Creating a more transparent environment for the regulation of the biotechnology sector is the focus of the Seventh APEC Workshop on Agricultural Biotechnology currently underway in Beijing, China.

Organized by the APEC Sub-Group on Research, Development and Extension of Agricultural Biotechnology (RDEAB) as an APEC-funded project, the workshop, which begins today and concludes on December 9, is split into two sessions.

The first session, from December 1 to 5, is a forum for the exchange of technical and regulatory information on agricultural biotechnology among APEC Member Economies.

The second session from December 7 to 9 is intended specifically for product regulators to focus on environmental and feed safety assessments of biotechnology products.

The project coordinator, Dr Peng Yu Fa, said the first session will involve people responsible for formulating and implementing agricultural biotechnology policy in APEC Member Economies meeting with industry representatives.

"Biotechnology is sometimes a controversial subject for governments, but with sufficient transparency, communication and planning this would not be the case," Dr Peng said.

"Advances in biotechnology provide opportunities to increase agricultural production and provide more food to millions of people who do not have enough to eat.

"This APEC meeting will be looking at ways in which we can enhance the capacity of Member Economies to efficiently and, above all, safely increase their crop production.

"Delegates have been selected by APEC representatives in each member economy and will provide updates on their economy's approaches and experiences in the biotech sector."

Dr Peng said the second session will look more closely at the safety aspects of biotechnology advances.

"The second session of APEC Biosafety Workshops is designed to increase the capacity of APEC Member Economies regulators to ensure that the growing biotechnology sector is managed responsibly and safely," Dr Peng said.

"This session will be organized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Chinese Centre for Biosafety Research.

"The central focus of this session will be on conducting environmental and animal feed safety assessments for biotechnology products."

APEC Ministers have instructed the APEC RDEAB to explore the potential benefits of biotechnology for all APEC Member Economies while taking into account issues of consumer food safety and environmental protection.

RDEAB reports to the APEC Agricultural Technical Cooperation Working Group (ATCWG) that was formed to serve as a forum for member economies to enhance their capacity of agriculture and related industries.