Based on a growing body of literature confirming the safety and potential environmental, economic and health benefits of planting genetically modified (GM) crops, South East Asian countries are making headway in testing GM crops. One challenge these countries face is developing practical and cost effective biosafety regulatory systems that satisfy legislative requirements, address the concerns of citizens, and provide a reliable pathway to market.
Australia has extensive expertise in the development and deployment of GM crops and associated biosafety regulation that could assist South East Asian nations.
The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) in close collaboration with the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS), a USAID-supported project managed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington DC, organised Crawford Fund supported training on “Developing and Regulating Agricultural Biotechnology Products: Sharing expertise from Australia and Southeast Asia”, held in Canberra on June 10-13, 2014.
“Rigorous lab and field testing is one important step towards farmers using this valuable technology and convincing the public to support the research,” said Dr Tony Fischer, the Fund’s ACT Committee Coordinator and Honorary Research Fellow at CSIRO Plant Industry.
PBS and OGTR developed a program of expert lectures, case-study presentations, working-group exercises and field visits to examine key factors in environmental risk assessment for GM crops, risk management, and risk communication.
Eighteen experienced regulators from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam participated. They called for stronger bilateral collaboration with Australian expert organizations such as OGTR, and for improved mechanisms for regional collaboration and information exchange on biosafety and GM crops.
A part of the Fund’s 2014 annual conference, “Ethics, Efficiency and Food Security: Feeding The 9 Billion, Well”, to be held 26 – 28th August 2014, will address issues around advanced technologies with Dr Elizabeth Finkel, Chief Editor of Cosmos Science Magazine speaking on “Modern technology: saviour or threat?”