Pakistan calls for biosafety framework development

Experts in Pakistan recently stressed a need for the country to develop a biosafety framework and a system of proper conduct when dealing with biological materials.

Speaking at conference entitled "Building National Biosafety and Global Ties," several scientists said that the unchecked growth of laboratories, clinics and hospitals, the unsafe handling, collection and disposal of medical waste, and a lack of awareness of the proper regulatory laws have exposed the public to serious health risks, according to

The Pakistan Biological Safety Association, a non-governmental institution dedicated to raising awareness about biosafety practices, sponsored the two day conference in conjunction with the U.S. Biosecurity Engagement Program.

Dr. Erum Khan, the president of the PBSA, began the conference by underlining the importance of laboratory biosafety measures, especially for use in academic and research laboratories. He said the application of robust biosafety measures was not only vital for scientists but also for building confidence within the international community, which could help Pakistan benefit from foreign collaboration.

“The international community offers a number of opportunities to learn and improve. But since most of our institutions do not observe biosafety standards, they cannot avail of these offers,” Khan said, reports.

Dr. Irfan Shami, a director-general in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed similar thoughts. He also said the assurance of laboratory biosafety was in line with Pakistan’s obligations under the U.N. Biological Weapons Convention.

In a presentation on biosafety challenges in the developing world, Dr. Willy Tonui, the president of the International Federation of Biosafety Associations, said that Asian and African countries faced similar problem, including a need to establish strong collaborative ties so that experiences could be better shared and lessons better learned.

“The concept to train staff in biosafety in many settings is almost non-existent while high-ranking officials, who are supposed to make policies and regulations in this regard, lack the required knowledge of the subject,” Tonui said, reports. “The need to work in a safer environment was not an option, but rather a need.”