Wednesday, April 3


09:00 - 13:00

Session Organizers: Vibha Ahuja, Biotech Consortium India Limited, India and Joe Smith, ISBR President Elect, Australia

Speaker: DR. ROB HORSCH, Deputy Director, Agricultural Development Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
“Innovation, Equity and Rates of Change”
The global food system is challenged to meet increasing demand for affordable, nutritious foods that are sustainably produced and equitably distributed.  This is driving rapid innovation in public and private sector research across food production, processing, distribution and delivery.  Applications of genetic engineering, gene editing, synthetic biology and nanotechnology are all being pursued to help improve the quality, quantity and safety of the foods we eat.  This session will explore considerations for the safety assessment of exogenous and endogenous novel molecules resulting from these kinds of technologies, with a particular focus on future applications.

10:30-11:00 Coffee Break
13:00 Lunch
    PS8: Targeted Crop Improvement: Genome Editing in the Plant Breeder’s Tool Box
    Organizers: John McMurdy, CropLife International, Belgium and Alessandra Salamini, Bayer CropScience, USA

    All plant breeding programs start by introducing genetic variation into the gene pool and following lengthy selection and screening may culminate with introduction of improved varieties. Genetic variation can be introduced by a variety of methods and sources, such as mutagenesis or wide species crosses, for example. As part of this continuum of breeding tools, genome editing allows plant breeders to make changes to endogenous sequences in the plant’s DNA in a targeted manner. This can significantly increase the precision of the breeding process and lead to more rapid advancement of cultivars with increased disease resistance, stress tolerance or enhanced nutrition. Innovations in plant breeding like genome editing are an important tool to advance global agriculture sustainability goals. Both policymakers and the publics’ response to products developed using genome editing tools will ultimately determine their utility to breeders.   This session will explore the role of genome editing in the context of plant breeding and will include technical, policy and governance topics related to application of these tools for crop improvement.
    PS9: Risk Assessment and Management of Gene Drive Research
    Organizer: Isabelle Coche, Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research
    PS10: Fall Armyworm IPM in Africa and Asia - The Challenge Of Creating An Enabling Environment for Knowledge, Policy And Tools
    Abstracts will be selected from the open call.
    PS11: Developing Innovative Genetic Technologies for Malaria Control: Risk Assessment and Stakeholder Engagement for Field Testing
    Organizer: Delphine Thizy, Target Malaria

    Target Malaria is a not-for-profit research consortium seeking to develop new genetic technologies to reduce malaria transmission. As part of this research, the project is planning small-scale releases of genetically modified sterile male mosquitoes at a site in a malaria-prone region of Burkina Faso. This represents the first release of genetically modified insects on the African continent. A rigorous process of risk assessment and risk management was required in preparation for the application for the permission to do the small-scale field releases. This session will seek to examine the lessons that can be drawn from this process, and the ways in which they could be applied to evaluate the potential risks of other similar approaches and for the next phases in the development of Target Malaria’s technology. It will bring together perspectives from project team members involved in different aspects of the risk assessment process, detailing how the project evaluated the possibility and plausibility of different hazards, but also how important elements, such as feedback from stakeholders, can help inform the risk assessment.  Finally, the session will look at the next steps involved in Target Malaria’s work, and what challenges the project may face in terms of risk assessment for future genetic (gene drive) technologies.
15:30 Coffee Break
    PS12: Opportunities and Challenges in Public Sector Biotechnology Crop Improvement
    Organizer: Donald MacKenzie, Institute for International Crop Improvement, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

    For more than two decades, governments, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions have invested tens of millions of dollars in research and development of promising genetically engineered (GE) crops. The research areas include addressing productivity constraints due to abiotic (e.g., drought, salt, and soil nutrient deficiency) and biotic (e.g., insect pests and viral or bacterial disease) stresses and increasing levels of limiting micronutrients (e.g., provitamin A, iron, and zinc) in range of crops, including cassava, banana, maize, potato, rice, and sorghum. However, while public research creates promising technical solutions, up to now there are few examples of these crops being deployed due to lack of institutional capacity in GE product development within a regulated environment, and uncertain and shifting biosafety policies in target geographies. In addition, public entities are often “swept up” in the negative advocacy and public perception focused on large transnational companies whom have, to date, been the dominant force in GE crop commercialization.

    In this parallel session, we will provide a brief overview of public sector crop biotechnology efforts and focus on three projects as illustrative examples of the challenges faced by public and small developers. Lessons from the virus resistant cassava for Africa (VIRCA) project, which focuses on Kenya and Uganda, will be used to exemplify the impact of uncertain regulatory and policy environments on the delivery of public sector products. Effective product stewardship and the need for regional approaches to biosafety regulation will be illustrated using pod borer resistant cowpea, which is targeted for release in Nigeria, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. And finally, the challenge of delivering a nutrient biofortified staple crop, while managing communications and outreach for a project with high global public visibility, will be highlighted using the Golden Rice project.
    PS13: Biosafety Considerations for the Use of Genetic Variation in Plant Breeding
    Organizer: Maria Fedorova, Corteva Agriscience, USA

    Genetic variation is the source of genetic material for plant breeders to develop new varieties with desired characteristics. This session will focus on various plant breeding methods and genetic variation they introduce in untargeted or targeted ways. We will compare the types and extent of genetic variation introduced by various breeder’s tools, such as spontaneous mutations, tissue culture, genetic transformation, chemical and irradiation mutagenesis, and genome editing.  A key from the biosafety perspective is to consider the biological relevance of the collateral genetic changes that may occur in addition to the desired, or targeted, change. As evidenced by the plant breeding history along with a wealth of genome sequencing data, plants appear to have an inherent ability and plasticity to tolerate significant DNA variations and rearrangements without an impact on food, feed, or environmental safety.  The question then becomes whether it is relevant to consider those additional DNA changes as ‘unintended effects’ from the biosafety perspective, especially that they occur with essentially any plant breeding technique used. What are the true unintended effects and what processes are in place in commercial breeding programs that allow to mitigate them, irrespective of the breeding method? Breeding and selection processes used to develop new commercial plant varieties have an impressive track record of being an effective approach to identify and discard potentially unfavorable genetic variation and develop crops that are safe for human and animal health and the environment.
    PS14: Open Session 3
    Abstracts will be selected from the open call.
    PS15 Open Session 4 - Experiences with Communication and Stakeholder Engagement
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