Workshop on Integrated Policies for Bio-Innovations in Agriculture and Health in Asia

The workshop, supported by AIT, IDRC, and Rockefeller Foundation, will examine existing policies on bio-innovations in the region, identify existing research gaps and recommend a strategy for information sharing, learning and partnering.

Workshop on Integrated Policies for Bio-innovations in Agriculture and Health in Asia.
13 - 15 November 2006,
Asian Institute of Technology (AIT),
Pathumthani, (Nr. Bangkok), THAILAND

Background and rationale:

Innovations in biosciences and biotechnology (or bio-innovations) have increased significantly in the past decade or so. These innovations cut across a wide range of fields including agriculture, health, food safety, environment and industry and involve both conventional techniques (e.g. marker-assisted selection or cell/ tissue culture) as well as modern approaches based on recombinant DNA techniques. For instance, progress in genomics, bioinformatics and genetic transformation has resulted in novel biopharmaceuticals, disease diagnostic tools, genetically-engineered (GE) crops and transgenic animals. Furthermore, the recent sequencing of the genomes of humans, food crops and other organisms promises new diagnostic tools, therapeutic agents for a large number of diseases, as well as new markers for use in crop and animal breeding programs. Bioremediation, through the use of natural or genetically engineered organisms, has already been shown to be an effective method of dealing with hazardous waste materials in the environment.

Most countries in Asia recognize the opportunities offered by bio-innovations to marshal their socio–economic growth and poverty alleviation and are giving due attention to their development. These technologies are seen as offering primary tools for animal or plant breeding, diagnosis of human, animal and plant diseases; development of recombinant vaccines; provision of clean water and better sanitation; production of recombinant therapeutic proteins; production of pest-resistant or nutritionally enhanced crops; and a wide range of environmental applications. On the other hand, there is a realization of potential risks arising from “unintended” consequences. These include loss of biodiversity resulting from gene flow to indigenous wild crop relates or locally adapted varieties, emergence of new pests, diseases and weeds, and negative effects on beneficial species. In addition, these technologies could have a wide variety of social, economic and ethical impacts on small-scale resource-limited farmers, consumers and people in various social classes.

The levels of investment in research and development (R&D) and share of income from bio-innovations in Asian countries relative to North America and Europe remains relatively modest. While China and India already have significant S&T capabilities, most other countries in the region lag far behind. Despite this, Asia is starting to witness increasing growth in the number of companies, revenues and employment in the sector, with agriculture and health sectors as the primary focus. Progress in genomics coupled with the region’s high capability in medical sciences creates significant opportunities in biopharmaceuticals.
Despite these impressive advances, lack of integrated and coherent policies remains a major roadblock in the comprehensive exploitation of these technologies in many developing countries. Second, there is lack of a critical mass of skills and financial resources to acquire and adapt the technologies to local contexts in many countries. Although significant resources are currently directed at R&D or research on environmental risk assessment and the development of biosafety frameworks, there is little focused work on how the scientific and technological advances can be applied in the production of goods and services (innovation) or the systems of innovations within which the technologies are embedded. These include organizations (or the innovation system actors such as enterprises, R&D institutes, extension services, standard setting bodies, government ministries etc) and institutions (a set of common habits and established practices, rules, or laws that prescribe behavioral roles and regulate the interactions between individuals and groups). In addition, research on the social dimensions of bio-innovations and how local perspectives and experiences can be better integrated with formal scientific expertise to yield solutions that better address the concerns and priorities of society; the financial and human capacity needs for R&D and implementation of biosafety frameworks; the influence of international agreements (e.g. the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and TRIPS) on national bio-innovation policies; whether existing public participation practices have resulted in better policies; and gender dimensions of bio-innovations, do not seem to be receiving adequate attention. Participation of the public in policy formulation and practice is often dominated by narrow debates on risk or safety questions when the public is equally concerned about broader social, economic and ethical factors that drive bio-innovations. Moreover, nearly all of the current work focuses on GE crops, with little attention directed at innovations in medical or industrial or environment sectors, or innovations at the interface of agriculture and medical fields.

It is against this background that the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), is organizing a workshop on “Integrated Policies for Bio-innovations in Agriculture and Health in Asia” (13-15 November 2006). Additional support for the workshop has been provided by the Rockefeller Foundation (Southeast Asia Regional Office). The workshop will bring together researchers, NGOs and CBOs representatives and policy-makers from countries in South, Southeast and East Asia to critically examine existing policies on bio-innovations in the region, identify existing research gaps and recommend a strategy for information sharing, learning across borders and partnering in the region.

Workshop objectives and expected outcomes:

The workshop will consist of plenary and working groups addressing the following broad themes: bio-innovation systems, policies & governance; social economic, ethical and gender impacts; and international/ bilateral agreements, intellectual property rights and open models of bio-innovations. Please note that this workshop will focus only on the priorities for policy-relevant research that could help Asian countries develop effective and integrated policies across different sectors. Technical aspects of bio-innovations which are equally important in policy formulation will not be covered.

The following major outcomes are expected from the workshop:

· A set of coherent regional and national policy relevant research priorities and questions on bio-innovations in agriculture and health.
· A strategy for enhancing capacity for research in the region.
· A strategy for information sharing, learning across borders and partnering in the region.

To inform and stimulate the discussions, a number of papers have been commissioned. These papers and other reading materials will be posted on this website We will send log-in information through e-mail with those who register for the workshop. Participants are invited to send relevant papers that they feel would contribute to the workshop discussions. You can send these papers to the Workshop Secretariat (email: [email protected]). Workshop participants will be assigned to various discussion groups based on their areas of interests.
Workshop participants:

The workshop participants will be drawn from various institutions based in South, Southeast and East Asian countries. In addition, several regional, international organizations and non-governmental organizations will be represented.


Sponsorship to the workshop is available for a limited number of participants. Such sponsorship will include the costs of a round trip coach class air ticket and hotel accommodation. Other participants are encouraged to arrange for their own sponsorship to the workshop. All participants are responsible for obtaining the necessary visa required to travel to Thailand. Upon request, the secretariat will issue an official invitation letters needed by Thai embassy in your home country. Please visit this website for more information:

Venue and accommodation:

The workshop will be held at AIT Conference Center (AITCC) P. O. Box 4, Klongluang, Pathumthani 12120, THAILAND, Tel: (66-2) 524-5250-2. Fax: (66-2) 524-5207; e-mail: [email protected]; website: AITCC is situated 10 km to the North of Bangkok International Airport, linked by the expressway that runs south to Bangkok city. The campus is in quiet surroundings away from the noise and traffic of the city. Foreign participants will be accommodated at the same venue and all reservations will be handled by the workshop secretariat. For more information, please contact:

Ms. Mary Rosary T. Caspillo
[email protected]
Workshop secretariat,
Asian Institute of Technology (AIT),
P. O. Box 4, Klongluang, Pathumthani 12120, THAILAND,
Tel. 662-524-8112 Fax : 66-2-524-5003.

Ground transportation:

Participants will be expected to arrange for their transfers from Bangkok international airport and AIT. Taxis are readily available just outside the arrival lounge. A map showing hotel location is attached below for your reference.

Scientific committee:

Sudip K. Rakshit, (Vice President – Research, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand); Dr. Edsel Sajor (Associate professor, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand); Antonio La Vina (Dean, Ateneo School of Government, Philippines); Veena Ravichandran (Senior Program Officer, IDRC, Canada); Sivramiah Shantharam (Team Leader, Advanced Agricultural S&T in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region Project, Thailand) and Dr. Ellie Osir, (Senior Program Specialist, IDRC, Canada).

“Integrated Policies for Bio-Innovations in Agriculture and Health in Asia”.
13 - 15 November 2006
AIT Conference Center (AITCC),
Pathumthani, (Nr. Bangkok), Thailand

Name of Participant (Ms/Mr./Dr./Prof.): ________________________________________________________________________
Tel #:_____________________________Fax #: __________________________________
Indicate ([) area of interest: innovation systems, policies & governance ( ); social economic, ethical, and gender impacts ( ); international/ bilateral agreements, intellectual property rights and open models of bio-innovations ( ); other (please specify)


Please send the completed registration form, along with CV, via e-mail to the address below by 15th September 2006.

Ms. Mary Rosary T. Caspillo
[email protected]
Workshop secretariat,
Asian Institute of Technology (AIT),
P. O. Box 4, Klongluang, Pathumthani 12120, THAILAND,
Tel: (66-2) 524-8112. Fax : 66-2-524-5003

Published: 14 Sep 2006

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