Sarawak opens rainforests to biotech study


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 10 Sep 2003

KUCHING: Sarawak encourages foreign biotechnology experts to explore the abundant species of plants and animals in its rainforests, said Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud. 

He said the large reservoir of natural assets required exploration and intensive study in research and development. 

“There are benefits in biotechnology, such as cheaper and more efficacious drugs derived from natural resources; better therapies and higher crop production with improved nutrients, taste and quality; (and) better environmental conservation through research on natural resources, thus enhancing our quality of life,” he said at the opening of an international seminar at Crowne Plaza Riverside Hotel here yesterday. 

The two-day event on “The understanding and acceptability of biotechnology from the Islamic perspective” was organised by the state government, Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia, Sarawak Development Institute and the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute. 

Taib said 8.22 million hectares of land was still under natural forest cover and the state’s rainforests were home to over 20,000 animal species, 8,000 varieties of flowering plants, 250 freshwater species of fish, 1,000 species of terrestrial vertebrates and many others yet unknown. 

“We are actively involved in the utilisation of genetic materials in the biotechnology sector, particularly in plants derived pharmaceutical products,” Taib said. 

He said the state's bintangor trees, which produces an active anti-HIV agent, was now undergoing advanced clinical trials in the United States. 

Taib said the state government had set up the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre to ensure the sustainable utilisation of the state’s genetic resources and to have a strong database for biological research. 

He said a biotech park in Kota Samarahan had been set up to identify and develop new natural and biotech products. 

Taib said Islam encouraged the exploration of nature's secrets and finding ways to use them for the betterment of life. 

Earlier in his speech, Ikim chairman Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid said the findings of the seminar would be compiled into a book to help Muslims, especially the ulama, to better understand issues and benefits related to rapid development of biotechnology.  

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