Friday, November 26, 2010

Seminar on Agribiotechnology: Listen to what is happening in Africa and more…

MABIC is organizing a seminar on agribiotechnology featuring speakers from Nigeria, Egypt, USA and the Philippines. They will talk about the developments in agribiotechnology in Africa, biosafety regulations and biotechnology communication in the Asia Pacific region. The seminar is jointly organized by Centre for Research in Biotechnology for Agriculture (CEBAR), University of Malaya.

I invite all those interested to attend this seminar which is free of charge.

You may find answers to these questions:

1. Does Africa need GM technology?

2. Who does research on GM technology in Africa – public or private sector?

3. Why is there so much of interest in Africa among philanthropic organizations and multinationals?

4. Can GM crops promise food security to Africa?

5. And many more…

See you there on the 29th Nov 2010, 9am, Rimba Ilmu, UM.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

GM Mosquito to Combat Dengue

Every day we read about new cases of dengue and the number is rising, in spite of the heavy campaign carried out by the Ministry of Health. Dengue is a vector-borne tropical disease caused by Aedes aegypti. It can be fatal a disease as timely detection is a problem. Symptoms only appear 3-14 days after the infective bite. The symptoms are the same as any common viral disease and currently there are no specific treatments for dengue. Severe cases can cause hemorrhage. According to World Health Organization (WHO), two fifth of world population, or 2.5 billion are currently at risk of dengue. Every year there might be 50 million dengue cases globally.

Current measures taken to combat dengue have failed to reduce the population of this deadly mosquito. Fogging has not been effective and it also presents another problem where these mosquitoes become resistant to the chemical used. Fogging also only kills adult insects and not the larvae. It creates more environmental problems than being effective in reducing the population of the mosquito. The Ministry of Health is urging the public to clean the surroundings of their house and look out for mosquito breeding grounds. The effectiveness of this measure is really insignificant. As Malaysia receives rain almost every day and water can retain anywhere from flowers pots, drains, roofs, tree trunks, empty containers at landfills to just anywhere, it is just impossible to lookout for the all the possible mosquito breeding grounds.

Doing the same thing year after year and expecting a different result is certainly foolish.

Fortunately, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) approved the confined field trial for GM mosquito after many years of deliberation. This is a new approach to battle against the Aedes. The GM mosquitoes are created at Oxford University and its subsidiary, Oxitec in the UK. The Institute for Medical Research (IMR) in Malaysia is working with Oxitec on this research on mission to suppress the population of Aedes aegypti. The male mosquitoes have been sterilized and will not be able to breed. This will cause population reduction. This in fact, is not a new approach. Sterile insects have been released to the environment in the past to control the population of insect pests in the agriculture sector. Nevertheless the technique used was irradiation which the public care less about. Thanks to many GM opponents who have featured GM technology as more hazardous than irradiation!

If the field trials are successfully conducted and yield the desired results, Malaysians can heave a sigh of relief. We can shed off our label as one of the dengue prone region and remove Malaysia from the dengue global map. Unfortunately, it is not just the science that needs to be strengthened and battled but also the public attitude and concerns. Naysayers and scaremongers are hard at work to ensure this project is halted.

It frustrates to read about all the negative letters and the ONE main question: “who is behind this project and what is the benefit to them?”

Why do we readily embrace all other products that come from the industry and not GM technology? It is beyond me to comprehend the concerns of these people. Does it matter where the technology comes from as long as we are not shortchanged and it is worth every cent we spend?

I must say SYABAS to NRE, the Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) and the National Biosafety Board for upholding scientific principles in approving this technology for field trial. This letter from NRE says it all.

If this technology is successful with Aedes, the next to be eliminated could be the vector for Malaria.

I want to end by saying “Those who want the world to continue in the same way, do not want the world to continue”

By Mahaletchumy Arujanan

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Where Fashion Meets Biotech...

Biotechnology made its way into fashion pages of newspapers for the first time through the efforts of MABIC and BiotechCorp and the support of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM, Perak Campus). MyBio Carnival which took place from 25 Sept – 2 Oct at the National Science Centre in Kuala Lumpur saw fashion luminaries researching on biotech to design their outfits. The fashion design undergraduates of UiTM also got their first taste of biotechnology through the fashion designing competition which was the highlight of the MyBio Carnival. Named BioRunway, it was a platform where fashion designers were inspired by the world of biotechnology.

It was a great achievement for both MABIC and BiotechCorp where we managed to sensitise fashion design community on biotechnology. What more when we got their feedback that they are amazed on the information that they read on biotechnology and their pledge to use biotech motifs in their future designs. Rahman Saif, a leading fashion designer said he is now totally impressed with the new horizon biotech has offered for his future designs.

Karl Ng, another designer is equally impressed and wants to be part of future biotech events where fashion can be used to create awareness. Shegar Chandran wants more of this kind of events to be organized and readily offered his services. There are now talks among these designers to incorporate biotech into bigger fashion shows at the national level. I can’t believe the number of doors that has opened in front of us. Both BiotechCorp and MABIC are very excited about taking this to greater heights and using events of this kind to reach to a wider audience.

And that’s not all, UiTM lecturer, Miss Aniza came all out to support MyBio Carnival. Her students exhibited extraordinary talent and creativity which made the life of judges very difficult. UiTM has now introduced biotech as one of the categories for their final year students. Can we ask more?

With the success of MyBio Carnival in Kuala Lumpur, it was only right to bring this event to other regions. So, MyBio Canrival reincarnated at AIMST University for the Northern region from 8-10 Nov. Rahman Saif made special appearance here and UiTM came in full force.

The audience of both the carnivals saw how DNA, plasmids, natural products, cloning, cells, viruses, fungus and bacteria could make beautiful designs and outfits.

And the most interesting piece – BioRunway is going to make its way into Brazil soon…

By Mahaletchumy Arujanan