Transformative Science and Communication


Parallel Workshops II, 19th April, 16:45 - 18:45 / Track: "Policy"



  • Achim Dobermann, Director & Chief Executive, Rothamsted Research, UK
  • Ben Durham, Chief Director - Bio-innovation, National Department of Science and Technology, South Africa


  • Susan Watts, Head of Communications & Public Engagement, Rothamsted Research, UK


Gene editing, synthetic biology and other advances in biosciences will drive a new paradigm of engineering microbes, plants and animals in a predictive and multi-parallel manner. Such advances have the potential to transform agriculture, nutrition, industrial value chains and many aspects of human society. Yet, they need to be balanced against a number of important considerations, such as social license, consumer acceptance and ethical issues. Further, corporate ownership of intellectual property and proprietary know-how, together with resource and skill inequalities across the globe, may serve as barriers to market entry and preclude meaningful positive impact of research. Current regulatory approaches may hinder or even preclude the development of useful new products. This workshop will explore the potential of advances in biotechnology in the agricultural sector. Acknowledging the key challenges posed to society, the workshop participants will discuss possible approaches to be taken, with the aim to ensure maximal societal benefit alongside consumer and public confidence and trust.

Agenda and Speakers

  • Four key questions
  • Each will be introduced by an impulse talk (7-10 min), setting the scene.
  • Group discussions using a world café style, with participants moving among group

Key questions

  • Genome editing revolution in plants: what is the status, what are the prospects, and what role could such technologies play in different regions of the globe
    Impulse talk: Bekir Ülker, AgroJector UG, Germany
  • Which innovative biobased products are most likely to emerge from crop genetic engineering and may become successfully commercialized, and why? Are regional differences likely?
    Impulse talk: Johnathan Napier; Rothamsted Research, UK
  • What are the critical social barriers to progress and how can these responsibly be overcome, drawing from experiences in agriculture and other fields? How can evidence better inform and guide regulation, and lead to active public involvement and confidence?
    Impulse talk: Hennie Groenewald; Biosafety South Africa.
  • Can we envisage a new model for translation of publicly-funded ideas and advances into products and interventions that will be both useful to society and at least benign for the environment across the different regions of the globe? And how may such innovations help to meet the Sustainable Development Goals?
    Impulse talk: Julian Kinderlerer; EGE - European Group on Ethics in Science and new technologies and emeritus Professor of IP Law, University of Cape Town