AFSI Newsletter - June 2021
Independent Food Systems Summit Dialogue: Unleashing Innovation to Transform Local Food Systems
This September, the United Nations will convene the first Food Systems Summit intended to launch bold new actions to transform the way the world produces and consumes food. Leading up to the event, Independent Food Systems Summit Dialogues are being convened to crowdsource sustainable, locally based, locally led, and fully adaptable solutions to strengthen local and global food systems. Hosted by CropLife International (CLI) in partnership with the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute (AFSI), Cornell Alliance for Science, Global Farmer Network, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture, and Thought for Food, Unleashing Innovation to Transform Local Food Systems was an Independent Food Systems Summit Dialogue focusing on innovation challenges, opportunities, synergies, and areas of divergence that exist across major agricultural regions, as well as common priorities at the global level. The dialogue was divided into two sessions, one focusing on Asia and Africa and another focusing on Europe and the Americas. On May 18, 2021, Dr. Vibha Ahuja, South Asia Biosafety Program Senior Advisor, served as the facilitator for the South Asia breakout group, and all AFSI scientific staff participated in the event. AFSI staff also contributed to the session on May 20, and outcomes of the Dialogue will be published by CLI. In general, participants identified the increasing divide between rural and urban stakeholders in terms of both knowledge and values, the need to make technologies available to farmers and producers if they are to address the challenges of increased production and decreased environmental impacts, and the need to better align regulatory policies to support innovation as priority areas for future effort.
Contributing to the Advancement of Local Food Systems
Many forces are transforming how food, feed, and fiber will be provided to meet the world's needs, including climate change, urbanization, competition for natural resources, changes in dietary patterns, scientific innovation, as well as changing values around nutrition and equity. AFSI contributes to an understanding of these complexities by empowering stakeholders across the globe with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions. Below are a few examples of how our programs are contributing to the advancement of local food systems in specific geographies.
Strengthening Governance of Biotechnology in India & Bangladesh
Supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), our South Asia Biosafety Program is dedicated to assisting India and Bangladesh in further strengthening their institutional governance of biotechnology. Through publications, grant programs, and technical training, we work with in-country partners to identify and respond to local needs, develop a network of trained experts to communicate about the science of agricultural biotechnology, and facilitate systems for permitting the safe conduct of experimental field trials of new crops developed using biotechnology.

Promoting Use of Relevant Field Trial Data Across Geographies
Confined field trials (CFTs) are conducted to inform environmental risk assessments of genetically engineered crops. But instead of repeating trials in every country where a GE crop might be grown, data from previous trials, including those cultivated in similar agroclimates, may provide all that is necessary. In collaboration with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), we have hosted workshops in both Ethiopia and Uganda to discuss the GEnZ Explorer, AFSI's free visualization tool that allows CFT locations to be characterized with respect to agroclimatic zone to facilitate data transportability.

Providing Training on Safety Assessments of Foods & Feeds Derived from GE Plants
Evidence-based safety assessments conducted using internationally accepted best practices help reduce complexity, time, and costs for all stakeholders. AFSI conducts technical training for regulators and public sector scientists who are called upon to undertake safety assessments on behalf of institutional or national biosafety committees. This includes training around concepts and principles of GE food safety assessment, as well as experiential learning opportunities in state-of-the-art testing facilities. Our multi-phased training program has been conducted three times since 2014, including over 50 participants from 9 countries, with the most recently concluded in-person training provided to Chinese experts.