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Brief Report: APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology









Iloilo, Philippines, 30 September-1 October 2015

2015 HLPDAB Chair: Dr. Segfredo R. Serrano, Undersecretary for Policy and Planning, Department of Agriculture

2015 HLPDAB Coordinator, the Department of Agriculture.

  1. The HLPDAB Terms of Reference was presented for discussion. As early as 2001, APEC Senior Officials had affirmed the benefits of biotechnology and called for the establishment of a High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology (HLPDAB). (From: 2015/HLPDAB/011)

a. The goal of the HLPDAB is for policy makers in APEC’s 21-member economies to exchange information, encourage capacity building, and promote public policy development to support the responsible use, development and informed adoption of innovative agricultural biotechnology as a tool to increase agricultural productivity, raise farm income and farmer’s welfare, spur economic growth, protect the environment, mitigate and adjust to impacts of climate change, and to strengthen food security in the Asia-Pacific region.

b. Scope: The HLPDAB should be the primary APEC forum for the exchange of information and discussion of policy issues, taking into consideration economies’ internal laws, regulations, and capacity, regarding the responsible use, development and informed adoption of agricultural biotechnology as a tool to increase agricultural productivity, raise farm income, spur economic growth, protect the environment, and to strengthen food security in the Asia-Pacific region. This will include policies pertaining to the trade of products of innovative agricultural biotechnology.

c. A draft HLPDAB Dialogue Strategic Plan 2016-2018 was discussed at the end of the program.

  1. HLPDAB updates and priorities according to the work plan 2014-2015 were presented (2015/HLPDAB/007).

 a. The work plan revolved on: Goal 1, Information Exchange; Goal 2, Functioning Regulatory System; Goal 3, Innovative Agricultural Biotechnology.

b. The overarching aims of the work plan are: advance free-trade for Asia-Pacific prosperity and support with the practical aims, progress from principles to practical application, enhance the capacity to identify common interests, and build productive capacity amongst members.

c. In 2015, 79 projects out of 215 projects were approved for a total of USD 10,076,867.

Resource persons provided technical information on the status and impact of crop biotech adoption in the Asia and the Pacific, issues related to trade, regulation and new technologies and a report on the workshop on new innovations in plant breeding and science communication. These include (a) low level presence (LLP) (of GMO) and implications in regulation and trade, (b) co-existence of agricultural production systems (conventional, organic and GM crops) and (b) animal biotechnologies and new tools  such as gene editing and regulations.

  1. An overview of the status and impact of biotech adoption and production in the world and in particular in the Asia-Pacific was presented. Seven APEC economies comprise ~50% of area globally planted to GM crops. Regulatory policies on biotech crops were compared in different APEC economies. Global net economic gains at the farm level reached USD116.6 billion for 17-years (1996-2012) shared by farmers equally in developing and industrial or developed countries. Environmental impacts include reduced use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, less fuel, conservation tillage, resulting in reduced carbon dioxide emissions. New biotechnologies and molecular tools were identified and the question of reducing regulatory cost was raised. (Source: 2015/HLPDAB/003)

  3. A report on the results and key messages of the Workshop on Fostering Benefits of Innovations in Plant Breeding and Science Communication held on June 8-12, 2015 at Acacia Hotel, Muntinlupa City was presented and discussed. Proposed action items include (a) sharing information learned on new innovative technologies and science communication; (b) building relationships among APEC HLPDAB members; and (c) identify opportunities for collective efforts and coalition building in science communication. (Source: 2017/HLPDAB/004)

  5. (a) Low level presence (LLP) (of GMO) was recognized as an issue of growing importance. LLP is defined by Codex Alimentarius as “low levels of recombinant DNA plant materials that have passed a food safety assessment according to the Codex Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Recombinant DNA Plants (CAC/GL 45-2003) in one or more countries that may on occasion be present in food in importing countries in which the food safety of the relevant recombinant DNA plants has not been determined.”  Despite best practices, grain from GM crops not yet approved by the importing country may be present unintentionally, at low levels, in exported grain shipments.  (Source: 2015/HLPDAB/008).(b) An LLP threshold of 5% in grain imports and a policy model for practical LLP solutions were recommended by the Global Alliance for AgBiotech Trade (Source: 2015/HLPDAB/FOR/004).

  7. Grain Trade Australia presented its experience in co-existence of agricultural production systems (conventional, organic and GM crops) consistent with supply chain preferences, based on thresholds with a broad range of stakeholders including the biotech industry, regulatory agencies, producers, grain handlers, food manufacturers and consumers. The Australian industry has adopted a “Market Choice” approach since 2007 (Canola Market Choice Framework 2007). In a 3-year study of Australia’s market choice approach showed, among others, that co-existence concerns were not evident for GM canola growers, 94% of non GM canola growers said that GM canola had no impact on their farming operation, and majority of complaints received were from people outside the farming community. (Source: 2015/HLPDAB/005).

  9. Commercialization of animal biotechnology has been successful only for the following: transgenic models (mice, rats, zebrafish), ornamental fish (GloFish) in 2013, transgenic goat which produces Atryn (anti-thrombin) in the milk in 2009 and the Oxitec mosquito to control dengue mosquitoes commercialized in Brazil in 2014. However, GM animals to produce food have not been successfully commercialized such as the Enviropig (Canada) which is on hold and the fast growing transgenic salmon (Aqua Bounty) which has been approved for food safety but not commercially released. Challenges and barriers for the GM animals include public acceptance (emotional connection to animals), focus on production processes, not product safety, political involvement or pressure in regulatory decisions and that the newest technologies cannot be distinguished from nature. (Source: 2015/HLPDAB/006)

  11. A new innovation, gene editing, is a molecular tool which can be used in gene deletion or silencing or activation for plant and animal breeding with potential economic, environmental and social benefits. Questions on the possible regulatory process for products of this new tool were raised (Source: 2015/HLPDAB/010). Challenges include getting these new innovations from conception to development and to commercialization. (Source: 2015/HLPDAB/004).

  13. On September 30, a forum on LLP, GM and organic farming coexistence, prospects of Bt eggplant and multi-stakeholder endorsement of Bt eggplant was organized by CropLife Philippines. (2015/HLPDAB/FOR/004, 002, 003).

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