ISLAMABAD (APP) - Minister for Environment, Hamidullah Jan Afridi Tuesday urged employing the benefits of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) but warned to keep in view their harmful impact on human health and environment. "The time has come for scientific community, representatives of civil society and regulators to fully employ benefits of GMOs but also take social responsibility of safeguarding our agricultural resources and human health when adopting new GM technologies," Afridi said this while addressing a seminar. The one-day seminar on "Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Applications and Implications" was organized by Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA). Number of renowned scientists participated in the seminar to discuss future strategy for benefiting from GMOs. "GMOs have attained utmost importance due to increasing demand of food products and we need awareness raising and educating masses about the importance of engineered food and non food items and need for environmental protection," the minister said. Dynamics of biotechnology and rapidly evolving scientific research has created need for GMO applications in our lifelines including agriculture, health, industry and environment, he added. This modern techniques of biotechnology is being utilized to stabilize and enhance crops yield, improve livelihood of poor population, provide nutrient enriched and better quality food, and reduce negative environmental impacts, the minister said. "Where these benefits could give boost to economy and food security their unknown fear to health and environment have become more significant to developing countries like Pakistan," he said. Afridi cited Cotton Leaf Curl Virus, calling for awareness raising among farmers on usage of latest GM techniques and said, our Bio-safety Centre should address this aspect and a system on labelling of GM foods and fodder should to be put in place. He said GM foods promise to meet food shortage by enhancing crops production but the release of GM crops without carrying out proper risk assessment could create havoc and adversely affect non- GM crops by contaminating them with their modified genomes. "Before commercially release of GM crop, I urge scientists to fully understand economic value of agriculture produce particularly cotton, a backbone of our economy," he said. "Our institutions can play a vital role in research and developments of GM Technology and promoting its responsible use," he added. He called upon National Bio-Safety Centre of Pak-EPA to closely work with these institutions and Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock to build their regulatory capacity for enforcing Bio safety Regulations. The minister hoped positive outcome from the seminar at the end of the day marked by constructive proposals and guidelines on use of GM technologies. Secretary Environment, Ijaz Ahmed Qureshi, said GMOs are direly needed in wake of rising food demands and impending food shortage across the globe. He called upon the scientists to devise a strategy to aware civil society, farmers and importers on applications and implications of GMOs as well as safeguarding our environment and human health. He said modern biotechnology may enhance produce and provide people better nutrients enriched food for a better health. "Although there are unknown fears on GMOs development but we can allay these fears by awareness raising among our consumers and dispensing them all essential knowledge," he added. The Secretary said, National Institute of Biological and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE) and other institutions can play a vital role to evolve safer GM technologies. "I urge collective efforts to benefit from this latest technique but ensuring same time that it is safe for human health and environment," he added and assured all out support from the Ministry. Chairman National Commission on Biotechnology, Dr Anwar Naseem, the Environment Ministry has already issued biosafety guidelines and "we need to expedite mechanism to deal with the problem." "We need to educate our people on application and implication of GMO technology and make them fully beefit from this latest technology," he said. Dr Anwar called for 'moving a bit faster' and urged the scientists and engineers to go for research and introduce safer and productive techniques. Dr Kausar Abdullah Malik said, there is lot of urgency to inform the importers on GMOs as some of them are importing harmful products illegally. He mentioned to a cotton crop disease and urged brisk action to aware importers as well as farmers on varieties of seeds. "There is a wider gap of knowledge that we need consultation to bridge this gap," he added. Dr Kausar said, there are good laws like biosafety guidelines but their enactment is not enough and "we need to be aggressive and proactive for effective implementation of these laws." He urged capacity building of all institutions concerning to GMOs to take maximum benefit from this technology, same time ensuring the safety of human health and environment. DG Pak-EPA presented an overview of the positive and harmful effects of GMOs as well as the Agency's efforts to protect environment and human health from harmful impact of GMOs.