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9-Misc: Solomon Islands and the New Zealand Institute of Gene Ecology collaborate on biosafety



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TITLE:  Solomon Islands and the New Zealand Institute of Gene Ecology
        collaborate on regional biosafety/biosecurity
SOURCE: New Zealand Institute of Gene Ecology
        http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC0508/S00075.htm
DATE:   30 Aug 2005

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Solomon Islands and the New Zealand Institute of Gene Ecology collaborate
on regional biosafety/biosecurity

Groups from two countries that have both recently ratified the Cartagena
Protocol on Biosafety joined together to raise regional capacity through
the inaugural Regional Biosafety Course held in Honiara, Solomon Islands
from 15-23 August, 2005.

The Biosafety Protocol is an international agreement on the trade and
distribution of living (genetically) modified organisms and became
international law in 2003.

The Forest, Environment and Conservation Minister of Solomon Islands, the
Hon. David Holosivi, welcomed the initiative, saying that "We have been
priviledged to host and witness a course combining cutting-edge science,
world-class teaching and applied analysis suited to the Solomon
situation." Later he attributed the initiative to the "deep and genuine
partnership" between the New Zealand Institute of Gene Ecology [NZIGE]
and the Islands Knowledge Institute [IKI] of the Solomon Islands.

Mr. Paul Roughan, the National Biosafety Framework Coordinator for
Solomon Islands, raised the idea of a workshop for regulators,
scientists, and citizens with interests in, and official roles under, the
Protocol. The course was co-taught by Roughan and staff of the NZIGE, a
public-interest research centre located at the University of Canterbury.
The NZIGE has raised support under the UNEP-GENěK Biosafety Building
Capacity Package, funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.

Holosivi is calling for more of the same throughout the region. "[I]n the
2005 Solomon Islands Biosafety Course, we have witnessed a rare example
of excellence in capacity building and partnership. This model deserves
recognition, this experience needs to be repeated, and all partners in
this occasion should be congratulated and encouraged," he said. "Solomon
Islands needs to continue to support, host and facilitate events such as
this one."

The NZIGE has responded to the spirit of the Protocol and the New Zealand
Government's declared commitment to biosecurity through this inaugural
biosafety course for the South Pacific. Follow-up activities already
under discussion include more advanced courses and repeated courses in
Kiribati and Vanuatu.

"The Solomon Islands is emerging as a regional leader in biosafety as
demonstrated by high level Government support for initiatives that build
capacity and recognize that regulatory frameworks should be designed to
augment capacity, not ignore gaps in scientific knowledge" said NZIGE
Director and course instructor Assoc. Prof. Jack Heinemann. Holosivi
agreed, saying that through this course "we have ensured that our
priorities in biosafety are driven by knowledge and by our search for it,
rather than by a lack of it."

The course had lectures in biosafety-applied molecular biology, ecology,
biodiversity, social impacts, and the role of public participation. The
course also featured practical sessions on techniques for detecting GMOs
in food. Participants developed a custom scientific risk assessment on an
application for the release of a GMO using a prototype service being
developed at the NZIGE, called the Biosafety Forecast Service.

Other instructors and resource personnel from New Zealand included Dr.
Joanna Goven, Marina Cretenet, Camilo Rodriguez-Beltran and Billie Moore,
all from the University of Canterbury. Holosivi thanked the New Zealand
team, noting that their "dedication to genuine assistance has been
apparent" and adding his hope that "this be the beginning of more to
come." The New Zealand team have the same dream.




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