Date(s) - 26/04/2023 - 27/04/2023
The Shine Dome, Australian Academy of Sciences,
Charting the way forward – the prospects for future commercialisation of gene-edited crops and international harmonising of regulations enabling world trade
An international meeting to advance the translation of gene-editing technologies to commercial reality, with a focus on small and large exporters
Food systems worldwide are becoming increasingly stressed by factors which include a changing climate leading to more extreme abiotic stresses, re-distribution of crop pests and diseases, increased food insecurity, and demographic shifts. The New Breeding Technologies (NBTs) encompassed by gene-editing provide a new suite of tools in biotechnology which can help meet many of these stresses. They have the promise to contribute to and help meet the rapidly increasing global demand for food and agri-produce. Whilst gene-editing technologies enable a high level of precision in crop breeding, the pathways to commercialisation and the global regulatory landscape do not yet reflect this opportunity.
Recognising the increasing potential of gene-editing for crop improvement and other agricultural and health fields, many countries have been reviewing gene-editing processes and their regulation. This has resulted in an increasing consensus on regulatory exemption of gene-edited produce that does not contain introduced DNA. Many jurisdictions, including Australia, have followed this approach.
As is often the case, the speed of new scientific developments, such as gene-edited crops, has outpaced policy and regulatory aspects, challenging regulators worldwide. It has become evident that the beneficial applications of NBTs will not be achieved without sensible science-based policies and regulations. In particular, without international harmonisation, or at least alignment, of policies on gene-edited products, the benefits they can confer to society will not be achieved. The socio-economic impact of gene-editing will be determined by the availability of products to small-scale farmers.
Over the last three years, the Commonwealth Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE, now the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, DAFF) supported a forward-looking project to assist both small and large-scale exporters in understanding the potential of gene-editing for crop improvement, and the issues related to trade in gene-edited produce. This project has developed various deliverables to help stakeholders exploit the changing international regulations for gene-edited produce and enable Australia to be at the forefront of realising the benefits of these technologies. This project has involved capacity-building events, dialogue with international experts and high-value publications to provide updated information on the regulatory landscape of major trading partners, as well as market information on crops of interest.
In addition, a Science Diplomacy interface has been explored to help bridge silos between scientific, regulatory and policy stakeholders.
In this context, a two-day international conference is proposed with the following objectives:
- Presenting the latest scientific advances in gene-editing technologies
- Showcasing the product landscape of gene-edited crops in Australia
- Providing the current regulatory status of gene-edited crops and foods in Australia
- Presenting the current status of regulation of gene-edited crop produce in the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide
- Updating intellectual property aspects of gene-editing
- Providing outcomes/ key findings of the DAWE/DAFF project and major messages for the future commercialisation of gene-edited crops in Australia and its trading partners
- Addressing the Science Diplomacy landscape of agri-biotechnology – national and international processes
- A roundtable discussion featuring all key stakeholders, on regulatory and policy considerations for gene-editing in agriculture (resulting in an outcome document). The discussion/debate will cover the existing state of play of regulation of gene-edited crops, existing trade and non-trade barriers and working towards regulatory alignment/ harmonisation
This discussion will provide a concrete document to advise diplomats on science-policy matters, and for regulatory stakeholders for informed use in relevant forums.
- Scientists, farming peak bodies, R&D corporations, OGRR, FSANZ, CSIRO, diplomats, international organisations (ISAAA, FAO, ICGBE, CropLife International, International Seed Federation etc), both large and small crop breeding companies, food industry, investors, regulatory organisations, IP specialists, Commonwealth Government Department stakeholders, trade-related peak bodies
- 26-27 April 2023, at the Australian Academy of Sciences ‘Shine Dome’, Canberra, ACT, Australia