ECO ministers wisely established ECO Agricultural Biotechnology Network (ECO-ABN) in 2005 and the 1st ECO Experts Group Meeting (EGM) on the establishment of ECO Agricultural Biotechnology Network was held in Tehran on 22-24 April 2006. The experts in the field of biotechnology from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Republic of Tajikistan and Republic of Turkey participated in the meeting. The delegates from the ECO member countries delivered Country Reports/Presentations on Biotechnology highlighting the policies, challenges and potentials/opportunities and activities in the field of biotechnology in the countries. The experts approved a 3-year project and work plan in order to make the ECO Agricultural Biotechnology Network (ECO-ABN) operational. It was planned that the Network would be ready within two years. The objectives of the ECO-ABN were defined as Networking of National biotechnology institutes, researchers, scientists, engineers, and administrators, linking regional activities and collaboration to international organizations and laboratories, capacity building and enhancement in the relevant institutes of the member states and conducting joint studies and research projects. Harmonization of biosafety protocols and testing GMOs in the ECO Region was also among the subjects to be facilitated through the Network.
The Meeting established a Steering Committee to monitor the implementation of the project. The Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII) was selected to act as Regional Coordination Unit.
Moreover, the meeting identified the following areas for implementation of joint projects:
- Production of virus free potato mini-tubers and their propagation
- Preparation of Plans of Action for development/harmonization of biosafety regulations in the ECO region
- Intellectual Property Rights in biotechnology
- Capacity building e.g. establishment of basic labs and training of staff in the member states.