Pakistan is a country with diverse geographic and climatic conditions. High mountains, deserts, plateaux, rivers, oceans and fertile plains are all present in the country. Still there are some remote areas in this country, which have not yet been spoilt by the evils of environmental pollution. These regions are likely to have unique indigenous texa including microbes.
In Pakistan, MoE serves as the focal point for Biosafety and the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety. It has set up a National Biosafety Committee. The National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE)36 has prepared a document outlining the basic principles for the "code of conduct" for research projects related to recombinant organisms, genetically modified organisms, (GMOs) and other areas of biotechnology research. The Biosafety Guidelines 2005 have been notified by the MoE under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997. The Guidelines propose a three-tier system to meet this bio-safety requirement, i.e. the implementation of bio-safety practices in genetic engineering and biotechnological work. The institutional bio-safety convention has been proposed to implement and supervise low-risk elements. The Ministerial Biosafety Committee (MBC) deals with medium-risk elements and the National Biosafety Committee deals with high-risk elements. The guidelines also explain the policies, powers, functions and the responsibilities of the three committees. Standard forms are to be used by the three committees for the collection of necessary information.
The Federal Seed Certification Department under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock after wide consultations with all stakeholders has prepared the Farm Breeders rights Act’ that includes provisions for the ban on terminator seed. Pakistan has also acceded to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRA) that provides for procedures for the exchange of genetic material of cereal crops.
In Pakistan, work in the area of strategies, policies or legislation in this field is confined to a few institutes. These are listed below in Table 11.1 along with some of the major projects presently underway. The Nuclear Institute of Agriculture and Biology (NIAB) and the Cotton Research Institute (CRI) are the premier institutes that develop new varieties of pest-resistant cotton and wheat. Before the recommendation of release of new varieties, extensive field trials are done at the research facilities and then at the adaptive research demonstration plots of the provincial agriculture departments.
Table 11.1: Institutions Involved in Genetic Engineering Research and Biotechnology
Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad (QAU), Agriculture University Faisalabad, HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry (University of Karachi), Botany Department of Punjab University (Lahore), University of Peshawar, PFRI (Gatwala Faisalabad), NARC (Islamabad)
Success has been achieved in tissue culture technology especially in the potato crop at the NARC. Some private tissue culture companies have also entered the market. The Punjab Forestry Research Institute (PFRI), Gatwala, has also established tissue culture facilities for tree crops. The new technology of Essential Micro-organisms (EM) started in the early nineties that have now been applied at the farm level. The NARC has extracted bio-fertilisers from algae like Azolla. The HEJ Institute of Chemistry, Karachi and the PCSIR laboratories, Lahore, have had successes in extracting and marketing pesticides derived from Neem. The National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, and the Veterinary Research Institute (VRI) have made Pakistan self sufficient in most of the vaccines for common diseases including snake bites.