Call for developing national bio-security plan
ZUBAIR QURESHI ISLAMABAD—There is an urgent to develop a National Biosecurity Plan to address concerns regarding Pakistan’s preparedness for bio-threats in various sectors including environment, agriculture and health.
Federal Secretary for Climate Change Ministry Syed Abu Ahmad Akif has called for efforts in this regard while addressing the participants of the Regional Workshop on Biosafety and Biosecurity in Life Sciences Research, being jointly organized in Islamabad by the COMSATS, Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), and Pakistan Academy of Sciences (PAS).
He was representing Federal Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid. He pledged his Ministry’s support for any initiative with regard to the aforementioned national plan. As the Chairperson of National Biosafety Committee (NBC) of Pakistan, he especially appreciated the theme of the event.
Speaking to the 185 participants of the inaugural session, Secretary General PAS, Dr. Zabta Khan Shinwari shared the significance of the event in relation to the National DNA Day (25thApril) that commemorates completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2003, and the discovery of DNA’s double helix in 1953.
In view of the emerging technologies in life sciences, such as genetic modification in plants and animals (GMOs) and more recently human gene editing, he called for strong ethical guidelines that may check and monitor radical trends in life sciences research challenging the moral fabric of society.
ISESCO Representative based in UAE, Dr. AbdulAzeez Hameed Ali, conveyed the greetings of Director General ISESCO, Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri and thanked COMSATS and working for over 30 years for the promotion of science by holding workshops and seminars within and outside the Islamic World.
In his address, Executive Director COMSATS, Dr. I.E. Qureshi, highlighted the theme of the event and relevant issues in the developed and the developing world.
He made a special mention of the upcoming 8th Review Conference of Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) that addresses weapons of mass destruction of biological and toxic nature. He noted with concern some missing aspects in the BWC, such as non-universality, especially in Middle East, and verification regime.
Referring to some trends and technologies in life sciences, such as CRISPR being used to tailor the human genetic code, Dr. Qureshi considered it important to have relevant legal obligations for scientists and research organizations working in sensitive areas of life sciences.
He especially hoped that Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change would benefit from the technical deliberations and recommendations of this regional workshop.