Biology can play a vital role in research and developments of GM Technology and promoting its responsible use," he said.

The minister called on National Bio-Safety Centre of Pak-EPA to closely work with these institutions and particularly with the ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock to build their regulatory capacity for enforcing Bio-safety Regulations. Federal Secretary for Environment Ejaz Ahmed Qureshi told the audience that the Ministry of Environment had set up a National Bio-safety Centre in Pakistan and Environmental Protection Agency would implement and execute the Pakistan Bio-safety Rules and National Bio-safety Guidelines.

The secretary informed more than 35 research and academic institutions were working in the country in the field of biotechnology, which was very encouraging sign. These institutes, he said, needed to be encouraged for research and development in GMO technology under adequate Bio-safety conditions. He said the world community was conscious of the risks of GMOs and their products.

He said the United Nations had introduced Cartagena Protocol on the Bio-safety under the umbrella of Convention on Biodiversity which was an effective tool to create a regime of Bio-safety among countries involved in "Genetically Modified Organisms" trading.

Qureshi said Pakistan was a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on the Bio-safety and was in the process of its ratification. "We need technically sound institutes in the country to regulate GMO products once the protocol is ratified," he added.

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