Friday, May 31, 2019

ISAAA's New Journey Begins

Message from ISAAA's Global Coordinator, Dr. Mahaletchumy Arujanan

Every time I have problems with the plants in my garden, my thoughts go to all the farmers who struggle in their farms facing a myriad of challenges from climate change, pests, diseases, and chemical hazards to all kinds of other biotic and abiotic stresses. This community relentlessly face these challenges to put food on our table. There is one more huge hurdle - access to modern agri-innovation, especially superior seeds. Farmers are just like us who want the latest technologies to do their job excellently. However, many countries do not have the political will and know-how to embrace modern agri-biotechnology, coupled with activism by critics of this technology.

ISAAA was created almost three decades ago to ensure farmers have access to agri-innovation. ISAAA played a key role in ensuring that biotech crops reach the poorest farmers in the developing world. ISAAA coined the word “biotech crops” as all foods that we eat are “genetically modified” (GM). GM is a legal term and not scientific.

ISAAA is the 1st organization that documented the statistics of biotech crops, their traits, and adoption in our annual publication, “Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops,” which is the most cited literature in modern agri-biotechnology.

The work done by ISAAA translates into increased farmer income which means better socioeconomic benefits for this community; sustainable development where more food could be produced with reduced environmental impact; reduced trade barriers; regulatory reform to ensure increased approval and adoption of biotech crops; and enhanced public understanding of modern agribiotechnology that enables them to make informed decisions.

The impact created by ISAAA in all major continents makes me extremely proud to be at the helm as its Global Coordinator.

We, at ISAAA, are steadfast in modernizing and customizing our approaches, be it our publications, capacity building programs, workshops, or trainings. We feel this is important as we move into the era of new media, emerging gene technologies, and the need to reach out to a wider audience, including the millennials.

My mission is to make ISAAA the “go-to resource center” for information on agri-biotechnology and as a strategic partner to support the adoption of gene technologies in many parts of the world. Our GM Approval Database is a testament for this and our experienced team in all three continents (Asia, Africa, and and the Americas) have been instrumental in changing the landscape to be more receptive towards biotech crops.

We are now putting more efforts to customize and modernize our data. We are eagerly and effectively translating our data into knowledge for ready use by all key stakeholders.

Join our journey as we realize the full potential of modern biotechnology to achieve agricultural sustainability and development.


Dr. Arujanan is also the Executive Director of the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC), the Malaysian node of ISAAA's global network of Biotechnology Information Centres (BICs). MABIC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the understanding of biotechnology in Malaysia at all levels of society.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

ISAAA Has New Global Coordinator

Malaysian Biotechnology Information Center Executive Director, Dr. Mahaletchumy Arujanan, is now the new ISAAA Global Coordinator

Maha has been instrumental in motivating the ISAAA network of Biotechnology Information Centers through her innovations in communicating the science of biotechnology. The Petri Dish, the only science newspaper in Malaysia, is her brainchild which aims to bring scientific news from academic journals to the public. She also started the first short course on agri-biotechnology, biosafety and communication in Asia to establish institutional memory in this area in Asia for the benefits of Asian regulators and scientists.

"I have been with ISAAA since January 2003 and it has helped me to find my identity and purpose."

Maha holds a BS degree in Microbiology and Biochemistry, an MS in Biotechnology, and PhD in Science Communication at the University of Malaya. She has been with ISAAA through MABIC since 2003 and has been a strong advocate of biotechnology, building capacities and forming networks in different countries all over the world. In 2010, she won The World Academy of Sciences Regional Prize for Public Understanding of Science for East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. Scientific American’s WorldView named her as one of the 100 most influential persons in biotech in the world in 2015. In the same year, Biotech Law Report published by Mary Ann Liebert in the USA listed Dr. Arujanan as one of the women in Biotech Law and Regulations. Malaysian Women’s Weekly also listed her as one of the “Great Women of our Time” in their December 2015 issue. She is also currently appointed as the communications specialist for Sri Lanka for the Food and Agriculture Organization on biosafety.

Maha sharing her experiences at Lean In in Malaysia

“I have been with ISAAA since January 2003 and it has helped me to find my identity and purpose, just like how ISAAA has changed the lifestyle of millions of farmers in developing countries. Many farmers built proper houses and sent their children to schools and colleges after adopting modern biotechnology and biotech crops. This is the mission we share to make the planet greener while giving the socio-economic benefits to the poorest who feed us and ensuring food security,” says Dr. Arujanan.

Dr. Arujanan will remain based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Read more about her in this article.