Science Communication to Step Up in Muslim Countries
Participants from ten countries with significant Muslim populations recognized the urgency for increased science communication activities in order to streamline the acceptance of modern agricultural biotechnology in their respective countries. The workshop was held from 20 to 21 September 2011 at the Mutiara Burau Bay Beach Resort in Langkawi Island, Malaysia and focused on the subject of ‘Addressing the Challenges of Communicating Agribiotechnology in Muslim Countries'.
As one fifth of the world's population is Muslim, this workshop developed a strategic communication paradigm that will provide a benchmark in communicating the potential, issues and concerns to do with agribiotechnology to be carried out by relevant stakeholders in their respective countries. Delegates from Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, and Uganda attended the workshop, providing a mix of experiences from countries with various levels of support for biotech crops with significant populations of Muslim devotees.
In a declaration, the participants avered that "Modern agricultural biotechnology is an important tool in addressing food security, poverty alleviation, and social economic transformation in developing countries...Islam supports scientific innovation and human endeavor, and modern biotechnology is not an exception. However, it is apparent (to the delegates) that the advancement of this technology is affected by insufficient communication that support its understanding and acceptance."
Delegates emphasized the dangers of misinformation and inadequate information that has hampered the adoption of modern biotechnology in their respective country presentations. They pointed out the need for media to be better equipped to handle scientific news and for scientists to be better trained to engage the media. Farmers have also been identified as key stakeholders who need to be informed of advances in agricultural biotechnology as they have high potential to be champions for biotechnology. Therefore, targeted science communication to various stakeholders has been recommended as an effective strategy to debunk the myths of biotechnology and convey accurate information based on the experiences of leading countries in biotechnology.
"Science communication is a crucial component for social acceptance and adoption. It brings together stakeholders to learn and acquire technology and stimulates knowledge creation, aggregation and exchange," the declaration emphasized.
The workshop was jointly organized by the Malaysia Biotech Information Center and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications.
For more information about the workshop, send an e-mail to Mahaletchumy Arujanan of the Malaysia Biotechnology Information Center at email@example.com.
This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)