Preparing for a “new era of biotechnology”

By Luis Ventura

October 26, 2018

Some 32 delegates from 15 different countries have begun laying the groundwork for the themes that will guide a November international conference on biodiversity.

During a three-day meeting held last week in Costa Rica, the delegates shared their positions about biotechnology and biosafety in preparation for the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, scheduled for Nov. 17-29 in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt. The meeting was the last stop for Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) members and nonmembers to express their views about the themes that will be discussed at next month’s meeting.

As Pedro Rocha, an international specialist in biotechnology and biosafety, stated during the opening ceremony: “We will discuss risk assessment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), involuntary transboundary movements, detection, monitoring and the contained use of GMOs, as well as the socioeconomic considerations of its use, synthetic biology and genome editing, which are of great importance for the consolidation of the new era of biotechnology and on which IICA (Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture) has been working for years.”

As part of the discussion, it was noted that in order to have better representation, it is important to give financial support to developing countries because they sometimes lack resources to send a full delegation.

Participants also mentioned that balance is needed between delegates and social society representatives because the last meetings saw a signficiant increase in NGO attendees  who don’t support a science-based decision-making process. It is important to have a balance to promote an informed process based on facts, the delegates agreed.

The nations represented in the preparatory meeting were Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic.

The coming meeting in Egypt will be the place where the decisions will be made as worldwide representatives will spend two weeks discussing the most important issues in biotech that will have a direct impact on the way that scientific innovation is regulated.

For that reason it is important to be aware of the preparatory meetings and documents in order to have a better understanding of everything that will happen next month.

A friendly reminder to those who will participate in the November meeting onsite: You need to be a vocal and active participant because it is a consensus-driven process, and silence implies consent.