Animal genetic research for Africa – Strategies and opportunities for improving outreach and public understanding

September 10th – 11th 2015; ILRI, Nairobi

Table of Contents


  • Have an agreement from participants at high level that animal genetic research is very important for African development goals and it is insufficiently understood
  • Develop an understanding that -early and ongoing- outreach and work in this project (including on regulatory problems) can really help uptake of technologies
  • Generate some insights/implications about encouraging donors and scientists to invest in communication, outreach etc.
  • (If possible) identify possible ideas for proposals and find possible avenues to get funding from foundations around…

See pictures of the event

Animal genetic research for Africa workshiop

Public agenda

Day 1 – Thursday 10th September
08.00 Registration

Session 1: Welcome and introductions

10.45 Coffee Break

Session 2: African animal research, development benefits and outreach I

Presentations of livestock/fish research ongoing in or with Africa, with regard especially to development outcomes/potential

13:00 Lunch

Session 3. African animal genetic research – communication approaches

Presentations of approaches to outreach and communications of research
  • 14.00 parallel and rotating groups to attend presentations by:
    • B4FA – Dr Claudia Canales
    • ILRI – Susan MacMillan, ILRI
    • African media – Alberto Leny
    • Media - Tamar Haspel
    • Change Through Partnership (UK) Ltd - Nick Manson

Discussion and questions (see notes below)

15.40 Coffee break

Session 4: African animal research, development benefits and outreach II

Presentations of biodiversity/ insect research ongoing in or with Africa, with regard especially to development outcomes/potential

17.40 Close

19.00 Reception/Dinner – ILRI

Day 2 – Friday 11th September
08.15 ILRI lab tour for any interested participant

Session 5: Other research, development benefits and outreach

Presentations of biodiversity/ insect research ongoing in or with Africa, with regard especially to development outcomes/potential

10.30 Coffee Break

Session 6. Research outcomes and uptake - Lessons to be drawn (Breakout groups)

  • 11.00 Collective discussions about development contributions of research outcomes, need for public understanding to promote uptake, and ethics
  • 12.30 Report back and discussion on out-of-the-box ideas to address engagement and outreach

13.00 Lunch break

Session 7. Regulatory considerations

Presentations of regulatory approaches, particular challenges in animals, policymaker awareness

15:30 Coffee break

Session 8. Implications and recommendations of the workshop

  • 16.00 Plenary review and discussion on key implications and recommendations of workshop to funders, practitioners and other stakeholders, and next steps
  • 17.00 Report back

17.30 Close

Find an ILRI Flickr page of 58 photos of the meeting here:

Notes of the meeting

Session 1: introductions

Welcome and introduction by Bernie Jones

See the presentation: Genetics for Africa – Strategies & Opportunities

Presentation by Shirley Tarawali on livestock perspectives

See the presentation: The changing livestock sector in developing countries: the context for animal genetic research

Key messages for developing countries
Demand increasing
Environmental considerations
Smallholders produce most livestock

Opportunities and challenges
Five food sources of highest value: 4 are animal (only rice vegetable)
Increase of population
Increase of GDP growth (highest increase in developing countries)
Huge increase in demand for all products, inc dairy, in all developing countries

Areas of genetics that ILRI has done and can be featured- how to relate big picture to the work that is going on
Conservation of genetic resources and diversity versus promoting keeping traditional animals that are not production.

Complexity of what we want to communicate with respect balancing over-consumption in developed countries versus under consumption in developing countries- communication

  • Q: Getting into climate change, very little on genetics but it's a critical issue - getting cattle to be more productive while surviving higher temperatures is crucial but CGIAR doesn't seem to work on this.
  • A: There's no philosophical reason for that. It's a combination of the diseases and other factors that we need to look into. There's been some thinking about changing disease vectors.
    • Yes but the logical reaction of the animal body to higher temperatures needs to be addressed
  • Q: Very nice presentation. I'm worried about what we are doing and ILRI is the leader of animal genetics research in Africa and you highlighted pointers but what is ILRI doing on the ground.
  • A: This will be addressed in the next session
  • Q: This is a hard conversation to have in the developed world where everyone thinks we eat too much meat/milk. In Brazil there was a presentation about this and people who don't have enough need to have enough but at some point it morphs to the point of people who have too much are getting even more. Let's focus on not increasing capabilities for people to go beyond the limits. And there is no line about this. When it comes to communication how can we make it clear that we're trying to solve a problem for people who are in need without facilitating a problem that already exists.
  • A: It's a complex landscape, that's right and that's why we've put intentional emphasis on communicating/influencing to stop the broad-brush portrait of livestock.
    • One of the questions is how to avoid the increased demand and one of the obvious answers is to make these products more expensive but you don't want to make it more expensive for people who are in need.
    • A: But the demand will not increase in the developed world.
      • There's no evidence that the consumption will decrease in the developed world.
  • Comment: ILRI has done a great job in animal genetics research in the last 15-20 years. We worked on chickens, goats, cattle etc. but how much of the lessons learned are important for this forum? Let's not forget the good things we've done. e.g. small ruminants have been characterized in many African countries. The other side is that Tanzania is #2 or 3 in cattle population. Over 95% of the cattle is pastoral owned by the Masaai. When we talk about improved cattle, the problem is that the environment is stabilized. Are we really improving or regressing the situation? It worries us about making changes among animal scientists.
    • That's why we need to target e.g. with pastoralists, where does it make sense to work on genetics. Where there's environmental disasters you need to work more on and reward environmental stewardships.
    • You can't raise the productivity of masaai cattle. They have small bodies that are adapted. They are already resistant to a lot of diseases. But Tryps and ECF are key challenges.
    • If you look at the economics of losses you're bound on the sustainability of the sector etc.
    • A lot of people improve their cattle anyway, in different ways.
    • Feed sufficiency is an important parameter for genetic selection.
  • Q: Did you show a map across Africa?
  • A: Yes the efficiency problem is a big issue. If a cow produces 2 l of milk per day you need a lot of animals etc.
  • Q: In the US there is interesting work looking at dairy and beef sectors. Work by Jude Capper.
  • A: This argument gets played out over and over again: these animals are more productive, they display less methane per unit of production etc. but there's externalities related to manure etc. and if you manage grazing properly you sequester carbon properly. There's this line and people who are suspicious about industrial ag are playing the externalities argument and those who are in favour play the efficiency argument.
    • We're not saying we have to go to industrial systems but there is a middle way where you can go from an inefficient smallholder to an efficient smallholder.
      • But what is the mechanism that stops them going to full industrialisation? A smallholder I visited had a chicken farm and a proto-industrialised system. At what point does or should a pastoral system stop? There is no incentive to stop... It's very difficult.
      • A: What we're looking at now is the transition period which is very important for livelihoods and natural resources.
        • There is a romantic idea about smallholder agriculture. People are afraid of the opposite.
  • Q: The term 'indigenous', how long should it be sustained? We say masaai zebu is indigenous but if improvements are important this indigenous feature may not be important any more. There is attachment in indigenous-ness in Tanzania. People think there is purity in indigenous breeds. The masaai think all the cattle of the world are there.
  • A: Is it 'either/or' 'and-and'? It's important to separate issues that are deeply cultural. Diversity is important to be maintained.
    • But at some point if we were to narrow everything down to a couple of breeds. Some biodiversity experts say we want more efficient/productive crops and animals etc. but there's a risk for biodiversity and at some point we lose that.
    • But it's different from the capacity to select.
  • Q: Which are the main breeds in Africa?
  • A: Boran...

Presentation by Susan MacMillan on Why Communicate Animal Genetics Research to? with? for? Non-Specialists

See the slide presentation: Why communicate animal genetic research

Big picture
'A scientifically educated citizenry and a concerned scientific community is the price of our collective survival.'

Practical picture
Let's get the obvious out of the way:
> Fundraising.
> Partnerships.
> Public support and acceptance.

The not so obvious
> Communicating well is fun and energizing—for you and others.
> It's personally and professionally empowering.
> It's the single thing, aside from the research itself, that will make the biggest difference to research having impact.

The bad news
1 NEGLECT: Animal genetic resources is a neglected topic.
2 EDUCATE: This is a hard topic to communicate. You can't just jump in—you have to educate people with no genetics background.
3 NON-SEXY: Most people will assume this is a non-sexy topic—that it will be hard to understand

The good news
You have a fresh story. What is blindingly obvious to you is news to others (and vice versa).
(ILRI learned that lesson in 2007 FAO and ILRI animal genetic resources conferences.)

People actually like to learn new stuff (they just don't want to experience pain in their learning).
And once you articulate some aspect of this research well, you can recycle that message/story endlessly among very different audiences.

You can surprise people that this is actually a 'hot' topic.

Two (related) questions
1 What we want to do here is to put animal genetic resources 'on the map'. The question is, 'What map?'
Which is to say, which direction do we want to go? Is the answer less obvious than we think?

2 Let's imagine that we and our partners manage to raise this issue in public fora somehow.
Then what? What will this and related groups do with the greater attention? What should we do with it?
Is all this communicating simply to get more money and public acceptance to do the research we want to do?
Do we/should we have a bigger ambition? Idea? Is there something bigger at stake here?
'In science, dollars are helpful, but ideas are decisive.'

Some principles for handling communicating controversial stuff
People have a right to be scared. Especially of new stuff. Especially THIS new stuff.
While most people are scientifically illiterate, geneticists are getting their hands on the molecular levers of biology itself. We can already slice and dice the building blocks of life. We'll soon be doing this very fast and at very little cost. Our technologies are getting ahead of our cultural means of managing them, even of comprehending all their implications, which are profound.
Our job is to help lay people steer a course through diverse ideological posturings—to help them move from fear to worry to concern to thoughtful responses to advanced genetics.

Long before you give information, give people an understanding that you share their basic values.
You, too, want a safe and healthy world.
You, too, worry about the fate of your children and their children.
You, too, understand that scientists can make mistakes.
You, too, see that there are many, many things for people to care about, and that this research is just one small part of a much larger picture.

We don't have to approach agricultural development as a zero-sum game: My loss is your gain, and vice versa.

While we must manage expectations, we should not forget to build big visions.

We're working on some of the biggest challenges humanity is facing. We're working to liberate people from the deadening weight of hunger and poverty.

But our resources are just as big. The energy and potential of Africa’s indigenous livestock—which manage to produce and reproduce in harsh environments—are prodigious. Africa's farmers are radically practical as well as humanity's very first experimenters. Africa's donors are deeply committed to great African futures. Africa's scientists have the future in their bones—they ask questions they think they have a hope of answering.

Together, these groups have created miracle crops like corn, miracle animals like the Holstein. Together, these groups eliminated famine in India and China. It's Africa's turn. It's a big continent. Build a big vision.

Intervention by Kevin Arnold (John Templeton Foundation)

Snapshot of the Foundation - where we've been and hope to go...
We've done basic sciences, genetics, all life sciences, anthropology, free market, philosophy etc. We do seed development and all the way to engagement.
The results of our funding should alleviate future poverty or suffering - so not the pressing issues but the more remote issues e.g. where are things going and what can we do about this?
We have funded genetics and 66% of our work has been around genetically-modified crops. The reason why we started in this area is that there are low hanging fruits: GM crops are a good way forward to address pressing food security. We're now at a road ahead

Summary highlights of Session 1
Livestock development overview

1 Both demand and consumption of meat, milk, fish and eggs is rising rapidly in much of the developing world.
2 This gives us great opportunities to use livestock as powerful instruments for reduce poverty and hunger as well as to reduce human illness and environmental degradation.
3 What specifically can animal genetics research contribute to sustainable agricultural development in developing countries?
Animal genetics communications overview

Good news:
1 Animal genetics is a fresh story/newsworthy
2 People actually like to learn new stuff
3 Genomics is a ‘hot topic’

Two questions
1 What approach to communications will we use? Communicating to? with? for? whom? Is there something bigger than funding and public acceptance at stake here?
2 If we are successful in using communications to raise the profile of animal genetics for Africa. Then what? How will we make best use of this?

Three principles
1 BUILD BRIDGES: Help move lay people from fear to worry to concern to thoughtful responses
2 BUILD TRUST: Let people know you share their values
3 BUILD VISION: Development does not have to be a zero-sum game: Manage expectations but build big visions

Session 2: African animal genetic research, development benefits and outreach I

Presentation by Steve Kemp (ILRI)

See the presentation: Vision for livestock genetics in Africa

Scene setting- ILRI genetics

Genetics can achieve impact- US milk yields increases per animal (Holstein cows)- increase due to changing breeding objectives and selective. US systems are very homogeneous (environments; genetics). Superb data recording systems.

In Africa- same biological rules but very different and diverse environments (climate, feed, endemic diseases, local market context; infrastructures and research institutions are relative weak). Biggest single block to achieve increases in productivity- near complete lack of datasets/recording systems.

Cannot replicate massive data harvesting systems of the US. Fast, light cheap methods? Can we skip a generation of technology.

Mobile phone to crowd source information- simultaneously providing information to breeders and to farmers. Unconventional methods to drive conventional breeding.

Diversity of environment- a difficulty but also c huge opportunity : a very diverse set of livestock a huge resource for developing and developed world, since the latter have forced population on several bottlenecks.

Trypanosomiasis- protozoan parasites; chronic disease kills animal over time. Tse-tse fly transmitted. Huge costs. Insecticide control- toxic and not sustainable; vaccines- no prospectnow (toxic and expensive drugs- adulterated. One breed is resistant. To understand resistance- conventional mapping: some variants identified- but question of where to go next? (variance is about 10%; but many genes are likely to contribute effect). Gene editing techniques- make it possible to make precise, multiple changes to the genome- information collected by mapping is suddenly useful. Is it GM? Game changers- not only for delivery, tools also very useful for validation/delivery process. How can variants tested?

Trypanosimosis resistance system in primates apoL-I

Project to introduce baboon apoL-I gene in cattle to test. Tumaini- proof of principle for cloned animal to do genome editing intervention.

Presentation by Julie Ojango (ILRI)

See the presentation: Improving livestock productivity and resilience in Africa: application of genetic technologies and challenges

Improving livestock productivity and resilience in Africa: application of genetic technologies.
Developing countries issues:- issues are complex: improve livelihoods without environmental degradation, control diseases; future needs.
What do we have- we need to use potential of existing resources.

Innate resources- they have survived!. Huge genetic diversity is a huge opportunity. Challenges: which animals are the best? How can we use what is inside them to improve the rest?
Mathematical modelling
Data needed to understand animals and environment
Genomic and ICT tools to improve systems.

Fitting livestock genotypes to different environments
Production systems are mainly small or pastoral.
Markets prevent smallholder from benefits. Moving breeds from developed countries- very difficult. Genetics can improve productivity – it takes time.

Mobile phone to collect data. ICT for markets- pricing.
Use of genomics and results from smallholder farmers. What do farmers have- a mixture of very different genotypes (maximum productivity in a good environment 12 l instead of 25l in developed countries/industrial systems). Huge yield gap.

Are there desirable and undesirable GMOs?
Breeding objectives need to be targeted to the users- nutrient density.
Using gene therapy to treat diseases.
Genetic control of traits.
Use of reproductive technologies to improved productivity and health.

In vitro-production in cattle (why- price of a calf Haver- $3000). Produre more claves to lower the price.

Embryo vitrification- cheaper way to store embyos. Good results despite cutting costs.
IVF systems reducing cold chain, which is a huge limitations.
1 bull- 10000 cows in 1 year.
Consumption of small amounts of animal-source foods: combats malnutrition.

Suitable policies and enabling frameworks missing.

Presentation by Paul Gwakisa (University of Sokoine)

See the presentation: Animal genetic research at Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania

Tanzania- working with Masai farmers to understand them and solve important problems.

1 characterised local animal genetic resources to understand unique attributes, diversity and socio-economic attributes to farmers (Sokine, Nelson Mandela).
2 to design development to improve local animals for productivity and disease resistance.

Tanzania problems:
Country 2nd or 3rd in terms of cattle population size. But populations are very poorly designed (breeds/ecotypes and strains).
Disease of trade importance as well vector borne diseases. Poor understanding of genetics. ECF and Trypanosomiasis- morbidity and loss of production. Understand basis of survival and disease resistance.

Our research: what do we mean when we say ‘indigenous breed?. Balance between improved and indigenous without breaking cultural values. Most animals in the field are F1s.
Adaptation to local environmental and ecological conditions.
Local breeds of cattle (Bos indicus) are resistant to some diseases. These also become immune to disease by natural exposure and become carriers of diseases
Chicken research- rich diversity of local chickens- fitness to environment (poor nutrition and disease).

Microbial genetics
Research in dumpsites- abundance and diversity of zoonotic and publish health importance.

  • Q: FMD-resistant breeds?
  • A: No, we have a big FMD problem and we see animals develop a state of endemic stability. Animals are going through the disease once. In my recent work we looked at animals that are ECF-vaccinated and look at their progress 1, 2, 3 years and compare with a control group that was not vaccinated. The vaccinated animals have higher antibodies and a better capacity to carry parasites with ease. We think this is due to the ?? role of the ticks, which do sthg even to the non-vaccinated animals but the vaccination has leverage. When you talk about resistance, it's all relative. There are so many things that need to be parameterised e.g. optimum age to vaccinate your animal etc. but masaai don't want to think about this. If a zebu is quite resistant to ECF after the first infection this is sthg new compared with the exotic breeds. Tryps, FMD: animals get it every year. Some diseases develop endemic stability. Animals carry the infection but not the disease.
  • Q: What strains of FMD do you have in Tanzania?
  • A: SAT 1, 2, 3, ??C - all the cellotypes have been identified. What is not happening: vaccination is not routine so it's difficult to talk about optimum control of the disease. It's a bad disease because it doesn't really kill but affects productivity to a huge extent (milk production etc.). The time to market/sell takes longer, as a result... We don't have adequate interventions. Vaccines are approved by the government but there's laxism in the government to deal with these diseases. We don't know which cellotypes will hit next year. 80% of our cattle are in the hands of the Masaai who are not sedentary so animals are exposed to new strains every year. Lack of pastures, good feeds, water (drought) means these people are moving to other places where new strains of parasites etc. are affecting them.
  • Q: Are people considering wildlife reservoirs?
  • A: Yes they start.
  • Q: Why are you so particular about a correct definition of indigenous or locally-adapted breed? Are you looking at survival, productivity, both etc. and is it that you are unable to define a locally-adapted breed's ecotype?
  • A: people talk about indigenous breeds and that remains as it is. But the point is that we improve for the sake of improving and/or adding value. The latter is more preferable. You need time to mature an animal etc. What is important is to define which events should be done in order to say 'this is the same indigenous breed that has been improved'. Improving a zebu cattle with Frysian breeds doesn't mean the zebu is going to become a Frysian.
  • Q: When there's an outbreak and there's resistance, do you know what breeds are resistant to that outbreak?
  • A: I didn't mean that breeds were resistant. FMD is a huge problem though the disease doesn't wipe out the population.
  • Q:
  • A:
  • Q:
  • A:

Presentation by Sammy Aggrey

See the presentation: Small and large scale poultry in Mexico, Ghana and Uganda

Genetic signatures are part of this work. We want the most resistant and productive animal but if it was so easy we would have it by now. Most resistant animals are not productive and most productive ones are not resistant... In genetics you can develop signatures that balance this out.

Small and large poultry in Mexico, Ghana and Uganda.
Mexico- largest production of eggs.
Do you put exotic breeds in villages or do you try to improve local breeds of backyard poultry?
All breeds are called creole- but mix of breeds- different levels of resistance and of productivity.
If you want to improve/find the best breed- go through what exists and determine superior variety.
Sort and characterise creole; look for productive strains; see if can be improved by intogression from other breeds (heat dissipation is important traitP- introgression of frizzle gene and evaluate.

Ghanaian problem: intogression of genes into commercial poultry. Commercial strains into tropics- problem is heat and diseases. Introgress gene for heat resistance- collect naked necks from several villages and cross commercial breeds to naked necks. Use molecular genetics to determine origin of naked nek trait.
Do the genetics properly- crossing naked neck from all villages- in addition to trait of interest other traits introgressed as well

Genetic signatures- identify the appropriate signatures for good traits in particular environments (disease resistance; feeding habits). Gradient in breeding programme to exploit diversity. Optimisation- most productive animal is usually not very resistance- find the balance, can be aided by the use of genetic signature.

Uganda: primary breeding of Kuroiler (hybrid produced in India based on 5 strains from the US and adapted to Indian conditions). Plan- breeding for village levels (no food supplementation) and not commercial production. Gates funded. Tested in Uganda. Good productivity- Kuroiler 150-200 eggs versus 40 native breeds. I body weight 2.6/3.0 kg in Kuroiler versus 1.6/2.2 indigenous.
Breeding programme for Uganda

Presentation by Jagger Harvey

See the presentation: Partnering to outfox crop-infecting viruses in Africa

Partnership thread- empower African farmers. Setting up partnerships critical.
More integrated pipeline (basic plant sciences; application products; farmers used). African National Agricultural Research Systems. Fiil the gap between basic science in EU to application and use.

Common bean in East Africa- bred in South America-
Understand how plants react to viruses and a level up: understand the cropping systems. Aphids are a big problem in Africa.

Model system to study genetics of viral manipulation of plant-aphids interactions- virus change the dynamics of the vector. Modelling the dynamics. Looking at chemicals involved in the interaction; genetic interaction of plants/viruses.

Viruses affect emission of volatile semiochemicals

Research how do viruses rewire bean plants to affect aphid behaviour?
1. Bean virus and aphid surveys
2. Identify plant genes involved in virus mediated aphid mediated behaviour changes
3. Capacity building
4. Disseminate tools and information to increase bean productivity.

Understand principles and apply them on the field: push-pull system
Ongoing work: collaboration with CIAT, Cambridge (John Carr), Rothamsted.

Post-doc in the project became minister of agriculture in Rwanda

General Feedback:
  • We need to make sure we understand all of this fully. Having a large team is really helpful. lot of the discussion was around the technical points of system dynamics, considering national breeding programs and whether they consider disesase resistance etc. And looking at markers for molecular breeding. We have to consider the whole set of issues.
  • Consensus that with breeding you can have it all in terms of disease resistance and productivity. It's the same resources that you move around. With the Kuroiler work, the birds grow faster than indigenous ones so you can get money earlier etc. In the future we'll look for new lines to be developed, more than the kuroiler.
  • We looked a nimal genetics and there's a lot of potential with local ecotypes. It doesn't mean improving and replacing but should be associated with value addition e.g. milk quality/quantity etc. Any improvement program should take into consideration the ecological conditions in which the animals live. e.g. improving the zebu cattle has to look into disease resistance. Whatever gain shouldn't be associated with total loss of variables
  • We discussed the complexity of the real world systems that are difficult to characterise environmentally and genetically. THe question is what we are working towards, what are our priority traits e.g. heat adaptation. One particular point was about ignoring of microbiome - but we just don't know what to do about it because it's so complex. We are fascinated by it but practically it's difficult.
  • The discussion was broad - looking into what the market pays for, the quality/quantity of the product and the availability of services. We talked about incentives for different nutrient qualities etc. And the challenges that producers are facing. WHat is their understanding of in-breeding problems that is causing their animals to reducing in size etc. How do different genetics influence environmental issues... How do you work with this?

Session 3: African animal genetic research: Communication approaches

[This was organised as a 'bus stop' session whereby 5 resource persons shared their experience with 5 consecutive groups, and ended up as a collective conversation to tease out insights from their interactions with the groups. The summary below is about the results from the Samoan circle conversation where we brought all results together ].

  • Scientists are cautious about clarity/correctness of facts
  • But science is hard to share across
  • Facts don't convince people, they are not the sum total. What's the role of journalists?
  • There is too much information to absorb ('sometimes information is an elephant!')
  • We need to be ready and develop the facts. How to tailor messages around a common value base to start communication
  • Not enough funds for research, for work with communities
  • Messages are different for Europe or Africa
  • Opportunity in Africa: engagement
  • What trait in an animal would be well received?
  • The scientific community doesn't recognise other (useful) specialists e.g. anthropologists --> no reaching out!
  • We need forums more frequently between scientists and journalists --> ICT enables online interactions. Let's get it right
  • Not enough time for scientists to do all of this ('hey, but you can use 'hybrid people' that can do all of this)
  • We shouldn't talk to the public about GM animals, only politicians and scientists
    • No! Reject the closed circle about science --> Food is a very important topic for all to know.
  • African perspective: pastoralists need to hear about resistant animals (drought!) about e.g. vaccines
  • How much science do journalists need to know? a lot (use the right info!)
  • We should network to talk to smart people that disagree with us and that can help us change our mind. Bring the skeptics and engage!
  • It's not what you say but who you say it to --> it's the only way to avoid problems like intermarriage leading to racism
  • There are opportunities with people like here in this forum rather than with extremists (e.g. we won't get KKK folks to change their mind)
  • Yes to engaging with skeptics --> find the champions (influential and capable people) but how to find them?
  • Try to bring the skeptics from a negative to a neutral stance, go for the middle ground, not the whole world. There's no hope for the fringes.
  • What helped us change our mind? It's hard!
  • Once in the room, people are more constructive

And below are the notes of Susan's Group and the inputs everyone gave:
4 recommendations for addressing controversial issues:
(1) Stay on message
(2) Stay with the (big) problems
(3) Raise the level of the argument wherever possible
(4) Be patient and don't get defensive

5 things to remember about 'story'
(1) Story is a force of nature. (The picture of one drowned 3-yr-old Syrian boy did more to open Europe to the plight of the Syrian and other refugees than all the numbers.)
(2) The context is decisive. (And ILRI and partners have a compelling context—widespread and absolute poverty and hunger—to communicate.)
(3) The main job of the storyteller is to 'make me care'
(4) Find the humanity in every story you tell.
(5) Emotion inspires action.

Inputs from the participants:
1 For better internal communications, use regular but impromptu 'tea and cake' 'flashmob' sessions to ensure the social side of research groups is supported. Use these social sessions to introduce new people, say goodbye to those leaving. Have the courage to go up to those you don't know and say, 'I'm sorry but I don't rmember who you are.' Have people introduce themselves in 3-minutes. Invest your time in others. Democratize these events so the youngest get a go.
2 Get scientists to tell a story, describe how (and why) they got into a particular kind of research.
3 Create safe and attractive innovation spaces for scientists and partners and beneficiaries.
4 Don't waste time trying to get extreme anti-science people to see your point of view—go for the middle 'swing voters'.
5 Remember that the 'enemy' of science communications is slippery—it's easier to do and say the wrong thing than the right thing.
6 Remember that known controversies can be drivers of development, because they have momentum all their own.
7 To connect with others, first build trust.
8 Make first funding requests in restaurants, not in offices.
9 When people say your research already gets a lot of funding, have a response ready to give them an overview of the vast differences in funding (medicine vs agriculture, crops vs livestock, etc.)
10 Have an 'ask' ready at all times. And make the ask whenever they opportunity arises.
11 Develop a personal story of why (not what) you do what you do.
12 Don't spoon-feed people; let them work out some of the issues themselves.
13 Provide interactive, practicals (rather than presentation after presentation) to inspire ownership in your audience.
14 Focus on the problems, solutions—not on the genetics or math.
15 Focus on the positive.
16 Link your messages to people. Real people.
17 Leave out the research details. Omit jargon.
18 Use received ideas to bust myths.

Session 4: African animal genetic research, development benefits and outreach II

Presentation by Jasper Rees

See the presentation: ivestock genomics, experiences from South Africa
(The original title was: "Taking the bull by the horns (if it has horns)")

Presentation by Raphael Mrode

See the presentation: Genomic selection in small holder systems: challenges and opportunities

Presentation by Morris Agaba

See the presentation

Notes of the discussion that followed:
Interesting to investigate girafe (genes controlling ventilation) and Okapi (genes controlling nerve cell generation).
Another example: the ability of the lungfish in western Kenya to estivate in mud and dirt for months when ponds dry up demands large gene networks. The lungfish has a huge genome. Other organisms use very small genomes to suspend life. We want to look at what cellular processes are shut down when an organism transits into estivation or hibernation. Such genetically controlled traits could be useful, for example, in bringing frozen cells back to life
Jerry Taylor looked at 3000 cattle and 170 ungulate species
CGIAR research programs will collaborate on livestock genetic repositories and comparative genomics, and the information generated can inform genome editing in the next 5-7 years.

Presentation by Tadelle Dessie

See the presentation: African Chicken Genetic Gains
  • Q: Women as entrepreneurs, can you tell us more about this?
  • A: We'll be testing more than 10000 households and we'll reach these households - that's the testing. The Foundation are going to buy the intellectual property and set up a long term breeding program in each of the countries. Once we set up the breeding program we will partner with the private sector who will take our work over, multiply and take our work at scale - so we reach producers.
  • Q: Is it part of the project to give funding to jumpstart private sector involvement?
  • A: The private sector we are talking about are already in business. We work with at least one big player in each of the countries.
  • Q: Are you working with ILRI/Steve etc. on this?
  • A: Yes and we'll make sure we connect.
  • Q: How much is your broader project documentation?
  • A: We have the comms strategy, long term breeding strategy, the gender strategy etc.
  • Q: What is your intellectual property approach?
  • A: We are developing this and in livestock it's not been done in the public sector side, despite our asking around. Soon we'll have a binding document which will be shared with the innovation platform members etc. The idea is that once the Foundation buys IP over the Kuroiler we improve it and change it but they will continue owning parts of the IP. Then we can call it something else. The national governments will play the major role in this and ILRI will keep the right to distribute this to Rwanda and other countries in the region.
  • Q: In Brazil, who owns the IP?
  • A: It's the government (Embrapa). In India it's a private company, in Egypt a public research institute, it varies a lot from country to country... We have to develop different documents for different entities...
  • Q: What's the time scale?
  • A: 5 years for the test phase and then based on the long term breeding program we'll look into a second phase. Depending on how we behave we may be asked to lead the second phase.
  • Q: What collaboration are you expecting from other countries who are not project countries?
  • A: They can benefit from the breeds that will be tested in the 3 countries and the information will be disseminated. eg. everything we'll do in Nigeria is expected to spill over to West Africa. Ethiopia will serve Eastern Africa and Tanzania Southern Africa.
    • We'll have a different approach in each country e.g. Nigeria want 50 chickens / household and scavenging will be controlled but in Ethiopia/Tanzania free range and lower numbers of chickens. Each one will be in a different agro-ecology.

Session 4: African animal genetic research, development benefits and outreach II

Presentation by Richard Osei-Amponsah (University of Ghana)

See the presentation: Strategies and opportunities for improving outreach and public understanding

  • Need to have a breeding farm for the pig - we already have one in the north but need another one in South
  • SNP data: lots of advice to get mroe information from it
  • Need to get mroe local pig sampled and in that sampling get other information from farmers than what was collected - to include how they perceive the animals and what motivates them to keep animals for future generations
  • Need to keep data to monitor performance as it allows you to get more from your genotype

Presentation by John Benzie (WorldFish)

See the presentation
Why is it that uptake to improve fish isn't that much? Fragmented & disseminated farming systems. How to keep the genetic management going in fish systems? How to engage in a process of a new genetic program as opposed to an improved strain? Stronger governance mechanisms are required. Legislation exists but it's not appropriately used. Need for capacity building for all of this.

Presentation by Badi Besbes (FAO)

See the presentation

Summary of Q&A:
  • Puzzled with the numbers presented - especially around locally adapted / exotic breeds in some regions --> these numbers are due to the definition of what we call locally adapted breeds and that question brought us to the definition of breeds and that taken by FAO or the one that member countries decided about about what is a locally adapted / exotic breed.
  • There was a discussion on the State of the World report: so what? Like other publications this led to a policy document )(the global plan for action) which is adopted by member countries, the CBD etc. Same process is on the table and countries have to decide whether new elements from this 2nd report lead to amendments for the global plan for action. A decision for the member countries
  • Nominations of the national focal points: the agenda is progressing in some countries but the line ministries may decide that this institution is the focal point (internal affairs)

Presentation by Jagger Harvey (BecA-ILRI hub)

See the presentation: The BecA-ILRI hub: B4FA animal genetics for Africa
  • The focus within the BecA program and how to move forward e.g. partners come and do a lot of work on diversity of crops/livestock - how to continue develop the program etc. to include more hard core molecular science.
  • We need to be sure we can support a broad range and we have an extended BecA faculty etc. and internationally we have good connectivity (lab meetings etc.)
  • We're moving towards increasing our capacity on the molecular side etc. and it all comes down to the demand from the national partners and impact etc. and the more we can effectively partner

Presentation by Carol Kamau (USDA)

Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The FAS regional office at the US Embassy in Nairobi covers the five East African Community countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda) and Malawi. Other FAS offices in Africa are located in Accra, Ghana; Dakar, Senegal; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Pretoria, South Africa; and Cairo, Egypt. The main goal of FAS is to promote U.S agricultural trade and global food security through market development, capacity building, trade policy and financing programs.
USDA addresses research through another agency, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).
Our interest in animal biotechnology has focused on capacity building in the recent past. More focus has been on training in plant biotechnology through our two flagship programs, the Cochran Fellowship Program (CFP) and the Borlaug Fellowship Program (BFP). The two programs aim at exposing participants to new agricultural knowledge, technologies and best practices in the United States that would assist them develop agricultural systems in their home-countries. Details on the programs can be found at:
Other capacity building activities include workshops, conferences, and exposure tours. In the last two years, we have organized groups of East African animal scientists to participate in Animal Biotechnology workshops/conferences in Brasilia. Brazil (2014), and in California, USA (2015).

  • Q: What are opportunities to collaborate with USDA through American universities?
  • A: Can get in touch with our office or directly with USDA in Washington,
New Technologies and Production Methods Division
Office of Agreements and Scientific Affairs
I got questions from 2 people and how to get involved in the work we are doing. You contact us directly and there will always be somebody interested in working with you.

Session 5: Other research, development benefits and outreach

(For this session we ran a world cafe around the following topics: 1) What makes animal research different from plant research 2) why is animal genetic research important for African development/what makes it relevant? 3) What short-term communication approaches can we mobilise and what long-term advocacy/public awareness plans do we have to put animal genetic research on the map? 4) is there value and how to go about international research collaboration and 5) are there controversies ahead of us?)

  • Key reasons: there's a need to achieve food/protein sufficiency on the continent and animal genetics is a v. important component for that
  • People won't rely on one activity
  • It's hugely important for adaptation to stress and diseases. Valuable resources for the continent but also more globally
  • In terms of research approaches, very important to articulate research objectives and integration in a holistic way -->
  • How to make sure the research maximises impact (capacity building / human resources) + links to communication and how to improve one-way comm flow but also how to incorporate community voices into this communication
  • Biggest constraint to produtivity

  • Don't forget that in the US productivity increases - huge gains can be had from closing the yield gaps in developing countries
  • Get animals up front and centre; use the term 'genetics' rarely
  • Build effective teams - you don't have to do the comms but make sure you have more social people going to the field
  • Take people to the field / beach (a new environment does a great deal to open new conversations and mindsets)
  • Use cartoons which you can recycle forever
  • Include communications in your proposal and in your budget
  • Schedule once a month chats with communications experts - story development and space to develop stories etc.

More ideas:
1 Remember that lay people are not interested in genetics per se but in outcomes.
2 Africa is a way to get people narrowly interested in anti-GM stuff to widen their interests. Some of the same people who are anti-GM are pro-Africa (or would be if they knew more about African agriculture).
3 Change the conversation: not GM for Monsanto but GM for food security.
4 That people in rich countries are distant from food is both a challenge and an opportunity for communicators.
5 Animals are cute. Take pictures!
6 Take a local journalist along next time you go to the field.
7 Build effective teams by including sociologists as well as biological scientists.
8 Donors respond to human interest.
9 Select participants in your meetings with intention to get diversity.
10 Film production is expensive but effective. But keep the films short!
11 Use innovations platforms to reach out. They have built trust among partners. Good rapport has been established.
12 Organize public debates.
13 Manage expectations about what genetics research can accomplish in the short term.
14 Use 'Upwork' and similar websites to find young people interested to communicate your work.
15 Note that researchers are both shy and lazy about communicating to non-specialists!
16 Replace a scientific seminar once in a while with a communications space for story development

  • Good research needs good partners and good collaboration
  • It helps you harness new skills, knowledge, funding
  • Make sure you maximise impact
  • We assumed we were talking about North-South but good and more important to fund and encourage south-south collaboration
  • The constraint is a shortage of ideas and time to write down ideas, rather than funding
  • The partnership needs to be equal - There has to be a genuine partnership with equal contribution
  • Great to have southern institutes set up their own research agenda
  • Need to bring in new blood - don't plan a new partnership with each, everyone should be forced to bring in new partners
  • Need fewer but more strategic partnerships
  • Need to monitor and evaluate the partnership itself - was it a good partnership
  • Build the capacity to collaborate - is there an institutional framework and ability to effectively partner? Do you have the adequate paperwork etc. (background to collaborate)
  • Provide contacts, network to jumpstart that collaboration
  • Set up a collaboration every year that doesn't

  • The different biology between plants and environments - we need different research modes
  • Bio-diversity is larger in plants than in animals
  • Bio-ethical issues are different - more critical movements against animal genetic research than plant genetic research
  • Time scale is very different - it takes time to reach results/outcomes
  • Resources - plant resource require more space?
  • Genetics / biology are different
  • Policy issues are different: meat is considered a luxury - people put more funding for plant research
  • Less concern on plants than on animals
  • Little focus on animal science discipline - people are focusing on crop science etc. Fewer animal scientists than plant scientists
  • Technologies are different
  • Ethical issues surrounding plants/animals

Maureen - Arwe there any controversies ahead of us
  • Lack of genetic diversity
  • Food safety: lack appropriate standards and how to manage them
  • Cultural impact/issues (acceptability of eating meat grown in lab +
  • religious controversies
  • Ethical controversies
  • Ownership of intellectual property rights
  • Fear of bio - piracy
  • Government vs. private sector control research with livestock improvement focus
  • Is it a potential human health controversy waiting to happen

Session 6: Research outcomes and uptake - lessons to be drawn

[In this session we organised a world cafe discussion around the following questions: 1) What makes animal research different from plant research? 2) Why is animal genetic research important for African development? What makes it relevant? 3) Is there value and how to go about international research collaborations? 4) What short-term communication approaches can we mobilise and what long-term advocacy/public awareness plans do we have to put animal genetic research on the map? 5) Are there any controversies ahead of us?].

a) What makes animal research different from plant research?

[no note available for this it seems... Unless someone can track Evans's inputs on this]

b) Why is animal genetic research important for African development? What makes it relevant?

  • Pace/improvements of precision --> controllable technology. Benefit from advances
  • Richness in resources. Focus on using them better. Improve livelihoods. Characterise resources
  • Leapfrog technology
  • Improved genetics for improving productivity and improving adaptation
  • Human resources to manage diversity. Capacity needs to be married to responsible research
  • Education to maximise impact of increasing genetics - Farmer/stakeholders
  • Theory of change --> articulate aims to quantify impact
    • Holistic approach to achieve transformative effect - articulate linkages
  • Meeting animal product. Proper nourishment. Cheaper source of protein
  • Choice --> Economic diversification
  • Characterise genetic resource --> a global resource. Unique attributes (Other breeding programs in other continents, human health). Adaptation to stress tolerance
  • Biodiversity - Preserve indigenous breeds
    • Advise breeding programmes
    • Involve traditional livestock keeper (& motivation)
    • Ex-situ conservation
    • Determine strategies for co-existence
  • Cultural identity / attachment to livestock
  • Environmental issues with animal rearing: improve genetics reduces environmental footprint. Holistic approach. Animals central to systems - Consider the system and be mindful of unintended consequences
  • Self sufficience in food / proteins
  • Animal genetic resources - very important agricultural resource base. Research: importance, use resources
  • Environment: risks and challenges? Research to maximise use
  • Animal improvements slower than in other parts of the world - benefit through genetics
  • Challenges - priority setting
  • Not only agriculture: health & medicine - good model systems (e.g. osteoporosis or hypertension in giraffes vs human)
  • Research as leverage for economic growth / livelihoods. Poor people and nations
  • Knowledge per se has value / is empowering
  • African countries - difficult conditions (drought) --> for enhanced global production. Adaptation to drought / low food availability and efficient use of resources
  • Capacity - Previously better management and better environment. No institution to share information. Disconnect between research and practice
  • Preserving traditional knowledge (shrinking). Mechanisms for information flow back from users.
  • Disease control: biggest threat to productivity. Better characterised than controlled. New diseases / evolution of diseases
  • Transboundary movement diseases
  • Stress tolerance - breeding objective. Temperate animals in tropical areas. Climate change. Gene identification for heat/drought tolerance
  • Growth rates / metabolic efficiency. Meat/milk quality
  • Changes in rec. nutritional advice.
  • Ruminants use low quality pasture. Methane production
  • Micro-organisms --> research

c) Is there value in and how to go about international research collaborations?

  • Need more collaboration. In the past, few partners or little funding for it. Now more partners and funding but narrow focus, so almost competition instead of collaboration
  • Good research needs good partners and good funding.
  • Without collaboration missing opportunities for synergies and impact
  • Research and donor calls competitive but often compartmentalised, and get excluded
  • Next step in evolution in applied science integration, interdisciplinary approach on issues
  • More research on issues (challenges) here
  • More research/funding stagnation in the north: opportunity for win-win
  • Resources are never adequate (human and financial) so maximise impact + utilisation
  • How do you harness best
  • Less south-south collaboration at the moment than north-south. Often mediated by international catalyst
  • Issue of funding and initiative. And structure of grants where available
  • Too guided (constrained) by the international funders
  • National funding unequal (Kenya & Ethiopia have lots, other countries don't)
  • Budgets often go to on-the-ground issues/implementation, not to future-focused research
  • Best funding for research is global - funding is available.
  • Issue is shortage of ideas, awareness, contacts
  • Other priorities conflict (teaching, admin etc.)
  • Needs exchange of researchers from North. Have to see what's here to inspire them
  • More institutional solutions, like BecA?
  • Needs change of culture (in North and South)
  • Focus on issues, not countries
  • Lab + equipment + staff all gen by grants but international funding will rarely support only south-south
  • Will international funding build infrastructure or equipment/capacity in the south?
  • Research + institutional capacity building
  • Who sits at the table? (same old). Need next gen and new blood to grow the continuity
  • How to do it? Bring one new person each time
  • What type of research?
    • Not for basic ideas & research
    • Mainly applied
    • No (or little) long-term vision for system
    • Northern research often theoretical/abstract.
    • Little focus on real practical issues
  • How to forge a true equal partnership?
    • Need to be strong, not desperate. Able to walk away...
    • Need to be determined. If from the South, get involved in basic-fundamental science projects, not just applied
    • Need an honest partner who believes in south and capacity building
    • Let development countries determine research agenda
  • Need fewer, more strategic patners
  • What is the purpose of collaboration? (shouldn't be just to generate money)
  • Often collaboration isn't (just names on paper). All have to contribute
  • Benefits? Access, skills, ideas.
  • How to monitor and evaluate partnerships?
  • Impact? Are you changing something on the ground?
  • Hard to start when weak or in competition
  • Do institutes in the south have the institutional capacity to start collaborations?
  • Collaboration = research or capacity building (or both)
  • Institutions with mandate for partnerships (like ILRI) are different to NRI's...
  • Us regional offices as points of contact and information
  • Scoping exercises to est key centers of excellence
  • Do you ever help facilitate new partnerships that don't involve you?

d) What short-term communication approaches can we mobilise and what long-term advocacy/public awareness plans do we have to put animal genetic research on the map?

  • Scientists find it difficult / don't have time to communicate research / findings / work (reaching the ordinary people). Scientists are cautiuos
  • Characterisation: keep it short and simple (kiss)
  • Make research entertaining:
    • Write popular article
    • Broadcast interesting programme
  • Do we care that people understand what we are saying

e) Are there any controversies ahead of us?

  • Loss of genetic diversity
  • Food safety: lack of appropriate standards and how they are managed
  • Cultural / impact issues: Acceptability (idea of eating meat grown in the lab doesn't feel right)
  • Religious controversies (ideas of people playing God)
  • Environmental:
    • impact of intensification
    • genetic exchange between domestic and wild stock
  • Ethical
    • When it affects natural abilities within the animals
    • Animal welfare
  • Ownership of intellectual property rights.
    • Fear of big companies and developed countries controlling food production in developing countries
  • Fear of bio piracy
  • Fear of sharing ideas
  • Government vs. private sector control of research / livestock improvement focus
  • Is it a potential human health controversy waiting to happen?

Session 7: Regulatory considerations

Presentation by Jasper Rees (ARC)

See the presentation: Regulatory implications of new genetic engineering technologies

Presentation by Doris Wangari (PBS-Kenya)

See the presentation: Biosafety regulatory framework in Kenya

Questions and answers:
  • Q: Timeline for this document?
  • A: In the next 9 months
  • Q: How historically influential is South Africa in terms of regulation?
  • A: Historically it has been very influential. We're part of a movement of evaluation of these new technologies and we'll see where it goes. If we change regulations it's unlikely others will change.
  • Q: What does an application cost?
  • A: 25000 KSH (USD 250) for confined. For environmental release it's around 800.000 (USD 8.000) covering advertising, expert review, public participation... They're reviewing prices based on what will be fair across the region. It's less than what they had envisioned.
  • Q: In the US academy of science, it was important to have a wide variety of points of view. To what extent people that are anti-GMOs are going to jeopardise the integrity of the process?
  • A: We have a consensus and that's a problem... It eliminates the possibility of engaging in discussion with anti-GM bodies... We don't get the choice as panel, it's how all their studies are done, but it means the study will focus on technologies and technical issues, not the political issues.
    • Your view of the technology colors your view of the technical issue.
    • How is the public opinion going to be if there is a cry for not listening other opinions? --> the panelists are tasked to assess that landscape broadly and if we are effective we'll seek out other views. We feel very puzzled by the idea that you set up the panel on the premise that people will reach consensus...
  • Q: What will appear on your labeling.
  • A: For GM products it will be on the label and if it's an ingredient it will be mentioned. If it's not pre-packaged it will say it's genetically modified and the name of the organism. No labelling per se.
    • Many of the products are not going to be labelled - sthg
  • Q: This list of trials is all about products developed in Kenya - what about big companies trying to sell maize etc. - have they come for regulatory approval?
  • A: They have to go through a local institution (e.g. KALRO). The applicant has to be Kenyan. From this list, the cassava is Kenyan and others are essentially from multinational companies. The research has to be done here.
  • Q: What is the cost of developing GModified from square 1 to putting to the market? In Europe/US it would be USD 30 mio. How much would it cost in the Kenyan context?
  • A: Difficult to tell. A lot of money.
  • Q: Is it correct that GM food is banned in Kenya (not an NBA decision)?
  • A: Yes we have a ban in place and it didn't come from the NBA but from the cabinet of the secretary for health. The ban is still there hoping that the deputy president might ???
  • Q: Re: the scope of NBA, it seems it is concerned entirely with GM, does it have a broader mandate?
  • A: It is 100% GMO. Everything GMO has to go to NBA
  • Q: One percent not requiring labeling - how do you tell that it's below 1%? How do you provide diagnostic?
  • A: We have to do testing and they do but depending on the precision it's reliable or not...
  • Q: How many of these ?? have regulatory systems (in South Africa)?
  • A: All of them do.
  • Q: Ghana has an approval with e.g. Burkina Faso - all biosafety data available for a specific product in a nearby country, some countries are hoping to go through a proxy evaluation, not the real one. Is Kenya considering this?
  • A: There is a document that states that all COMESA countries can ??? Once everyone signs it you don't have to replicate what was done in other countries among COMESA countries.
  • Q: Is there also a plan for regulating improved cassavas and sweet potatoes etc.?
  • A: NBA approves the traits. The issue of clones etc. goes to ?? I'm not familiar with this. NBA deals with only the traits
  • Q: To draw expertise for animals, do you foresee any problems for when GM animal applications are coming in?
  • A: GM mosquito is an example and it didn't go anywhere. The experience is very limited so there's much capacity to be built. You find that people are more open to plants per se. There are certain emotions attached to animals.
  • Q: Harmonisation across Sub-Saharan Africa - is that realistic? COMESA covers it to some extent but other areas require harmonisation
  • A: Yes. We have the E-African commission working also on biosafety. THere are countries that need to see where to tag along. All have their own challenges and treat the sovereignty of each nation. Based on the 3 objectives (trade, food aid and research) a certain country can borrow from another country e.g. all countries in COMESA are looking at Sudan for commercialisation. If one country wants to take the results forward they can do so...
  • Q: Have you looked at the importance of trade as opposed to technology?
  • A: So far not. It's still ambiguous.

Commentary from Steve

ILRI works closely with the biosafety authority. Internally we have our own authority for this and the internal authority considers any hazard, not just GMs. The focus on the processes will make the mandate of NBA difficult as they don't focus on the products.
I'm aware of 2 animal confined trials (mice and Tumaini project) but neither of those has started working on GMs. It takes 6 months to get an approval through so we submit to NBA anyway but e.g. the mice are no longer there. We failed to work together on this.
In the real world experimentation, we were asked to think about what constructs we would include, 4 years ago, but this has changed meanwhile. NBA has not required us to submit an entirely new proposal - those are blurred definitions around... Still some issues under discussion. You wouldn't be funded if there wasn't this regulatory body.

Collective reflections

(For that part of the session we ran a users' experience Fishbowl where we asked four experts in regulatory issues to discuss what emerged from their interactions with the participants, and the latter could forward their own ideas and questions for the experts to address).

  • We can change that regulation but it will never be simple
  • How to test 1% in animals? This is for labeling and was thought for plants. We need to revise regulation for animals> It needs to be thought about
  • Technically it's easy to test for that 1% but many companies may prefer to label 'may contain GMOs'. In South Africa this was considered impractical to test too large volumes
  • Not all countries are at the same level and capacity differs: build institutional capacity. Timing/planning this is hard. Start campaigns for most important gaps.
  • Risks: our countries may not be able to assess risk levels and appropriate measures
  • Risk-based approach follows same approach as food safety. Two main items:
    • Labeling
    • Traceability to recall products
  • Consider certain features e.g. animal suffering: demonstrate that level
  • How to address a risk-based approach?
  • Difference between approving genetically-modified (GM) wool and GM mutton?. There are two levels: main principles for genetic modification and specificities of a commodity. Science and methodology evolve and help adapt regulation but it's not possible to go to the Ministry every week with modifications
  • Definition of transgenic: "addition of foreign DNA to an organism". Different from susgenic or intragenic (everything is from the same species)
  • Definition of GMOs vs. living modified organisms. E.g. a virus is not a GM and so is regulated via vaccines. But what if extraneous DNA is introduced? and what is the minimum of amount of DNA change for qualifying as GMO?
  • What are we talking about with regulation?
  • Formulation of regulatory policy --> include everyone in it so there's no problem in the future
  • Punishment --> Implement with the safety in focus, not (just) penalties
  • Capacity of stakeholders --> socio economic considerations to be reviewed --> difficult for animals
  • How, in the future, do we look at a genetic modification? Single mutation vs. natural modification?
  • Regulation: is it necessary? What are comparisons between GM and non GM and is it meaningful if we don't know the natural variability?
  • Traits and regulation: If modifications have public health implications we could enforce regulation but is there capacity to do so?

Notes on the session by Claudia Canales:
Interesting way forward?

Frameworks and documents- clear what the objective of the regulation. In the livestock sector are very different and wide. What do we want to achieve?

Policy level is not enough? Do you need regulations?

Formulation of what sort of regulatory policy we want to have- need to satisfy all stakeholders. Implementation is easier.

Balance of feeding the people and guaranteeing no adverse consequences.

Regulations often on penalties. Implementation- need to underline that penalties is not the focus.

Capacity of the stakeholders- new technology coming in that deals with animal cannot be assessed properly because of lack of trianing. Social and economic considerations will have to be reviewed. Funding for regulation? Expensive for animals (even more than for plants).

How are we going to view in the future what we consider a GMO? Similarity to naturally occurring mutations. Is the regulatory system obsolete? Very limited information of assessing the degree of natural range of variation in crops to which people are normally exposed to. Natural range of variation should guide level of diversity considered permissible.

In cases of likely impact of innovation to public health- regulation should be mandatory. If regulation is made countries need to have the ability of enforces regulation.

Difference between animal and plants- in animals new experiments that has not been done before. May affect performance of the performance of the animal, and in particular the level of suffering by the animal. Another dimension to animal experimentation that already is regulated (animal welfare).


Addressing the precautionary principle?

Similarity with food safety issue. Refer to international standards- public health. Two main factors are important: labelling and traceability.

Too preoccupied with the definition. But testing needed. Regulation sometimes missed the critical issue.

1% test in animals? For labelling

Designed for plants- revisions will have to be made.

Capacity building required.

In SA- labelling regulations made but not enacted. Testing- enforcements very difficult.

Can you change regulatory frameworks in the next 5 years to make more easier and sensible?

Not so simple and will not apply to all levels. Different capacity levels in different countries. More education and increased institutional capacity needed. Difficult to put a timeline (changing even one line in regulatory documents can be very difficult). Having different tracts for different levels of risks makes sense. Some countries may not even have the capacity to assess levels of risks and how they could be handled.

Formal definition of GM?

The addition of foreign DNA to an organism. Intragenesis and cisgenesis should not be considered GM- part of the NPBT debate. Living versus modified organisms (viral vaccines not a living modified organism, but a genetically modified organism). Minimum amount of change specified in some regulations: e.g. 40 bp. In that definition all the gene editing technologies become non-GM.

De-regulating everything under 18 bp and accept DNA from the same species would solve most of the problems- but will not be as simple as that.

How do you regulate wool versus meat?

Two levels of regulations: primary- parliamentary level sets headlines and main principles related to GM- agreement at that level on the main issues; Specificities? At the regulation level- ability to adapt/change regulations to incorporate improvements in the regulation.

Japer's presentation (from a write-up of the talk he gave in Cambridge):
21. ASSAf Panel: Regulatory Implications of New Genetic Engineering Technologies: Dr Jasper Rees, Agricultural Research Council of South Africa and ASSAf working group

Why address new GM technologies in African countries now? While at the moment there are only three 3 GM crops in commercial production in the continent, 7 countries are carrying confined field trials; 14 countries are engaged in contained research and development; and 27 countries are building up their capacity for biotechnology R&D.

The ASSAf Panel on NPBTs was convened in 2015 to ensure an independent process to determine the regulatory status of NPBTs, inspired in part by the report on NPBTs published by the JRC in 2011. A Consensus Study Panel will be active 2015-2016 to determine the regulatory implications of the New Genetic Engineering Technologies, with the aim to provide credible, independent and unbiased evidence-based policy recommendations. Consensus is reached through study panel deliberations, in a process that is free from the influence of study sponsors or others with a vested interest in the outcome of the study findings, although sponsors may be invited to present to the panel in order to discuss their expectations and to provide relevant information to the study.

Deliberations of the panel group, chosen to comprise a comprehensive and balanced set of experts), are private, although they may be informed by public conferences, workshops, debates and hearings. The mandate of the Panel includes:

• Evaluate the risk/benefit implications and ethics of all relevant new technologies (generally, but also with specific reference to their ability to sustain the diversity of agricultural crops, their ability to improve the agronomy, production and/or value of the crops).

• Determine – with justification - which new technologies should fall under the GMO Act and which do not.

• Outline a framework that can be used to assess the applicability of future technologies to the existing GMO Act & regulations.

• Assess the appropriateness of South African biosafety regulatory framework for biosafety risk evaluation and management of all relevant new technologies.

• Where appropriate, recommend modifications/revisions and/or additions to the existing regulations, individually or collectively, for the new technologies.

Possible policy recommendations include: to leave the GM Act and Regulations as they are; recommend minor changes to the regulations; recommend changes to exclude some or all of these technologies from regulation; or recommend a major review of GMO Act to address review and regulation of novel traits.

Session 8: Implications and recommendations of the workshop

[In this session we presented summary sheets of the main sessions and invited all participants to share their comments].

Session 1

Overall introduction
1. Demand and consumption of animal source foods (ASF) rising offer big opportunities for poverty reduction
2. Agricultural can do much to close huge yield gaps and improve livelihoods worldwide. [COMMENT: = less waste]
Question: how do we communicate:
- Less ASF in rich countries
- More ASF in poor countries
- And other 'mixed messages'
Good news:
1. Animal genetics = fresh story / newsworthy
2. People like to learn new stuff
3. Genomics is a 'hot topic'
Q: Communicating? With? For? Whom? [COMMENT: Communicating to stakeholders with innovative tools to ensures sustainability of the program]
Q: If successful in raising profile of agriculture for Africa what shall we do with this? [COMMENT: Capacity building! Use small funding to seed more]
Three principles:
1. Build bridges -> from fear/panic -> worry -> concern -> thoughtful
2. Build trust --> Share your values
3. Build vision --> Not a zero-sum game. Manage expectations while you build big visions.
[COMMENTS: Communicate throughout, give feedback along the way, show donors building blocks, focus on quick wins as well as long term work, hold onto your position. Incremental achievement would be useful. Be satisfied with step-wise achievements]

Session 2

Animal genetic research - development benefits and outreach

- What are the priority traits to breed for in livestock development? [COMMENT: Optimal traits for given environment. Consensus is almost impossible]
- Lack of data and inadequate data systems are a major challenge.
- How important is environment in genetics?
- Genetic improvement is about funding the balance in traits being bred for [COMMENT: It is about getting started!]
- Understanding the complete livestock system is key (systems approach to harnessing genetics). [COMMENTS: Selection index approach? Animals for systems]
- Which indigenous breeds are actually indigenous? [COMMENT: Does it matter if a cow is indigenous or not as long as it produces milk?]
- Livestock improvement should not be replacement [COMMENTS: Stabilize F1 semen; Breed what is best for environment / whether cross or indigenous. Design special breeding schemes for local breeds to ensure we don't lose them and incorporate to cross-breeding]
- Ability to select: dramatic impact on livestock improvement
[COMMENT: Synthetic burger / meat / milk!!]

Session 3 Communications

- When did you last change your mind?
Beware confirmation bias
Facts don't (always) change minds
Don't call people 'anti-science'
[COMMENT: Don't say genetics]
- Stories + impact interest people
"Make me care"
Stay on message
Be patient
Have a strategy + theory of change [COMMENT: keyword in animal genetics is not genetics]
Emotion inspires action
Engage and be interactive
- Journalists inform, educate and entertain [COMMENT: Include anti-GMO lobbyists in workshops like this one]
Need to become experts themselves
Be a 'bridge'
Keep it short + simple
Let scientists check for accuracy, not no veto!
- Public good + public research easier to trust
Know your opposition, and why they feel that way
[COMMENT: Communication strategies in project proposals]

Session 4 African animal development benefits and outreach II

Q: How can smallholder livestock farmers afford to genotype their animals?
It is expensive for small scale farmers to genotype their animals in order to predict productivity so ILRI in conjunction with other collaborators provide them with genotyped bulls or semen to cut down costs. [COMMENT: Intrastructure to ensure have access to better genotypes]
How will African countries gain from the African Chicken Genetic Gains (ACGG) project?
Farmers will have chicken with improved production of eggs and meat which translates to increased income hence improvement in standards of living. [COMMENT: Genetics, our next revolution in food security]
Why genetics?
As seen in the developed world, huge gains can be unlocked through genetics [COMMENTS: Very important resource for Africa and the world. Small investments for large gains]
Importance of insect research
Can be used to create sterile insects. Important for fruit fly control.
Can be used to create self-limiting genes in transgenic insects preventing sexual mating
Note: We need to consider regulation and environmental factors whether we are building the right tools. For example is it a good idea to control malaria by wiping out mosquitoes?

Session 5 wasn't captured in that way. Session 6 was group work and was already synthesised for all during the session itself.

Session 7 Regulation

[COMMENT: Influence of politics!!!]
1. What is the purpose of regulation. Policies <--> Regulation. [COMMENT: Regulate product or process?]
Enough food <--> human and environmental safety. Less focus on penalties
2. Capacity for implementation, assessing risk levels
3. Animals vs. plants?
New dimension: animal welfare (reg. already)
4. Precautionary principle: [COMMENT: Communicate new solutions to problems]
- Relevant?
- Risk
- Uncertainty
- Communicating to public (regulated and accepted) [COMMENT: + legislators]
- Labelling (1% in animals means what?) [COMMENT: Products responding to demand?]
- Traceability (feasible?) [COMMENT: No control = no (mandatory) regulation]
5. What is a GMO?
- New gene editing techniques
- Regulations missing critical issues (e.g. herbicide resistance in plants?)