The first OIC Summit on science, technology and innovation (STI) held at Astana, Kazakhstan, 10-11 September 2017 formulated OIC STI Agenda 2026 and the member states agreed to progress on STI. In the OIC STI Agenda 2026, the Priority # 3 focused Targets on Farm Productivity and Plant Biodiversity stating “Encourage setting up National Genebanks for conservation and exchange of plant genetic resources with research centres in Member States”.
As an initiative, the first “Workshop on Plant Genetic Resources and Genebank Operations Management System” from May 8-11, 2018 was organized jointly by COMSTECH, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad, and ECO Science Foundation, Islamabad. Mr. Fazal Abbas Maken, Federal Secretary, Ministry of National Food Security & Research (MNFSR), Islamabad graced the event as the Chief Guest.
Twenty-four participants from 15 OIC member states presented their respective country reports on PGR and genebank management systems. Twenty one participants from Pakistan representing the R & D institutes and Academia attended the workshop. Fifteen resource persons (4 from abroad and 11 from national institutes) discussed specialized topics related to the workshop themes.
The workshop not only provided an opportunity to participants and resource persons to take stock of the situation of plant genetic resources and Genebank management systems in the respective countries but also enabled them to learn from each other experiences. It provided a platform to the member states representatives to interact on key issues be faced in the area of PGRFA, while creating awareness about aligning the in-vogue systems in accordance with international good practices.
During the workshop proceedings, it was emphasized that due to human interventions as well as climate change threats the plant genetic resources conservation encounters challenge of deprivation and losses. This situation demands that pragmatic strategies and actions should be undertaken. The participants agreed on the need for implementation of conservation and efficient exploitation of available plant genetic resources for the development of new crop varieties. It was recommended that adoption of pragmatic strategies and enhanced interaction would be required for addressing the issues related to the plight of plant genetic resources in OIC and ECO member states.
The workshop participants had thorough discussions in the concluding session that was mediated by Dr. Jonas Mueller, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK; Dr. Abdul Ghafoor, Director BCI, NARC; Dr. Khurshid Hasanain, Senior Expert, COMSTECH and Dr. Shakeel Khan, Seed Sector Consultant, FAO Representative Office, Islamabad. After detailed consultation, the participants agreed unanimously to the following points:
- Strengthening of germplasm collection, evaluation and sharing of information through networking, corresponding to the challenges of food security, particularly in the era of climate change.
- Promoting technical cooperation between Member states for Genebank establishment/management. COMSTECH may play a leading role in enabling this cooperation and availability of resources.
- Promoting evaluation and utilization of plant genetic resources for varietal development, and the integration of their seed system in the member states.
- Providing opportunities of Degree Programs for Postgraduate students from countries with lesser developed research programs so as to benefit from the expertise and resources of more developed Member States. Similarly, providing opportunities for exchange of researchers in PGR among OIC member states.
- It was proposed that COMSTECH may arrange a Workshop on Medicinal and Aromatics plants. The participants from Oman, Malaysia and Egypt agreed to contact their respective governments for hosting of this activity.
- It was proposed by participants from Kazakhstan that COMSTECH may organize an activity on GMO and Biosafety in one of the Central Asian states.
It was proposed by COMSTECH that there should be a focal person to follow up on the above recommendations and to act as link between the PGR community and COMSTECH. Dr. Abdul Ghafoor, Director, Bio-resources Conservation Institute (BCI), National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), Islamabad was unanimously agreed to as the focal person for PGR and Genebank management between OIC member states and COMSTECH for implementation of the recommendations of the workshop.