Pakistan's Presentation

Pakistan's Presentation


Biotechnology Challenges, Potentials/Opportunities


ECO Expert Group Meeting (EGM)


Establishment of ECO

Biotechnology Network at Tehran

22-24 April, 2006



Programme Leader

Agricultural Biotechnology Programme

National Agricultural Research Centre 



1.  Summary

Pakistan has a history of engagement with traditional biotechnology. It has developed many new plant varieties, some of which are used commercially all over the country. However, Pakistan has failed to substantially benefit from the more recent advances in biotechnology, particularly over the last 25 years with the emergence of genetic engineering and genomic sciences. Already many companies and public institutions elsewhere in the world are offering products and services that have arisen from the new biotechnology. The growth of biotechnology industries is not restricted to the developed countries. Developing countries such as Cuba, Brazil, India and China have been quick to identify the potential benefits of the technology and have established measures both to develop such industries and to extract value wherever possible and relevant.

Biotechnology can make an important contribution to our national priorities, particularly in the area of human health (including HIV/AIDS, malaria, Hepatitis and TB), food security and environmental sustainability. For instance, we know that to achieve success a country requires government agency to champion biotechnology, to build human resources proactively, and to develop scientific and technological capabilities.

Some of these components of a successful biotechnology sector are already in place in Pakistan. It is high time to strengthen the existing research organizations involved in biotechnology. Using both existing funds and new allocations specifically designated for biotechnology, and organizations biotechnology activities engineers and technologists in a will stimulate the creation of new.

The government has already established National Commission on Biotechnology, which has given the task for the implementation of this strategy.

Attention must be given to the development of the appropriate human resources and to the public understanding of biotechnology. Pakistan, being an agro based country the major force is agriculture.


2. Pakistan (Country Profile)

Area: 803,940 sq km, land: 778,720 sq km, water: 25,220 sq km

Population: 153 million (UN, 2003) with average life expectancy of 61 years both for men and women. Main exports: Textile, rice, cotton and leather goods. Average annual income is $420 (World Bank, 2001).

Climate: Most hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest; arctic in north. There are ten highly diversified agro-ecological zones in the country. This diversity in agro ecology offers tremendous opportunities for optimal production of a large number of crops and other commodities to meet local demands as well as for export

Land Resources: Out of 79.61 million ha of Pakistan, 22.17 m hectares were cultivated during 2000-2001 (Table-1) as compared to 8.21 million hectares in 1951. A major proportion (82%) of "the cultivated area is irrigated, while the rest 18 % is rainfed. The cultivable wasteland offering good possibilities of crop production is 9.03 mha.


Table 1:        Distribution of Land Use in Pakistan



Percentage of


Percentage of

















Cultivated Area












Cropped Area





Forest Area





Pakistan Statistical Year book, 2002

Considering the extent and severity of different soil related constraints, 26 % of the arable land is classified as very good, 35 % good, 24 % moderate and 15 % as marginal (Government of Pakistan, 2000a).

Water Resources: Pakistan's agriculture is mostly dependent on artificial irrigation from surface and ground water resources. The surface water supplies to Indus plain include rainfall and flows from Indus River system. According to recent estimates, the Indus river system accounts for 60 % of the annual water supply while rainfall accounts for only 15 % of the total water requirements for crop production.

Crop Sector: The agriculture sector in Pakistan is divided crops, livestock, fisheries, and forestry. The crop sector is dominant and accounts for about 65 % of agriculture GDP. Four major crops, wheatcotton, sugarcane, and rice, account for 41 % of value added in agriculture GDP. Maize is the fifth important crop but its production is low as compared to other kharif crops. Wheat occupies more than 70 % of the cropped area and holds a central position in the economy of Pakistan by contributing 12.5 % to the value added in agriculture and 2.9 % to GDP. Wheat production in the country is projected as 26.44 million tons by 2010 with a growth rate of 2.93 %.

Cotton, the most important fiber crop in Pakistan, providing a major source of foreign exchange, occupies the second largest area after wheat. Approximately, 70 % of the cotton growing area is in Punjab, while most of the remainder is in Sindh. Raw cotton accounts for 15 % of agricultural GDP, 19 % of foreign exchange earnings and 50 % of the domestic edible oil production. Cotton production in the country is projected to be 3.065 million tons (18 million bales) by the year 2010 with an annual growth of 5.78 %. The major constraints of increasing cotton yield are low availability of quality seed, insect pests and diseases.

Sugarcane is Jin important cash crop after cotton. Its shares in value added in agriculture and GDP are 6.3 % and 1.5 %, respectively. Punjab has the main growing area, followed by Sindh and North West Frontier Province {NWFP). Sugarcane yield has increased from 32.3 tons in 1961 to 45.4 tons per hectare during the year 2000, showing an average annual growth rate of 1.03 percent. The area under sugarcane increased from 0.44 million ha to 0.96 during the same period. Similarly, sugarcane production has increased from 14.35 million tons to 43.6 million tons during the same period with an average growth rate of 3.30 % per annum. Sugarcane production is projected at 60 million tons by 2010 (MINFAL & FAG, 2000). Breeding/selection of high yielding varieties with higher sugar recovery and pest resistance, balanced fertilization, improved agronomic practices can substantially increase sugarcane production.

Basmati rice is a highly valued export item accounting for about 35 % of the total rice area, 65 % of which lies in Punjab. Yield of Basmati rice increased from 1011 to 1468 kg/ha, with 1.30 % average annual growth rate during the period 1961 to 2000. A quantity of 2.265 million tons is projected as production target for the year 2010 with a growth rate of 3.62 % (MINFAL & FAO, 2000). Major constraints to harvest potential rice yield in the country include low availability of quality seed, inadequate and imbalanced use of fertilizers, delayed transplanting, insect pests and diseases, post-harvest losses, etc.

More than half of the maize crop is grown in NWFP and rest is produced in Punjab. Maize acreage, yield and production showed upward trends during the period 1961­-2000 and is to increase to 3.0 million tons with an average growth rate of 5.38 % by the year 2010 (MINFAL & FAO, 2000). Dissemination of hybrid maize seed (with a yield potential of over 10 tons ha-1), promotion of balanced fertilization, plant protection measures and good crop husbandry techniques can revolutionize maize production.

The consumption of edible oil in Pakistan has risen from 0.3 million to 1.95 million tons since the 80s. Local production was 29 % of the domestic requirement while the remaining 71 % of domestic requirement was met through imports. The import bill for edible oil increased from RS.2.3 billion in 1979-80, to Rs 40.5 billion ($788 million) in 1998-99. Cottonseed, rapeseed and mustard together contribute about 80 % of the total domestic production of over 550 thousand tons. It is projected that oilseed production will increase to 9.4 million tons by 2010, with an annual compound growth rate of 7.3 %. Constraints for increased production of oil seed crops in the country include adjustment problems in the cropping pattern, non-availability of technological packages for different oilseed crops, high cost of production, and eroding profitability of the farmers.

Despite impressive growth in agriculture during past four decades, the national average yields of all crops are still far below their potential yields and the yields harvested by many progressive farmers in the country (Table 2). Due to general inefficiency of our agricultural production system, the yields of most of the agricultural crops are 50-80 % below their demonstrated achievable potential. By implementing well-established improved production technologies and following crash programmes, yield gap can be reduced to 30 % within 2-3 years.

Table 2:                    


. Potential

A v. Yield with

National Av.


Yield (kg/ha)


Yield (2000-01)


Farmers (kg/ha)






















Oil seeds







Horticultural Crops: The main fruits produced in Pakistan are citrus, mango, dates, guava and apples which cover over 75 % of the total annual production of 6 million tons. Similarly, vegetable like potatoes, melons, chilies, onions and tomatoes cover over 70 % of the production of 5 million tons. The annual fruit production in 1960 increased from 250 thousand tons to over 6 million tons by the year 2002. Similarly, vegetable production increased from 640 thousand tons in 1960 to 5 million tons annually by 2002. The total area under fruits during 1960 was only 37 thousand hectares, while in 2002, it is 640 thousand hectares. In the case of vegetables, the area during 1960 was 240 thousand hectares, while in 2002 it is over 300 thousand hectares. Thus, it is evident that the major reason of increased production so far is the increased area under fruits and vegetables, while average yield remained static. During recent years, another important horticultural sector like ornamentals and nursery raising has emerged. Their area is increasing and expertise is heading towards specialization.

The area under horticultural crops in Pakistan is merely 6 % of the total cropped area, while it is 15-20 % in many countries of the world. Out of more than $ 70 billion international trade of fruits & vegetables, our share is merely $ 120 million. Our mangoes are exported @ $ 158 per ton while the same is exported at the rates of $ 685, 875, 830, 500 & 586, etc. per ton by Mexico, Philippine, Brazil, India and Thailand, respectively. Similarly, per ton value of our dates is $ 430 while it is 2251, 2000, 1350 and 5000 for Tunisia, Libya, China and Italy, respectively. Low yields, low quality are basic problems in horticultural crops. Post-harvest losses account for 30-45 % in various crops is in another setback to horticultural crops and cause a loss of over Rs.20 billion every year.           

Livestock: Livestock is an important sub-sector of agriculture which accounts for nearly 37.5 % of agricultural value added and about 9.4 % of the GDP. Its net foreign exchange earnings were 12.34 % (Rs. 53 million) of the overall export earnings of the country during 2000- 2001 (GOP ,2002). During the last decade, livestock has grown at an average rate of 2.4 % per annum. The highest growth rate of 3.6 % in goats was followed by 2.96 % for buffaloes. The cattle have grown at the rate of 1.77 % whereas the sheep has only grown at the rate of 0.82 %. A very high growth rate (12.1 %) during the last decade was recorded in poultry production. The major constraints in livestock production have been the shortage of feeds and fodder, poor genetic potential, long calving interval, lack of proven sires, over- grazing, low yielding fodder varieties, inadequate health care, poor management practices, inadequate marketing facilities, heavy initial investment requirements and low returns.

Inland Fisheries: Pakistan has been blessed with a vast expanse of both marine and inland fisheries resources of nutritional significance and economic value, and possess an immense development potential. Fisheries' share in GDP although very little but contributes substantially to the national income through export earnings. During 1999, 90.384 m tons of fisheries products were exported. During 1999-2000, the total fish production in the country was estimated at 627,000 m tons, of which, share of inland fisheries is 175,000 m tons (GOP, 2000). Fish production of inland sector is projected to increase to 272 thousand tons with 6.21 % growth rate per year (MINFAL & FAO, 2000). The major problems and bottlenecks for low fish productivity are inadequate institutional, infra-structural & extension facilities, lack of trained manpower, shortage of quality fish seed, non-availability of modem fishing gears, aquatic toxicity due to mismanagement of water resources, lack of proper storage and marketing facilities, lack of incentives for fish culture in private sector, inadequate and poor socio-economic condition of the fishermen and fish farmers.

Forestry and Range Lands: Total area under forest in Pakistan is 3.97 million hectare which is 4.99 % of the total area. Less than 30 % of this area is economically utilized while the rest is under protective cover. The share of forestry in agriculture is slightly more than one % and the share in GDP is around 0.25 %. An excessive cutting coupled with overgrazing and low regeneration in the third and fourth quarter of the last century reduced the fauna drastically in species and number.

The important forest types are: coniferous forests, sub-alpine forests, dry temperate forests, Himalayan moist temperate forests, sub-tropical pine forests, Scrub, Riverain, and mangrove forests, Irrigated and linear. The production of timber wood in the country has increased from 0.182 million cubs. Meter in 1980-81 to 0.383 million cubic meters in 2001, while that of firewood increased from 0.46 million cubic meters to 0.543 million cubic meters during the same period. Agroforestry contributes to about 46.3 % of fuel wood and 90 % of the timber (Amjad et aI., 1996).

3Introduction of Biotechnology

Biotechnology is not new. Biotechnology has been defined as "the application of scientific and engineering principles to the processing of materials by biological agents to provide goods and services." It has been used for many centuries in agriculture and manufacturing to produce food, chemicals, beverages and many other products that have been of benefit in many areas including nutrition and health care. Biotechnology is characterized by a number of unique conditions. Firstly, it is a cross-cutting technology. It is subjected to wide applications across sectors and biological boundaries. A technique developed for and applied in human health can be used in agriculture and vice versa. Isolated research and development (R&D) activities organized around traditional sectors (agriculture, health, industry and the environment) are likely to deny a country the opportunity to exploit pervasive aspects of the technology. Already human health has benefited significantly from advances in the new biotechnology. More than 50 drugs have been commercialized in the past decade addressing illnesses such as cancer, arthritis and heart disease. Vaccines and hormones that were initially extracted from animal tissues are now produced in genetically modified bacterial and animal cells (for example, insulin and the Hepatitis B vaccine). Products like growth hormones, interferon and insulin produced through recombinant DNA technology are just a few examples of the successful commercial exploitation of Biotechnology.

Similarly, in agriculture, the production of golden rice, safe transgenic crops like maize and soybean, pest resistant cotton and a number of other crops, fruits and vegetables have been achieved. It is, thus, not surprising that biotechnology is among the top most agendas of developed, and many developing countries.

4. Biotechnology Potential in the Economic Development

In order to realize the full potential of biotechnology as a frontline area of research and development with an overwhelming impact on society, Pakistan has to nurture biotechnology at two distinct levels (Agriculture & Health) in the beginning and later on can extend it to the Industry. The underlying agenda should be the utilization of research funds jointly and more economically.

Biotechnology Industry should include all components which make use of the modern biological, rather conventional techniques to develop commercial products for agricultural productivity, animal or human healthcare, production of fine and value-added novel compounds and pharmaceuticals through genetically modified organisms, food processing and environmental services. However on the other hand, the production of alcohol solvents and compounds of industrial interest through fermentation processes is also regarded as Biotechnology Industry.

The innovative capability of Biotechnology is being looked upon as the central pivot in maintaining/expanding the national share in the global economy. In the industrialized world biotechnology has now indeed revolutionized all major sectors of industrial activity. The exceptional dynamism of the science-technology interface is the main driving force of biotechnology. Furthermore, science and technology have been co-related in such a way that the technology is always highly dependent upon its understanding of scientific principles thereby constantly pushing the knowledge base forward concomitantly producing new grounds for technological breakthroughs.

Industrial sector in many Islamic countries is growing at a very slow pace and relies mainly on an agro-based economy. Various Governments of Islamic countries have been encouraging the development of methodologies and institutions for acquiring the cutting-edge technologies like Biotechnology and Information technology. However, the funding position has been such that support of expensive and high-priced technology has been financially prohibitive.

In order to generate a critical mass of expertise, a strong infrastructure and directed support, the critical areas for investment over a period have been outlined.

5Requirements for the Development of Biotechnology

Human Resource Development

The focus would be on : basic research in modern biotechnology, including genomics and bioinformatics; agriculture, plant and animal biotechnology; medical biotechnology; environment and biodiversity; biofuels; product and process development and bioinstrumentation; human resource development; creation and strengthening of infrastructure in existing and new institutions biotechnology for societal development; biosafety, ethical issues and biotechnology related policy issues; conduct of cutting edge research; large-scale demonstrations; partnership with private and public sector industries for commercialization and marketing of bio products.

In the areas of genomics and bioinformatics, basic research should be more time targeted and related to the identified products. The genomics and bioinformatics infrastructure and networking should be completed within 2-3 years. After the completion of 5 years, about 500 trained experts in bioinformatics in Pakistan should be available with a large number of databases and with abilities for data mining, data annotation, comparative and functional genomics.

Infrastructural Development

A dozen genome sequencing facilities, one major facility for. proteomics and genomics, and 10-15 hardening units should be established. Strengthening of existing infrastructure facilities with expansion wherever necessary. Biosafety guidelines would be in place and the implementation modalities would be further firmed up. Facilities for filing patent, training of personnel on IPR matters and evolving various policy issue on IPR matters with regard to the patenting in biotechnology-should be completed in 2-3 years’ time.

Research programmes on risk assessment (food safety, ecological aspects) and the socio-economic impact of new technologies should be substantially strengthened. Country-wide programmes would be launched in order to sensitize the public in regard to the use of gene technologies in agriculture, health and environment.

Possibilities be explored to establish Centers of Excellence in existing institutions or setup up new centers in carefully chosen frontier areas of Biology and give programme-based support as per national priorities to institutions and universities.

Appropriate Government Funding and Policies

To use Scientific and technological empowerment of Pakistan incomparable human resource, creation of strong infrastructure both for research and commercialization, ensuring a steady flow of bio-technologies is needed. For this appropriate government funding needs to be ensured and policies have to be well directed.

The vision of biotech policy for Pakistan should be to harness the vast potential of Biotechnology as key contributor to the development of the country. Biotechnology strategies, which have been proposed under several focus areas, if implemented, will usher a new era in the development of the country.

6. Issues, Concerns and Challenges in Agricultural Biotechnology

The present government attaches paramount importance to technology development and considers it as an engine to boost economic prosperity in biotechnology; the success story is the production of virus free seed potato through tissue culture. This project pioneered by Pakistan Agricultural Research Council has contributed in import declines of seed potato from 5,000 tons in the early eighties to just a few hundred tons in the nineties and early two thousand.

The following techniques used appropriately could leave a visible impact on the national economy of Pakistan by enhancing productivity.

i)        Tissue culture

ii)       Genetic Engineering

iii)      Molecular Marker Assisted Breeding

iv)      Animal Biotechnology


iTissue Culture

Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) is the mother. Institute of initiating/propagating and disseminating the technology both at the national and the international level with its pioneering project on "Virus free seed potato production through tissue culture", in the early eighties. It is also the first institute to support genetic engineering research to its laboratory located at the National Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMS), through sustained funding from the Govt. of Pakistan which continues till date.

Looking back during the last two decades we see that the period in the early eighties witnessed the sprawling of tissue culture labs both at the Federal and the Provincial levels. It was precisely at this time that the term "biotechnology" was familiarized in Pakistan which became rapidly popular, although fragmented tissue culture, activities at the academic level in the Universities in e.g University of Karachi, and University of Peshawar & the local new university. This technology was later disseminated. To Ayub Agricultural Research Institute (AARI), Faisalabad, Punjab Seed Corporation, Sahiwal and Potato Research Centre, Abbottabad. Others following suit were Department of Botany, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Department of Botany University of Punjab, Lahore, Department of Biology, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad; Department of Botany, University of Karachi and Agricultural Research Station, Gilgit and finally NIBGE, Faisalabad.

In addition, HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry, Karachi, Government College Lahore and Bahauddin Zakraya University, Multan has also started tissue culture research in certain departments. Most of the tissue culture activities in Pakistan geared towards agriculture address issues of national importance. These include production of disease free clones for virus elimination and micropropagation of a number of horticultural and oil crops. The country has benefited from the technology to produce its own nucleus seed of potato and has capitalized on the strength of the private sectors for further dissemination.

ii) Genetic Engineering

Simultaneously with the advancement of tissue culture technology, significant developments in molecular biology leading to the discovery of restriction enzymes, gene cloning, use of Agrobacterium mediated transformation, PCR technology, biolistic genes guns start of transgenic crops, animal cloning, flavour. savour tomato, etc. took off during 1990.

Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (ABI), has done pioneering" research on basmati rice through" Agrobacterium mediated transformation. It is to be pointed out that basmati cultivars are susceptible to bacterial blight which bring about drastic yield declines. According to very conservative estimates development of transgenic rice resistant to bacterial blight through genetic engineering could save US$ 30 million annually, and hence is a project worth pursuing with its experience on the release of first ever transgenic basmati rice expressing rol C gene for short stature," salt tolerance and profuse tillering. The institute has initiated a project through international funding for the development of transgenic basmati resistant to bacterial blight disease Gene for the purpose has been acquired and initial research started.

It is to be mentioned that a few lines of basmati expressing rol C gene are being evaluated in the NARC glasshouses. Simultaneously transformation studies in wheat for herbicide resistance is in progress at ABP for bacterial leaf blight in rice and development of disease resistant tomato cultivars through Agro mediated transformation are major emphasis. The scientists of ABP are transforming tomato for virus resistance also the present research efforts in genetic engineering have a potential to deliver within the next 3-5 years provided co-ordinate national projects on Agricultural Biotechnology with participation from across the board at the national level are funded by the Govt.

iii) Molecular Breeding

DNA fingerprinting is a powerful technique, which is now widely used, in conventional breeding programmes. This technology is extremely useful in following areas:

 i)          To evaluate genetic diversity of a specific crop

ii)         Relationship among the exiting species.

iii)       To link some molecular marker with a specific trait to speed up the breeding process.

iv)       To isolate gene of interest by making dense genome maps are major areas we are benefiting with this but need is to improvement of all these activities.


iv) Animal Biotechnology

With the advent of molecular biology, a number of new developments have taken place in the field of animal health and production. Some of the areas where significant progress has resulted in increasing the productivity of livestock and poultry have been diagnostics, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, transgenic animals & embryo cloning. Based on the need of our country, the following research areas for biotechnology application are important.

  a) Molecular Diagnostics and Vaccines.

  b) Germplasm manipulation.


7.  National Agricultural Research Institutes:

1.         Major

i.          Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (ABI)

ii.       National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE).

iii.       National Centre of Excellence in Biology (NCEMB).

iv.        Nuclear Institute of Agriculture and Biology (NIAB).


2.         Others:

i.          Department of Horticulture, Gomal University Dera Ismail Khan,

ii.         Agricultural Biotechnology Research institute, Faisalabad.

iii.        Centre of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.

iv.        Department of Biology Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad

v.         Atomic Energy Agricultural Research Centre, Tandojam.

vi.        Pakistan Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, PCSIR. Laboratories Complex, Karachi

vii.       Enzyme and Fermentation Biotechnology Research Laboratory, Department of  Biotechnology, Karachi         

viii.      Centre of Excellence in Marine Biology. University of Karachi, Karachi.

ix.        Department of Biotechnology, University of Karachi

x.         HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry, University of Karachi, Karachi.

xi.        Centre for Molecular Genetics University of Karachi, Karachi.

xii.       Biotechnology and Food Research Centre, Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Lahore

xiii       Microbial and Molecular Genetic Research Lab, Botany Department, Punjab University, Quaid-I-Azam University campus Lahore

xiv.      Cylognenetics Section, Central Cotton Research Institute, Multan Telex: COTONSERCH

xv.       Department of Botany University of Peshawar, Peshawar.

xvi.      Nuclear Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Peshawar.

            Private Sector: Agricultural Biotechnology (PVT) Ltd. Multan Road, Lahore.



Outcome of the past policies

Pakistan could not maintain the momentum of initial green revolution of mid-sixties due to adhoc policies of the successive governments and mismanagement of agricultural production, marketing and export systems. The yields per hectare of many crops have become stagnant since the 1980s and in several cases the trends in growth have been negative for the past few years while the country entered the new millennium with a population growth rate of 2.7 percent. The agricultural growth rate will have to be maintained above the annual population growth rate to meet the national food requirements as well as to have reasonable exportable surplus to sustain agro-based economy.

At present, arguably, most important challenges for Pakistan's agriculture are the following.


i)          Worsening water famine looming large on the horizon

ii)        Degradation of land resources

iii)       Continuing sub-division of agricultural land,

iv)        Wayward weather conditions

v)         The specter of a deteriorating environment etc.

vi)        The global challenges of WTO regime that will soon be visiting us, and

vii)      Runway rate of population growth.


Pakistan can increase exportable surplus of fruits and vegetables, resulting in greater foreign exchange earnings. But, there is a great need to improve the inefficient marketing and export infrastructure, and to maintain high quality of export items. Also, export import policies should not be allowed to be dictated by leviathan associations such as APTMA and PSMA which create huge distortions in the local market and work against the interest of the growers.

Drought, in the wake of climate changes, is of great concern for all the agencies related to agricultural development in Pakistan. Not only new water storage facilities are required, but also efficient use of the available water must be the cornerstone of our irrigation water policy. The total recharge to the groundwater aquifer of Indus basin has been estimated at 55 MAF per annum. Presently, 44 MAF of groundwater is exploited through tube-wells. The use of tube- well water may be streamlined in such a manner that the off-take rate should not exceed the recharge rate to avoid over-mining. of groundwater, as has been done in Balochistan, creating famine like conditions. The use of poor quality ground water for irrigation must meet strict quality criteria and concomitant use of amendments.

Pakistan has the 5th largest livestock population in the world, but still it is importing milk and milk bye-products worth $19 million annually. The major problems of livestock sector are poor breeds, poor health, malnutrition and inefficient marketing system. However, there is good potential of attaining self-sufficiency in milk and milk products and exporting animals, meat, animal bye-products like wool, skins, leather, bones etc. There is also need for exploring potential of exporting poultry and poultry products and improving our existing inefficient fishery sector especially that of sea fish to exploit its maximum export potential.

The predicted changes in environment, especially increased atmospheric CO2 and other green house gases which originate from agricultural activity, temperature and precipitation/evaporation, tropo- and stratospheric ozone levels, UV -8 radiation, etc. can have great impacts on agricultural production and supply patterns. For agricultural production to be sustainable, the impact of the climate must be understood and integrated in any future planning. There is a need to study the effects of changing climatic conditions for annual and perennial crop growing, with emphasis on the effects of changing hydrological, pedological and plant physiological processes. It requires attempts to strike a balance between the negative effects of the anticipated climate change on natural and managed ecosystems-potential and positive effects on plant production of higher temperatures, an increased CO2 fertilization and higher water-use-efficiency, which might constitute a blessing in disguise for the future of humanity

The country is witnessing climatic changes, causing drought due to shortage of irrigation water supplies in most parts of the country. In addition, implementation of WTO agreements from Jan. 2005 is going to alter entirely the trade pattern with severe implications for agricultural trade. The comparative advantages of various trading commodities are bound to alte"r priorities of resource allocation and production strategies with more emphasis on value added and high value crops (Qureshi, 2003). Agricultural biotechnology has the potential to improve the nutritional value of the food we consume through the introduction of plants containing key vitamins and amino acids that are low in the diet of many Pakistani households. This is a particularly important area for Pakistan, for the large number of people who live in poverty and are undernourished.

It is important to note that there are already a number of initiatives under way in our research institutions to tackle the problem of food security. These initiatives should be supported and encouraged if we are to overcome past inequalities and createrural economies that are sustainable and productive.

Due to the harsh environmental conditions in Pakistan crop yields are exceedingly low. In addition, climate changes will affect and probably marginalise competitive production using current species in many areas. By their nature large-scale crop production systems are environmentally unfriendly due to chemical pollution, acidification of soils and demand on water supplies.

It is widely accepted that traditional breeding alone would be too slow, and often unable, to solve many of these challenges due to limitations in the normal germplasm. Unique opportunities therefore exist to use biotechnology to meet these challenges.


Specific areas that should be focused on include (Soomro, 2003):

. DNA marker-based selection systems.

. Diagnostic tools for early and accurate pathogen and pest detection.

. Insect- and pathogen-resistant plants to reduce the chemical impact on the environment and improve yields.

. Drought and salt-tolerant crops.


9. Crops for Future

a) Value addition to crops as therapeutics

b) Stability against stresses: Insect pests and diseases still continue to cause heavy crop losses. Focusing on specific crops and problems, transgenic and / or marker assisted selection approaches shall be developed and used to evolve stress tolerant crops varieties.

c) Yield enhancement: Three approaches are contemplated to raise the genetic ceiling to yield viz (i) exploitation of hybrid vigor (ii) search for and use of still unexploited, yield related gene blocks (QTLs) and (Hi) engineering of biosynthetic pathways of starch, protein and oil

d) Nutritional quality improvement: Exotic and indigenously identified candidate genes to be exploited to enhance the level of essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamins, balanced proteins etc., in major crops correction of anti-nutritional factors known to exist in specific pulse and oilseed crops. A time bound mission to be launched.

e) Edible vaccines for diseases, particularly for cholera, hepatitis and rabies would be developed and tested for large scale production.

If the centers are established in at least two cities and work on Genomics and Bioinformatics gets started, the next phase should be production of transgenic varieties of some of the crops like wheat, rice, Brassica, cotton, potato, tomato, banana.

10. Animals for future

  • Development of recombinant diagnostics and vaccines for major disease in livestock/fish and establishment of required cell lines and their banking facilities.
  • Transgenic animals can be employed either as biofactories for the production of commercial products or as living models for the study of human disease and evaluation of pharmaceuticals. The use of transgenic nimars for these purposes can be more economical or in the case of human disease and drug models more realistic than are conventional alternatives.  
  • Transgenic for productivity improvement and disease resistance, development of experimental animal models for specific important diseases and desirable products pharmaceuticals.
  • Techniques for cloning, both embryonic and somatic, by multiplication of elite animals.
  • Development and formulation of improvised animal/fish feed.
  • Development of genetic markers for animal breeding programmes.
  • Considering the importance of the mouse as the model organism for human genetics, and the paucity of expertise in the country in the area efforts will be made to initiate and support research in mouse genetics.


11.       Problems Related to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), Commercialization and.     Ethical Issues Biosafety, Ethical and Proprietary Issues

Establishing transparent, expeditious and scientific principles of biosafety and rigorous implementation of the biosafety guidelines to be ensured. Wherever necessary testing, containment and certification facilities to be established. For safeguarding ethical, legal social and economic issues relating to biotechnology research, product testing of GM food, labeling, policy guidelines to be perfected and regionally implemented.

IPR in Biotechnology

Pakistan will have to take initiatives to develop appropriate strategies and policies in order to maximize the benefit and minimize the disadvantages from the new technology. It is therefore, essential to:

  • Enhance the knowledge of various issues regarding patents amongst the various cross sections, of the people by organizing suitable time-bound, tailor made training/awareness programmes at national and international levels.
  • Create adequately trained and knowledgeable IPR professionals in the area
  • of Biotechnology.
  • Stimulate and encourage innovative activities for promoting IPR.
  • Augment mechanisms for effective protection and facilitation of IPR.
  • Expeditiously disseminate the information using print media, internet, seminar
  • and symposium
  • Institute techno market surveys, feasibility studies, patent related database and services customized information services patent networking invention review committees’ future vision report and technology transfer services.
  • Evolve policies for IPR in various emerging issues.


Risk Assessment Strategies

Risk may be defined as the likelihood that an organism introduced into the environment may cause harm to that environment and can be seen as comprised of two factors:

* The consequence of a particular event

* The likelihood of the event occurring

The risk assessment strategies adopted by all the international and national systems are very similar, and are predominantly based on familiarity with the wild type unmodified organism and the likely impact due to the changed characteristics of the organism.           

The plasmid is one of the main vectors used in transferring to a plant cell, yet its normal host is a plant pest. The regulatory system in some countries is triggered by its use simply because it is derived from a pest, even though the plasmid actually used does not contain the genes that would assist the bacterium. A trigger is simply a mechanism for starting the risk assessment processes.

The costs of regulation of modern biotechnology are high, both to a government (that assures that possible adverse effects of living modified organisms on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, also taking into accounts risks to human health are minimized) and to the applicant (for permission to use or release the organism). Governments vary as to their approach to recovering the cost of the procedures.

Risk Management

Risk management, which includes the system by which decisions are made is considered to be separate from risk assessments. "Risk management' is the process of identifying, evaluating, selecting and implementing actions to reduce risk to human health and to ecosystems. The goal of risk management is scientifically sound, cost effective, integrated actions that reduce or prevent risk while taking into account, social cultural, ethical, political and legal considerations. .

12. Proposed Future Initiatives

Potential Benefits of Genome Project Research

Rapid progress in genome science and a glimpse into its potential applications have spurred observers to predict that biology will be the foremost science of the 21st century. Technology and resources generated by the Human Genome Project and other genomics research are already having a major impact on research across the life sciences. The potential for commercial development of genomics research presents U.S. industry with a wealth of opportunities, and sales of DNA-based products and technologies in the biotechnology industry are projected to exceed $45 billion by 2009 (Consulting Resources Corporation Newsletter, Spring 1999). Some current and potential applications of genome research include. Study mutations on the Y-chromosome to trace lineage and migration of males. Compare breakpoints in the evolution of mutations with ages of populations and historical events

Agriculture, Livestock Breeding, and Bioprocessing

  • Disease-, insect and drought-resistant crops
  • Healthier, more productive, disease-resistant farm animals more nutritious produce
  • Biopesticides
  • Edible vaccines incorporated into food products'
  • New environmental cleanup uses for plants like tobacco

Marine Biotechnology

Pakistan has a long coastline that is the source of income to thousands of fish farmers. In fact, Pakistan has a well-established fisheries industry that is suffering due to lack of Government interest and financial resources.

Research centers focusing on identification, and development of new and nutritional species of fish is required. These can not only be used at home but exported abroad.

13. Epilogue

The development of agricultural biotechnology offers the opportunity to increase crop production directly related to our food needs, improve food quality! safety and enhance environmental quality, reduce the dependency of agriculture on chemicals, lower the cost of raw materials and reduce ~he negative environmental impacts associated with conventional production methods. All these factors contribute to sustained agriculture. In addition, biotechnology can also be used to increase plants ability to control pests and diseases, tolerate environmental stress and enhance food qualities such as flavor texture, shelf life and nutritional contents, etc.

A valuing the benefits of biotechnology will depend largely on the integration of modern technologies in the research and development of innovation systems. Traditional methods are limited to crops that are sexually compatible. Biotechnology can expand the range of traits beyond those found in compatible species. Thus the development and use of new technologies have brought about a continuous increase agricultural productivity and can be the beginning of a new agricultural revolution.

Actions than should speak louder than words. The real challenge in bio-revolution for sustained agriculture is to gear the technological research towards the specific problems of Pakistan with a crisp focus on the correct choice of the technology ranging all the way from the development of bioengineered crop varieties, fermentation technologies for massive production of microbial insecticides, fungal antagonises and bio-fertilizers, tissue and meristem culture' techniques' and development of molecular markers to identify genes of interest. Agricultural production could be sustained by the judicious, utilization of biotechnology.