COMSTECH in collaboration with International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE), Pakistan organized a three-day workshop on Genome Editing and Other New Breeding Technologies for Global Food Security. It was held on 08-10 April 2019 at the COMSTECH Secretariat, Islamabad.
This initiative is part of COMSTECH efforts to fulfill the expectations voiced in the 1st OIC S&T Summit in Astana 2017 for helping member states to address food security concerns in the face of rising populations and global climatic changes. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, who are leaders in the Islamic World in the new breeding technologies, have already formed a working group. This group collaborates actively in research and manpower development in these cutting edge technologies e.g. genome editing, speed breeding and development of crop varieties for saline and drought conditions. One of the goals of this workshop was to extend this group to include other member states and to move onwards for greater on-ground impact of these activities.
The Inaugural Session of the workshop was addressed by Prof. Mark Tester, Leader of The Salt Lab, King Abdul Aziz University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Dr. Munir Ahmed, Chairman Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC), and Dr. M. Azeem Khan, Member Planning Commission, Government of Pakistan and Dr. Shahid Mansoor, Director NIBGE. Prof. Tester highlighted the challenges being faced in providing sustainable food security and the opportunities provided by the new breeding stories including the success stories for various new crops. Dr. S. K. Hasanain, Advisor COMSTECH, explained the OIC initiatives being undertaken for capacity building of member states. Other keynote speakers highlighted the efforts of the Government of Pakistan in improving the agriculture sector productivity and the use of S&T for this purpose. They extended their full support in forging collaboration with OIC member states in agriculture.
The technical sessions of the workshop were addressed by 12 foreign speakers and Resource Persons from Australia, China, Germany, Turkey, Kenya and India. 19 participants from OIC states viz. Oman, Malaysia, Nigeria, Benin, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Oman and Palestine attended the workshop. A total of 125 participants attended, including local participants from academia and research institutions. The workshop provided introduction and application of genome editing and new breeding technologies to researchers and students working on crop improvement or genomic selection of livestock. The workshop had a mix of interactive sessions, lectures and hands on training sessions.
A special session chaired by COMSTECH was held on the sidelines of the workshop and attended by representatives of the participating OIC member states. The meeting resulted in agreement from all participating countries to become part of the working group which would be led by NIBGE. A second major outcome of this meeting was agreement on the scope and goals of a proposal to be submitted to the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and OIC for providing support to the activities of the working group for promotion of new breeding technologies. The proposal would be prepared by NIBGE (Pakistan), KAUST (Saudi Arabia) and NOH University (Turkey) and coordinated by COMSTECH.