Biosafety meet calls for better coordination for faster adoption of biotechnology

The three-day annual South Asia Biosafety Conference (SABC), held at Hyderabad, has called for better coordination among various ministries, including agriculture, health and environment, for better regulation and faster adaption of biotechnology.

In her opening address, additional secretary in the ministry of environment and forests and climate change and chairperson, genetic engineering appraisal committee, Amita Prasad, emphasised the need for capacity-building and sharing of experience to ensure effective implementation of biosafety regulations. Such activities also help in increasing awareness and creating an environment of understanding among various stakeholders, she added.

Reviewing research efforts in biotechnology in India, she said research institutions have been directing their R&D initiatives towards developing newer products relevant to the national needs.

Prasad said India has a robust regulatory framework for ensuring biosafety of all types of genetically engineered organisms under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.  She pointed out that these regulations are supported by a series of guidelines to deal with various aspects.

The three-day biosafety conference at Hyderabad, participating 13 nations, including countries in South Asia besides Australia, South Africa and the USA, will cover wide-ranging topics being covered in biotechnology R&D and biosafety.

Members will share international experience amongst scientists and regulators in biotechnology, environmental risk assessment and biosafety regulation in South Asia.

In his keynote address, vice president, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), Anupam Verma, emphasised that 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 utilisation of the available and emerging technologies for improving world food production. He 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. He advocated better coordination among various ministries including agriculture, health and environment.

More than two hundred participants from Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Iran, Japan, Kenya, Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Tajikistan, and USA are participating 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 is the fourth conference of the SABC after the first three conferences 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 Programme.