Statement on behalf of FAO at the ECO Experts Group Meeting on
Establishment of ECO Agricultural Biotechnology Network
(22-24 April, Tehran)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor and pleasure for me to participate in expert group meeting for launching the ECO Agricultural Biotechnology Network (ECO-ABN). I congratulate you for this initiative and join in your effort to design strategies and actions for ensuring sustainable agricultural production through science and technological development.
Science and technology are essential contributors to solving the global problems of hunger, poverty and environmental degradation. Modern biotechnological approaches provide powerful tools to address key problems in agriculture taking into account environmental sustainability and conservation and use of biological diversity. FAO recognizes that biotechnology including genetic engineering, if properly integrated with other technologies, has the potential to help increase production and productivity in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, as well as increase the nutritional and other qualities of agricultural products. At the same time, FAO provides assistance to member countries at the policy, institutional and technical level to enable them to respond to the concerns about the potential risks to both food safety and the environment posed by genetically modified organisms.
The establishment of ECO-Agricultural Bio-Technology Network will be an important step towards providing the necessary assistance in the region for the application of biotechnology to address local agriculture production related problems and reach developmental goals. It would address the strong need to build capacity among researchers and decision makers to build a strong foundation for managing biotechnology and biosafety in the sub-region. Information exchange and dialogue with stakeholders through this network would allow better understanding of the local issues and promote collaborative actions to meet the needs and demands from biotechnology for agriculture. However, this will require a sustained commitment and the necessary investments both in terms of human and financial resources to reap the benefits.
FAO is committed to continue assisting member countries on harnessing biotechnology applications in crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry to improve livelihoods and meet the Millennium Development Goals. We have also accumulated substantial experience in building networks on biotechnology. REDBIO, is a FAO-sponsored Latin American Biotechnology Network, established 15 years ago, and is successfully working in the region to support the application of biotechnology tools to enhance plant breeding and the sustainable conservation of plant genetic resources. Asian-Bionet is a regional network of South Asian countries, started in 2001 for the safe harnessing of the benefits of biotechnology through strengthened technical cooperation and capacity building and ensuring biosafety in the introduction and use of genetically modified crops. Last month, FAO launched ABNETA- the ag-biotech network for Africa- to provide a common platform for sharing, debating and understanding all issues pertaining to biotechnology in agriculture and to address regulatory decision-making processes that may affect food security concerns.
We will be happy to share our experience with you and I sincerely hope the ECO-Agriculture Biotechnology Network will be instrumental in boosting biotechnology by creating new opportunities for maximizing benefits in the region. We are already working with the ECO Secretariat for developing the seed sector in the sub-region and will be ready to contribute in making the network a success.