Biotechnology is a revolutionary tool that can change the agriculture sector.

Through the science of agricultural biotechnology, crops can be made resistant to certain diseases, to stressful environmental conditions, and some chemicals. The technology can reduce spoilage and make produce more nutritious, and it has the potential to spur economic growth, increase productivity, reduce hunger and malnutrition, and lessen the impact of agriculture on the environment.

APEC ministers and leaders recognize how important it is to communicate to the public the value of such produce, and how important it is to make sure that these products are safe. The APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology (HLPDAB) is a recognition of this.

Through the HLPDAB, policy makers develop regulatory frameworks, facilitate technology transfers, encourage investment and strengthen public confidence in biotechnology in order to increase agricultural productivity and to protect the environment, with the ultimate objective of promoting food security.

The first high level policy dialogues on agricultural biotechnology took place in 2002.

Last page update: May 2017

Current Activities

The latest HLPDAB plenary meeting (HLPDAB 15), which took place on 20-21 September 2016, during APEC Food Security Week in Piura, Peru, endorsed a revised HLPDAB Strategic Plan for 2016-2018 and the annual Work Plan. Delegates also deliberated on outcomes of the HLPDAB Workshop on Strengthening Innovation and Cooperation among APEC economies to Advance Science and Facilitate Trade, and engaged in policy discussions on the issues of Science Communication and Data Transportability in APEC.

The next annual HLPDAB meeting will take place in the city of Can Tho, Viet Nam, during APEC Food Security Week in August 2017.

HLPDAB Strategic Plan (2016-2018): The Strategic Plan focuses on three main objectives:

  1.  Establish and main mechanisms to ensure continued information exchange on economies’ experience with agricultural biotechnology and other innovative agricultural technologies;
  2. Promote transparent, science-based and functioning regulatory systems to support the development, application and trade of innovative agricultural technologies and biotechnologies for the benefit of APEC member economies;
  3. Facilitate the management of regulatory differences by endeavoring to develop solutions to global challenges with respect to innovative agricultural technologies—including trade-related issues—and improve the ability of APEC economies to communicate effectively about these issues.

Activities for 2017:  The HLPDAB aims to conduct activities to meet the objectives of the Strategic Plan, with particular focus on the topics of low level presence (LLP) in food and feed trade, data transportability, science communication, precision breeding and innovative plant breeding technologies. Notable activities will include:

1. Feasibility study to update the “Baseline Review of APEC Member Economies’ Regulations of Products Derived from Innovative Agricultural technologiesand the ways forward (April-November); and

2. Workshop on Agricultural Biotechnology: “Driving from 1G to 5G” (August).

Cross-cutting issues: The HLDAB has identified cross-cutting issues on food security, climate-smart agriculture, trade facilitation/eliminating market barriers and making the best use of natural resources with the Agricultural Technical Cooperation Working Group (ATCWG) and the Policy Partnership on Food Security (PPFS) and shall identify and share relevant policy recommendations with both groups with a view to contribute to the preparation of the Food Security Ministerial agenda. HLPDAB will also look into possible cross-fora collaboration in conducting APEC projects with relevant fora.

Achievements

APEC HLPDAB Meeting, 20-21 September 2016, Piura, Peru

The Policy Dialogue is a forum for APEC member economies to discuss issues of common interest with regard to agricultural biotechnology, including the safe introduction of biotechnology products and public acceptance of these products. Policy makers use the Policy Dialogue to promote public policy development, facilitate technology transfer, encourage investment and strengthen public confidence regarding biotechnology in order to increase agricultural productivity, protect the environment, and promote food security.

The 15th Meeting of the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology (HLPDAB) was hosted and chaired by Peru. The meeting focused on creating a positive HLPDAB Statement for the Fourth APEC Ministerial Meeting on Food Security Declaration (Piura Declaration on APEC Food Security) and advancing cooperation on biotechnology in the APEC region.

The three main topics of the 15th HLPDAB Meeting were:

  1. Outcomes of the APEC workshop on Strengthening Innovation and Cooperation among APEC Economies to Advance Science and Facilitate Trade and the ways forward;
  2. Data transportability, existing data bases/resources; and
  3. Sciene communication in APEC.

APEC HLPDAB Workshop, 19-20 September 2016, Piura, Peru

The two-day APEC workshop: Strengthening Innovation and Cooperation among APEC Economies to Advance Science and Facilitate Trade (HLPDAB 01 2016T) was conducted on the margins of the HLPDAB 15 Meeting to discuss functioning current regulatory practices, including practical examples of regulatory compatibility/convergence/harmonization; and the sharing of resources including recognition policies and agreements.

The workshop was divided into six sessions and focused on five areas:

  1. Biosafety regulations: increasing trade between APEC economies, including a review of best practices and opportunities for functioning biosafety systems and how we can eliminate asynchronous approvals;
  2. Low level presence (LLP): considerations of practical approaches to facilitating food and feed trade;
  3. Seed trade: quality standards, LLP and enhancing trade among APEC economies;
  4. How economies can practically maintain biodiversity while embracing biotechnology; and
  5. New plant breeding techniques: fostering innovation, adoption, and use.

Key outcomes and messages from the workshop include the following:

  1. Biosafety regulation must be science-based, must facilitate trade, and should incorporate “homogenization, harmonization and synchronization” initiatives. The portability of data and efficient mechanisms for exchanging information are a key element. As Chair of HLPDAB 2016, Peru, proposed for the development of a roadmap and working group to move these issues forward in APEC.
  2. LLP is unavoidable and is getting more frequent. It is urgent to develop practical policies for LLP management. Threshold setting could be a practical approach (where domestic laws permit). APEC should also look into the Global Low Level Presence Initiative (GLI) or adopt its definition.
  3. Seed trade is significantly different from grain trade. Intellectual property issues are more influential with LLP in seed trade. LLP in seed is becoming more costly and complicated to manage.
  4. Confusion between BIODIVERSITY and BIOSAFETY, based on the interpretation of Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety of the Convention on Biological Diversity do exist. The possible contribution of biodiversity is overestimated and safety of “the natural” is overvalued. It is important to correctly define and evaluate “harm.”
  5. Overregulation is not desired. It could stop the development of new breeding techniques. The private sector considers nanobiotechnology should not be regulated; faster approvals are required. Differences in regulatory processes increase time and costs. For that, common criteria must be established.

APEC HLPDAB Meeting, 30 September – 1 October 2015, Iloilo City, Philippines

The 14th Meeting of the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology (HLPDAB) was hosted and chaired by the Philippines. The meeting focused on creating a positive HLPDAB Ministerial Statement, moving forward with proposals by APEC member economies on biotechnology, on amending the HLPDAB Terms of Reference and on moving forward with a work plan for 2014-2015. Prior to the meeting, the US Department of Agriculture (DA)/ Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and the USAID/APEC Technical Assistance to Advance Regional Integration (ATAARI) project sponsored a successful half-day workshop on the Biotechnology Life Cycle (30 September), which was well-attended, with 120 participants.

The three main topics of the 14th HLPDAB Meeting were:

  1. Managing asynchronous and asymmetric approvals of biotech products for trade, including low level presence (LLP) in food and feed (policy approaches/initiatives, challenges and considerations);
  2. Policy considerations and current practices on co-existence of agricultural production systems (conventional, organic and GM crops); and
  3. Advances in animal biotechnology (livestock, fisheries and aquaculture), regulatory experience, and acceptability issues.

APEC HLPDAB Workshop, 8-12 June 2015, Manila, Philippines

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.

APEC HLPDAB Meeting and Workshop, 15-16 September 2014, Beijing, China

The 13th Meeting of the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology (HLPDAB) was hosted and chaired by China. The meeting focused on creating a positive HLPDAB Ministerial Statement, moving forward with APEC member economy proposals on biotechnology, amending the HLPDAB Terms of Reference and moving forward on a work plan for 2014-2015. Prior to the HLPDAB, USDA/FAS and USAID/ATAARI sponsored a very successful workshop on Biotechnology Life Cycle which was attended by over 100 participants.

APEC HLPDAB Meeting and Workshop, 25-28 June 2013, Medan, Indonesia

The 12th Meeting of the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology (HLPDAB) was hosted and chaired by Indonesia. In addition, the U.S. sponsored a workshop: Regulatory Issues on Emerging Technologies. Strong support for biotechnology and trade were expressed by HLPDAB and during the FAS-cosponsored workshop by APEC member economies. During the Regulatory Issues for Emerging Technologies Workshop, 85 delegates held a candid discussion about new agricultural technologies and the need to create a fostering regulatory and trade environment.

Contacts

Dr. Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy (Ms)
HLPDAB Chair
Director General of Science, Technology and Environment
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Viet Nam
Email: thuynt.khcn@mard.gov.vn
Pham Manh Cuong (Mr)
HLPDAB Coordinator
Deputy Director General of Science, Technology and Environment
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Viet Nam
Email: cuongpm.khcn@mard.gov.vn
Pruthipong POONTHRIGOBOL (Mr)
Program Director
APEC Secretariat
Email: pp15@apec.org

Events

23 Aug 2017 ATCWG, PPFS,OFWG, HLPDAB Joint Meeting Can Tho, Viet Nam
20 Aug 2017 High-level Policy Dialogue on Agriculture Biotechnology Meeting Can Tho, Viet Nam
18 Aug 2017 Workshop on Agricultural Biotechnology: Driving from 1G to 5G (HLPDAB 01 2017S) Can Tho, Viet Nam