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Strengthening Institutional Governance of Biotechnology in India & Bangladesh

Overview

The South Asia Biosafety Program (SABP) is dedicated to assisting India and Bangladesh in further strengthening their institutional governance of biotechnology. SABP provides technical assistance to the biosafety risk assessment and research communities and further supports government efforts to implement functional and scientifically sound regulatory processes for agricultural biotechnology.

The program is managed by the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute and supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

What We Are Doing

SABP works with its in-country partners to:

  • Identify and respond to technical training needs for GE food, feed, and environmental safety assessment.
  • Develop a network of trained, authoritative local experts to communicate about the science of agricultural biotechnology and its biosafety to interested stakeholders.
  • Facilitate systems for permitting the safe conduct of experimental field trials of new crops developed using biotechnology so that scientists and farmers can evaluate them.
“The South Asia Biosafety Conference was my best opportunity in Bangladesh to reach the largest assemblage of participants from the biotechnology community and learn about the advances of biotechnology research from them. Genetic engineering technology plays a vital role in developing crops with higher yield, pest and disease resistance, improved nutrition, and drought and salinity tolerance to feed the increasing global population.”
Dr. Kamrun Nahar, Biotechnology Division, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute

Current Work

Research to Support Biosafety in Bangladesh

The Biosafety Research in Bangladesh Grants Program (BRBGP) recognizes the need for biosafety research as part of a broader effort to support science-based decision-making and policy development. This program funds research that builds local knowledge and establishes baseline data needed to support comparative assessments for agricultural biotechnology.

2021 Request for Pre Proposals

In 2021, a number of BRBGP grants ranging between US $15,000 and US $25,000 are expected to be awarded to competent institutions to conduct research for one year. Public and private agricultural research institutions and universities of Bangladesh, or International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs) involved in research in Bangladesh, were invited to submit a pre-proposal, which had to include at least one collaborating scientist that resides and works in Bangladesh. The deadline for submission was March 31, 2021, and submitted pre-proposals are currently being reviewed.

2020 Grant Recipients
  • Study on Fertilizer Management and Agricultural Practices of Potato Cultivation in Bangladesh, Advanced Seed Research & Biotech Centre (Project Lead: Abu Shamim Mohammad Nahiyan, Ph.D.)
  • Insect Pest Management Practicies and Biosafety Status of Country Bean (Lablab purpureus L.) in Bangladesh, Sylhet Agricultural University (Project Lead: Md. Fuad Mondal, Ph.D.)
2019 Grant Recipients
  • Vegetable Pest Management Practices in Bangladesh and Their Impacts on the Environment, Bangladesh Agricultural University (Project Lead: Muhammad Shahidul Haque, Ph.D.)
  • Assessment of Weed Management Practices in Rice Cultivation in Bangladesh, National Institute of Biotechnology (Project Lead: Abdun Noor Muhammad Iftekhar Alam, Ph.D.)
  • Use and Handling Practices of Pesticides Used in the Cultivation of High Yielding Potato Varieties in Bangladesh, University of Dhaka (Project Lead: Mohammad Zabed Hossain, Ph.D.)

Training Institutional Biosafety Officers in India

India has identified mitigation of the effects of climate change on its agricultural productivity as a national priority. Presently, over 30 Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutes have active research programs developing and evaluating genetically engineered (GE) plants to improve resilience to biotic and abiotic stressors.

Because ICAR is committed to compliance with biosafety regulations regarding GE organisms, it partnered with SABP on a program with ten ICAR institutions that are actively working to develop new GE plants.

Two individuals were nominated by each of the ICAR institutions to become Institutional Biosafety Officers. They are working together to develop the resources needed for a functioning, fit-for purpose institutional biosafety program. This includes creating standard operating procedures, staff training materials, and processes for biosafety audits of research facilities.

Building a Network of Biosafety Practitioners in Bangladesh

Training Institutional Biosafety Officers

Institutional Biosafety Officers need to ensure that biosafety-related activities at their home institutions are successfully implemented in accordance with government-mandated regulations and guidance. Against the backdrop of continued developments in both research and regulation of agricultural biotechnology in Bangladesh, SABP convenes training activities across the country, establishing a network of practitioners who exchange experiences and knowledge about best practices for ensuring biosafety during the research and development of GE plants. This program is modeled after a similar effort SABP launched with the Indian Council for Agricultural Research.

Supporting Biosafety Compliance for Biotechnology Researchers

Biotechnology is used as a tool in basic plant biology research, as well as in the development of new plant varieties needed to address pressing agricultural challenges. In Bangladesh, this kind of work is conducted by national research organizations, public and private universities, and private sector laboratories, all of which must comply with biosafety regulations. SABP has initiated a seminar series with universities across the country to ensure that biotechnology researchers are familiar with Bangladesh’s biosafety requirements. This effort has been accompanied by the preparation of plain language materials that help researchers, students, and university administrators better understand how the biosafety regulatory system works and the expectations for the conduct of biotechnology research.

Our Successes

Objective

The South Asia Biosafety Program (SABP) provided technical and financial support to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Agriculture Center (SAC) to help facilitate the SAARC Regional Expert Consultation Meeting on the Progress and Prospects of Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety, held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on June 18-20, 2019.

The consultation was organized to:

  • Share information about the current status of agricultural biotechnology and biosafety regulation in the region
  • Discuss regional harmonization
  • Advance recommendations to the SAARC Secretariat
Outcome

Some of the consensus recommendations arising from the meeting include:

  • SAARC countries share policy goals and principles related to biotechnology and biosafety, and the SAARC Secretariat and SAARC member countries should actively pursue harmonization efforts in this area.
  • SAARC and other national and regional organizations should continue to support consultations and dialogues related to regional harmonization for biotechnology and biosafety.
  • Information sharing mechanisms, including the establishment and maintenance of web portals to facilitate information exchange between SAARC countries, should be prioritized.
  • SAARC should explore opportunities to provide a platform for hosting and sharing data collected and associated with regulatory applications to SAARC member countries, including possibly a database or other data repository.
  • SAARC should continue to support the development of regional standards related to biosafety through the South Asia Regional Standards Organization (SARSO).
  • SAARC, through the SAC, should support the preparation of tools to enable biosafety assessments.

These recommendations were published by the SAARC Agriculture Center as a standalone book, for which Dr. Bhavneet Bajaj and Dr. Aparna Islam served as editors.

  • Project Name:
    Consultation Meeting on the Progress & Prospects for Agricultural Biotechnology & Biosafety in South Asia
  • Years:
    2019
  • Funding:
    USAID
  • Parties:
    Biosafety regulators, risk assessors, and scientists
  • Countries:
    Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka

Discover

Publications

Frequently Asked Questions: Genetically Engineered Plants and Biosafety
Biosafety Resource Book Series | March 30, 2021

The South Asia Biosafety Program designed this booklet to address some of the questions the general public may have about the safety of GE Plants, with explanations in easy and understandable language.

Biosafety Regulation and Processes in Bangladesh: A Guide for Researchers in Agricultural Biotechnology
Biosafety Resource Book Series | November 19, 2020

Part of the South Asia Biosafety Program’s capacity development interventions, this publication aims to inform researchers about the prevailing regulatory administrative system of Bangladesh and outlines the regulatory processes functioning at different stages of research and development of GE crops.

Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety in South Asia: Progress and Prospects
SAARC Agriculture Centre | September 30, 2019

This book contains the papers and proceedings of the SAARC Regional Consultative Meeting on the Progress and Prospects of Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety in South Asia, which took place on June 18- 20, 2019 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

An Analysis of the Development and Regulation of Agricultural Biotechnology in Pakistan
December 14, 2012

The purpose of this analysis is to present the context for biosafety regulation in Pakistan, including the investment and infrastructure currently dedicated to advanced agricultural technologies, and to review the legal and regulatory framework present in the country.

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