Biotech Updates

ASCA5 Highlights CBD Updates, Science Diplomacy in Preparation for COP15-MOP10

November 16, 2022

ASCA5 Participants at the Fisheries Biotech Center in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, Philippines

ISAAA Inc. and its partner organizations conducted the 5th Asian Short Course on Agribiotech, Biosafety Regulation, and Communication (ASCA5) from November 7 to 11, 2022 in Manila, Philippines. The workshop is a capacity building initiative by ISAAA Inc. and MABIC that was started in 2018 to create a platform for Asian scientists and regulators to be competent in the regulations and policies related to biotechnology.

The activity was conducted in collaboration with BioTrust Global, US Soybean Export Council, US Grains Council, Murdoch University, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research, and the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre. It aimed to enable more Asian stakeholders to be trained to effectively communicate science-based regulations that will support biotech research and development, commercialization, and trade, given the limited resources in developing countries. Participants from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam who are scientists, regulators, industry representatives, and academics were present during the week-long workshop.

The participants were treated to an educational field trip in Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines during the first day where they visited the Bt Eggplant Contained Greenhouse Facility in the Institute of Plant Breeding, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology also in UPLB, the Genetic Transformation Laboratory and the International Rice Gene Bank in the International Rice Research Institute, and the Agri Museum in SEARCA. And for the next two days, they were able to join the Asian Pre-COP15-MOP10 workshop and discussions to gain a better perspective of how the negotiations under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) happens from the point of view of those who attend it. Among the topics discussed during this segment are crop improvement technologies and the CBD and its Protocols, gene editing and its regulations, and updates from the CBD.

The participants were also briefed about more genetic technologies, such as synthetic biology and its applications, and update discussions under the COP by Dr. Felicity Keiper, Expert in Global Regulatory Affairs in the Seeds and Traits in BASF. Ms. Delphine Thizy, Stakeholder Engagement Senior Advisor for Target Malaria, also talked about gene drives and their potential application in vector control. She also gave updates about the discussions under COP15-MOP10 that are related to gene drives. After the presentations, the participants were allowed to share to the group their respective country's experiences, current developments, regulations, and challenges in agricultural biotech, in relation to the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which is currently under negotiations in the CBD.

The fourth day of ASCA5 allowed the participants to visit three national biotech centers in the Philippines in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. They visited the Crop Biotech Center hosted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute. Their tour included visiting the Golden Rice plots and the Genetic Transformation Laboratory and eating steamed Golden Rice for lunch. At the Livestock Biotech Center in the Philippine Carabao Center complex, the participants saw the cryogenic facilities where livestock genetic materials are kept and studied. The last stop was the Fisheries Biotech Center inside the Central Luzon State University, campus. They learned about the various activities the center conducts to apply biotech techniques to different species of freshwater fish. In all three facilities, lectures were given to provide insights to the participants about the different research initiatives the Philippine government supports to enhance the country's agricultural biotechnology capacity.

The last day of the workshop was reserved for the science diplomacy activity, wherein the participants engaged in role-playing and mock negotiations designed to simulate the discussions that happened in the COPMOP meetings. Here, they learned the stance of the different groups that attend the meetings and how different parties take part in serious discussions to gain blocks in support of their position. The activity was led by Mr. Mohammad Adeel, a career diplomat and Ph.D. scholar at the Western Australia State Agricultural Biotechnology Center. Dr. Arujanan assisted in the conduct of the activities.

ASCA is an annual event held by ISAAA and its partners intended to enhance effective communication skills, understand science-based national regulatory frameworks, and provide an adequate understanding of international legal instruments related to modern biotechnology of interested parties. To know when the next ASCA will happen, subscribe to the Crop Biotech Update. For inquiries about ASCA5, contact

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