Biotech Updates

ASCA6 Focuses on Crop Improvement Technologies, Biotech Stewardship, and Communication Strategies

September 20, 2023

ISAAA Inc. and partner organizations have successfully conducted the 6th Asian Short Course on Agribiotechnology, Biosafety Regulation, and Communication (ASCA6) at Hotel Santika, Bogor, Indonesia on September 11-15, 2023. ASCA is a capacity-building initiative by ISAAA Inc. and the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (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 agricultural biotechnology (agbiotech).

Fifteen experts from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Switzerland shared their knowledge and experiences with 35 researchers, scientists, regulators, industry representatives, and academics from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, USA, and Vietnam during the five-day ASCA6.

On ASCA6's first day, ISAAA Inc. and the Regional Centre for Tropical Biology of SEAMEO (BIOTROP) signed a memorandum of understanding to further strengthen the partnership between the two organizations. Participants were then briefed on crop improvement technologies, Cartagena protocols, and environmental and food safety assessments. Dr. Michael Jones discussed the evolution of technology in crop improvement, Ms. Ma. Lorelie U. Agbagala gave an introduction to the Convention on Biological Diversity and its protocols, Dr. Satya Nugroho presented environmental risk assessment following the CPB, and Dr. Ernelea P. Cao discussed food safety assessment following CODEX. Drought tolerant sugarcane in Indonesia was presented by Dr. Nugroho, while Dr. Cao shared Bt eggplant and Golden Rice in the Philippines. The last session for the day focused on gene editing. Dr. Gabriel Romero discussed the applications of gene editing to agriculture and beyond, and Ms. Agbagala explained the regulatory considerations of genome editing in the Philippines while Dr. Jones presented the status of regulation of genome/gene-edited crops and produce in Asia and Australasia.

ASCA6 participants visited the GM potato trials in Bandung on the second day. Dr. Edy Listanto of the Research Center for Genetic Engineering Research Organization for Life Sciences and Environment guided the visit to Hikmahfarm, a family-owned cooperative in Pangalengan, Kabupaten Bandung, West Java that produces certified potato seeds, fresh vegetables, coffee, and tea.

For the third day, the participants shared their respective countries' experiences, regulations, developments, and challenges in agbiotech. The country reports were followed by the presentations of Dr. Konstantinos Vavitsas on Singapore's engineering biology and the transformation of algae. Dr. Romero discussed the safe and responsible use of biotechnology innovations through plant biotech stewardship. Dr. Ratih Neumann of Cargill talked about low level presence and its impact on trade, and the last presentation on socio-economics of glyphosate herbicide use from Dr. Qiang Chen of Bayer was delivered through a Menti quiz.

Participants, speakers, and organizers visited the research facilities of the Regional Centre for Tropical Biology of SEAMEO (BIOTROP) in Bogor on the fourth day of ASCA6. The group was welcomed by BIOTROP's Director Dr. Imran Zulhamsyah, Ms. Dewi Suryani, Department Manager of Human Centre and Innovation, and Dr. Rhomi Ardiansyah, Head of Environmental and Finance Risk Management Section. The group visited the stingless bee facility of BIOTROP's Entomology Laboratory, Tissue Culture Laboratory, and Biotechnology Laboratory. Later in the day, the group went on a tour of the Bogor Botanical Gardens.

The last day of ASCA6 was devoted to communicating agbiotech on various platforms. ISAAA Inc. Executive Director Dr. Rhodora Romero-Aldemita presented ISAAA's knowledge-sharing initiatives while Dr. Mahaletchumy Arujanan, Global Coordinator of BioTrust-ISAAA shared effective communication approaches to the participants. Ms. Clement Dionglay of ISAAA Inc. discussed storytelling agbiotech in social media, and Ms. Saarani Vengadesen of MABIC presented Petri Dish and media culture.

ASCA is an annual event conducted by ISAAA Inc. and its partners 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.

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