Recognizing the potential of biotechnology in meeting the challenges in food security, natural resource management, and agro-industry, SEAMEO Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), in partnership with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), established the SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center (BIC) on 01 September 2000. In the same year, it became an off-shoot of the Regional Conference on Agricultural Biotechnology in Bangkok, Thailand with the theme “Needs and Priorities in the Context of Southeast Asia’s Agricultural Objectives”. The regional conference was organized by SEARCA, and co-sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Asia and Pacific Seed Association (APSA).
Through the years, SEARCA BIC has been proactive in presenting highly accessible and science-based information on biotechnology to different stakeholders as it contributes to an enabling environment for agricultural biotechnology in the region. It continues to remain at the forefront of promoting agricultural biotechnology practices, particularly in the areas of science and educational communication as well as capacity building of stakeholders in the region. It enables partnerships with various international and local institutions working together with common goal of facilitating the use of biotechnology that will address the global challenges of food and energy security, environmental sustainability, and the changing climate.
To address the needs of the region for a highly credible, sound and factual biotechnology information center in the Southeast Asian region accessible to various stakeholders.
- To serve as the hub of a regional network for science-based information on agricultural biotechnology;
- To act as information broker among various stakeholders;
- To coordinate with regional and national network nodes on the exchange, processing, packaging, and distribution of agricultural biotechnology information;
- To support national programs on agricultural biotechnology by providing strategic information for decision-making; and
- To synthesize and package science-based information using appropriate formats.
Information on biotechnology are developed and packaged into appropriate formats such as information sheets, primers, posters, mentors’ kits, brochures, and CD-based knowledge resources that aim to meet the information needs of different stakeholders. These knowledge products are disseminated in various information outreach activities and delivery channels to promote awareness on the benefits and applications of biotechnology.
Furthermore, SEARCA BIC continues to provide science-based information on the research and development of biotech crops that are in the pipeline for commercialization in the country. It partners with various institutions in developing communication tools for these products that are dovetailed with its R&D activities.
The SEARCA BIC Electronic News (E-news) Service publishes events and announcements, biotechnology information and communication products, and news updates on biotechnology around the world, with focus on agri-biotechnology developments in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific region. Information in this e-news service are gathered and to its e-group with more than 70,000 members to date. To subscribe, register online here.
The SEARCA BIC website (http://bic.searca.org) serves as a knowledge portal that provides general information about biotechnology and showcases a gallery of biotechnology information resources, downloadable information and educational materials, presentation slides, and conference proceedings. Likewise, it releases news updates and features on biotechnology, press backgrounders, and event announcements.
The social media campaign, Know the Science, aims to encourage people to be discerning about biotech crops by understanding the science behind them through major social media platforms namely: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. By highlighting this message, consumers are being urged to be more critical about what is “natural” and “organic.”
The campaign also uses scientific and evidence-based leverage of biotech crops through studies published on its safety, and actual and potential benefits. It also highlights the personal stories and experiences of people who adopt (farmers, consumers) or develop (scientists) biotech crops.
The Learning Events and Outreach Activities on Biotechnology
The SEARCA BIC organizes and coordinates learning events such as training courses, study visits, workshops, conferences, fora, consultations, media briefing and other outreach activities that may serve as venues for objective discussions and sharing of knowledge on biotechnology. It conceptualizes training modules and programs in risk communication, social marketing of biotech products, risk management, food and environmental safety, and impact assessment of agricultural biotechnology that may be crucial for stakeholders’ informed decision making, capacity enhancement, and technology adoption.
Monitoring and Analysis of Biotechnology News Coverage
The media coverage of issues and trends on biotechnology published in major national dailies , community newspapers and online resources from the Philippines and across the globe are gathered and analyzed to assess the vital role of media in delivering science-based information on biotechnology to the general public. The media, as with scientists, have been highly regarded as credible source of factual biotechnology information that influence public perception, decision making and policy environment formulation.