The two-part workshop, Fostering the Benefits of Innovation in Plant Breeding and Science Communication, was conducted for APEC economy regulators and policy makers to gain knowledge of new innovations in plant breeding and lessons in science communication.

The first two days were devoted to exploring new plant breeding innovations (including animal breeding) and how these innovations can meet agricultural challenges in the APEC region.

Discussions were also devoted to exploring how government policies and regulations can support these innovations. On the third day, participants went on a field trip to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) where they learned about Golden Rice research and development, and of their communication strategies, as well as of other research by the institute involving modern biotechnology applications in developing and improving rice varieties. Participants were also able to visit the long-term continuous cropping experiment, the genetic transformation laboratory, and the international rice gene bank. The last two days of the workshop were devoted to science communication. Current practices, success stories, and challenges in communicating biotechnology and the regulatory systems were discussed.

Key messages and lessons learned from the workshop include the following:

  1. Current and emerging challenges in agriculture that need to be addressed are, among others, food security, climate change, declining crop yields, emerging pests and diseases, and increasing volatility in food prices.
  2. There are new innovations for plant (and animal) breeding, and their economic, environmental and social benefits are beginning to be appreciated. Getting these new innovations from conception to development and eventually deployment is crucial, specifically in meeting food and nutritional security and to address environmental challenges.
  3. Transparent and science-based regulations are necessary to advance research and reap the benefits of new innovations.
  4. Regulatory systems should foster innovation. Regulation of innovative technologies should be consistent with products from traditional breeding methods.
  5. Trade is a huge benefit to APEC economies and a large source of income for farmers in the APEC region. The value of harmonization of regulations and policies among APEC economies would increase trade.
  6. Science communication helps address the knowledge gap among the public on the science behind biotechnology and the regulatory systems. The importance of public engagement in decision making must be recognized.