Dhaka 22nd Sept., ’14. On the 15-16 Sept, 2014, the 2nd Annual South Asia Biosafety Conference was held at Taj Sumadra Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka. This was jointly organized by the South Asia Biosafety Program (SABP), Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL) and the Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy (MERE), Sri Lanka with the support of the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences and the Pakistan Academy of Sciences. The conference was inaugurated by Mr. Susil Premajayantha, the honorable Minister of Environment and Renewable Energy, Sri Lanka. Hon. Abdul Kader, the Deputy Minister of the same Ministry and Mr. Christopher Corkey, the Attache, Embassy of the United States were present on the occasion.
Soon after the inauguration, the main program started with the plenary lectures on: “Perspectives on the Regulation of Genetically Engineered Organisms in South Asia”. Speakers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Pakistan explained their status on biosafety regulations in their respective countries. Interestingly, the trend of development of the regulations was found to be similar in these countries. Later, in the scientific session a large number of papers were presented in three concurrent sessions. One session was devoted to “R&D of GMO in South Asia”, where speakers from Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India shared their research data that they gathered while working with flowering plants to enhance their acceptability as horticulture plants, or making crops photo-synthetically improved to achieve better growth, or development of disease and pest resistance in legume crops. Improvement of animal stock through transgenesis was also presented in this session. The second parallel session was also interesting as it dealt with “The Biosafety and Regulations of Genetically Engineered Insects”.
The presentation also centered on transgenic mosquitoes and silkworm as they may move around at various sites across the geographical boundaries of the countries. The importance of scientific data communication with the consumers and common people were emphasized. The third parallel session dwelt on: “Tools for Science Communicators”, where the importance of social communication was explained with a 101-lesson about Twitter. On the second day, the second plenary session was held with a view to sharing experience among the participants to improve the tolerance capacity in crops to face abiotic stress and climate change. The title of that session was: “Agricultural Biotechnology and Adaptation to Climate Change” where eminent scientists from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India and USA presented their work. Genome Editing Technologies, an attractive alternative approach to transgenic research was presented. The advantage of the latter approach is that it can bypass the lengthy biosafety evaluation process enabling the consumers to reap its benefits fast.
Once a transgenic crop is developed the product may need to move across the boundaries. Towards achieving that goal, harmonization of the risk assessment policies among the countries is needed. The last plenary session was titled “Regional Harmonization of the Risk Assessment Approaches in Agricultural Biotechnology”. The pattern of harmonization that took place in EU and Africa were presented. The initiatives made in Bhutan and Bangladesh were also presented in this session.
“The conference ended with a poster session covering a multitude of topics relating to biosafety issues. A total of 22 posters were presented by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladeshi participants. Eminent scientists and also young scientists of the region attended the session enriching its deliberation [compiled by Dr. Aparna Islam, BRAC University.]