The virtual Workshop on the Development of National Gene Banks in the member states of the OIC commenced on July 5, 2020. The keynote addresses were delivered by Director-General of IOFS H.E. Yerlan Baidaulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Science & Technology H.E. Askar Mussinov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to UAE H.E. Madiyar Menilbekov, and Minister of State for Food Security of UAE H.E. Mariam Almheiri.

“The creation of a National Gene Bank is a major step forward in using biotechnology to increase food security in the region. The bank will act as an important repository for genetic material that will form the basis of crop yield improvement through advanced techniques such as seed enhancement and genetic cloning, the aim being to create resilient strains of crops that grow quickly and which require little or no pesticides,” said Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri in her keynote speech.

“In light of the current stress being placed on food supply networks because of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has never been a more important time to build our capacity in this regard, which will enable scientists and food technologists to conduct important research and share their knowledge on creating the most viable forms of crops for our challenging environment. I wholeheartedly welcome the Islamic Organisation for Food Security’s e-workshop that is laying the foundations to discuss the development of a National Gene Bank for OIC member states and I am looking forward to chairing the discussions,” Her Excellency added.

Director-General of IOFS stated that “The need for collaboration among countries is very crucial to achieving sustainable socio-economic development and food and nutrition security as no one country can sustain an advanced and competitive agricultural development based on local plants alone.”

Around 160 delegates and experts from 30 OIC countries and 10 international organisations gathered at the event today to review three panel discussions presented by various speakers. The Panel I examined the ‘Role and Importance of Gene Banks for Conserving Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.’ The list of speakers included Dr. Kakoli Ghosh, Coordinator (Partnerships) of the Strategic Program on Sustainable Agriculture at FAO, Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, Director-General of ICBA, Ms.Lerzan Gul Aykas, Head of Biodiversity and Genetic Resources Department, and Dr. Sadar Uddin Siddiqui, Chief Scientific Officer at National Genebank of Pakistan and Director of Bio-resources Conservation Institute and National Agricultural Research Centre in Pakistan.

The Panel II was devoted to ‘Country Experiences on Gene Bank Development and International Collaboration’, focusing on cases of Nigeria, Burkina Faso and COMSTECH. Professor M.F Isiyaku, Executive Director at the Institute for Agricultural Research presented Nigeria, speaking of its experience and current challenges of gene-bank management. Dr Khurshid Hasanain, Adviser at COMSTECH Secretariat spoke on behalf on COMSTECH, while Dr. Moussa Ouedraogo, Director-General of the National Tree Seed Centre in Burkina-Faso discussed the mission and goals of the institute.

The Panel III provided an ‘Overview of Global and Regional Agreements on PGRFA, including forests and animal genetic resources for food and agriculture’ featuring Dr. Daniele Manzella, Technical Officer (International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Secretariat) at FAO, Dr. Asif Javaid, Principal Scientific Officer/Program Leader of Plant Genetic Resources Program at Bio-resources Conservation Institute and National Agricultural Research Center in Pakistan, Dr. Rakesh Singh, Program Leader on Crop Diversification and Genetics, Principal Scientist-Plant Breeding at ICBA.

The IOFS cooperated with such institutions as the General Secretariat of the OIC, the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation, OIC Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation, Islamic Development Bank Group, International Center for Biosaline Agriculture, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas and the Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development.

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