Dhaka 28th Sept., ’16. The South Asia Biosafety Program (SABP), the ILSI Research Foundation and the Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL) jointly organized the 4th Annual South Asia Biosafety Conference in Hyderabad, India from September 19-21, 2016. This conference provided a platform to hear from leading scientists representing regulatory agencies, public sector research institutions, and the private sector in South Asia and internationally. The conference was held at the Taj Krishna, Hyderabad, India. Thirteen nations participated in the South Asia Biosafety Conference (SABC) at Hyderabad, to share international experience among scientists and regulators in biotechnology, environmental risk assessment and biosafety regulation in South Asia. This conference featured sessions on:
• Regulation of Biotechnology in South Asia
• Research and Development in South Asia
• Research Efforts to Address Climate Change
• New Technologies in GE Development
• Meeting Regulatory Challenges and Approaches to Regulatory Support
• Dossier Preparation: Planning and Generation of Regulatory Data
• Poster Session
• Facility Visits
In the plenary session, robust regulatory framework for ensuring biosafety of all types of genetically engineered organisms was emphasized. Several speakers pointed out that capacity-building and sharing of experience have to be a continuous activity to ensure effective implementation of the biosafety regulations. Such activities also help in increasing awareness and creating an environment of understanding among various stakeholders. Appreciating the research efforts in biotechnology, they recommended the research institutions for their R&D initiatives towards developing newer products relevant to the national needs. The modern world is facing enormous challenges to achieve food security. In the backdrop of increasing demand for food, dwindling natural resources and increasing biotic and abiotic stresses as a result of intensification of agriculture and climate change, the world has no option, but to accelerate utilization of the available and emerging technologies like genome editing for improving world food production. DuPont Pioneer Scientists presented their work entitled, ARGOS8 variants generated by CRISPR-Cas9 to improve maize grain yield under field drought stress conditions: Shi J, et al. Plant Biotechnol J. 2016, which demonstrated the powerful use of genome-editing. This technology may also be subjected to less regulation, since there are no vector fragments or foreign selectable genes required for this editing. Furthermore it was stressed that agriculture biotechnology is a powerful tool for addressing the emerging challenges, as already demonstrated by the fast adoption of such technologies in dealing with biotic and abiotic stresses. They also advocated better coordination among various regulators including scientists is highly important.
More than two hundred participants from Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Iran, Japan, Kenya, Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Tajikistan, and USA participated in the Conference. The inaugural session also witnessed the release of Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) guidance documents, recently adopted by the Indian regulatory authorities to strengthen the ERA process. This was the fourth Conference, with the first three Conferences being held in New Delhi, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. SABC is organized on an annual basis in the South Asian region by ILSI Research Foundation, and Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL) under the South Asia Biosafety Program.
The International society of biosafety research (ISBR) supported a poster session and a lighting round for young researchers with awards for best posters in biosafety. Thirty-seven posters by participants from various countries were put up for display.
More than 25 participants from different public and private universities, research institutes, government organizations/agencies, NGOs of Bangladesh attended the conference. Bangladesh was highly appreciated for releasing bt brinjal on a limited scale.
The experiences gathered from the conference will help the participants expand their knowledge towards the development of biosafety regulatory framework and biosafety mechanism in regulating and monitoring the genetically modified plants and organisms.
Bangladesh will be also benefitted by gaining knowledge about biosafety communications and harmonization of biosafety regulatory mechanism among the south Asian countries. [Communicated by Ms. Tahmina Islam, Botany Department, DU]