High level representatives from around the APEC Region are meeting in Viet Nam today to identify and evaluate policy concerns related to implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The Viet Nam meeting is seen as a last opportunity for APEC Member Economies to discuss these issues before the third Meeting of the Parties to the protocol in Brazil in March.
Nearly one-half of APEC economies are Protocol Parties, and all APEC economies are active participants in the movement of agricultural products throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Officials from APEC's 21 member economies are meeting in Ha Noi until 27 February for the Fifth High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology and a separate Private Sector Day. Over 100 delegates and expert speakers from APEC economies and relevant international organizations are expected to attend.
The Policy Dialogue was opened by Viet Nam's Minister for Agriculture, Mr Cao Duc Phat, and United States Under Secretary for Agriculture, Dr. J.B. Penn.
The Philippines Secretary for Science and Technology, Dr Estrella Alabastro, also presented a paper on the Philippine experience in developing and Implementing National Biosafety Policies.
In his address to the meeting, Dr. Penn said "this year's Policy Dialogue meeting provides an ideal opportunity to identify and evaluate policy and trade concerns that merit consideration as APEC economies decide whether and how to implement the Protocol.
"Given the timing of the next Meeting of the Parties, the Policy Dialogue is an occasion for a useful exchange of viewpoints and experiences on the important issue of Protocol implementation."
This year's Policy Dialogue is also closely examining the issue of biotechnology policy development, implementation and communication.
"The Policy Dialogue provides a unique opportunity for APEC economies to share their experiences regarding how to create an effective policy and regulatory environment for the responsible use of biotechnology in agriculture," said Under Secretary Penn.
The Fifth Policy Dialogue will continue its tradition of supporting public policy development activities, including the creation of an "Investment Toolbox" that will assist interested APEC economies in creating a positive investment environment for agricultural biotechnology. In addition, the Policy Dialogue will undertake a review of its 2004-2006 Work Plan and begin the task of identifying priorities for its 2007-2009 Work Plan.
In conjunction with the Policy Dialogue, private sector representatives are also presenting a report on the HLPDAB's activities which focused on the nutritional and socioeconomic benefits of agricultural biotechnology. Since the first HLPDAB three years ago, the Private Sector Day has allowed high level officials from APEC economies to learn about new developments in agricultural biotechnology and the impacts that biotechnology is having in agriculture, food security and economic development.
Since its first meeting in Mexico City in 2002, the APEC Policy Dialogue has become the premier meeting in the Asia-Pacific region for high level agricultural biotechnology policy makers. The Policy Dialogue's work is regularly acknowledged in APEC Leaders' and Ministers' statements.
Through the Policy Dialogue, APEC seeks to build the capacity of economies to maximize the benefits of this promising technology. This high level dialogue provides a forum for policy makers to exchange and discuss multidisciplinary policy views, trade implications, implementation experiences, effective communication strategies and the benefits of agricultural biotechnology, including increased productivity, improved rural development and reduced environmental impacts.

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