Capacity building grants to underscore seed systems development and ag biotech innovation in the Philippines and Africa

Two grants will spur Seed Science Center efforts to enhance the capacity of developing countries to incorporate biotechnology into national and regional initiatives that aim to modernize and strengthen seed systems.

AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University’s Seed Science Center (SSC) has been awarded two back-to-back grants to strengthen the capacities of national seed and biosafety authorities in the Philippines and Africa.  

The Center will lead a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS) to develop seed systems and encourage agricultural biotechnology applications in the Philippines and the African Union. The goal is to train professionals who will drive seed policy development and reforms in biotechnology research and development, as well as scientists and researchers with a strong grasp of the role of biotechnology innovations in advancing seed production and trade.

The effort dovetails a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), “Biotech Innovations for Food Security: An Enabling Policy Platform.” The award aims to foster an enabling policy climate for the introduction of new crops developed using new breeding technologies. The SSC is a sub-grantee to this grant being led by the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Program for Biosafety Systems.

“These two projects recognize that any effort to stave off food insecurity and malnutrition, two grand challenges of our time, begins with quality seeds,” said Manjit Misra, SSC Director. “Ultimately, the goal is to help farmers generate more income so they can feed themselves and their communities. We have a better chance for enduring peace when people have adequate, safe and nutritious food to support a healthy and productive life.”

The two-year USDA-FAS grant involves the online and on-site training of scientists, executives and policymakers, senior technical officers and middle-level managers of national seed and biotech authorities. Face-to-face training of scientists, researchers and officers of African biotechnology and seed authorities will take place in Ethiopia.

The five-year USAID grant calls for an integrated package of technical assistance to implement regionally harmonized seed regulations and agreements for the licensing and release of new biotech varieties in select countries in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The training component of this grant will familiarize leaders and decision makers of agencies with regulatory powers to the entire lifecycle of genome-edited and genetically engineered products.

“Our trainees’ increased capacities to manage and conduct research and development initiatives, as well as drive and implement critical policy reforms, will consequently foster conditions that buttress food security,” said Lulu Rodriguez, SSC Global Programs Leader. “These include a vibrant seed sector able to produce quality seeds and make them available to small-scale farmers, biotech products to feed and nourish growing populations while sustaining the environment, and enhanced trade capacity.”

In these two projects, SSC coordinates the work of a pool of Iowa State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences researchers and external experts on the science and policy applied to plant and animal biotech innovations—from development to commercialization—and seed systems development.

“The SSC has an extensive history of global engagement and experience in this type of collaborative work,” Rodriguez said. “We have been in more than 80 countries over the past 20 years, helping to expand producers’ access to quality seed, facilitate seed trade, and promote the growth of national seed industries.”

About the Seed Science Center

The Seed Science Center at Iowa State University is a national and international center of excellence in seed research, education, technology transfer, and global seed programs.