Q3: Partner Profile – Agriculture & Food Systems Institute

The Agriculture & Food Systems Institute (AFSI) is an independent nonprofit scientific organization with a mission to achieve safe and sustainable agri-food, health, and environmental systems that improve the world. AFSI accomplishes this mission through a combination of applied research, capacity building, and outreach activities as well as through publicly-available databases and tools that help scientists connect with the information they need to engage in food systems improvement and safety. AFSI’s focus is on the nexus between research, policy and innovation, and scientists and others in civil society, government and intergovernmental organizations, industry, and academia look to AFSI as a trusted partner and source for the science on emerging issues.

AFSI staff reviews a field trial for golden rice in Bangladesh with scientists from the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute and the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute.

AFSI has a long-term partnership with CropLife International to advance environmental risk and food safety assessments. This cooperation has led to the publication of important scientific papers on problem formulation for environmental risk assessment, risk assessment for RNAi plants, and frameworks for the assessment of risks to non-target organisms.

In addition, AFSI works with CropLife International teams to identify scientists from the private sector who can contribute to AFSI’s workshops, conferences, and webinars.  To support this work, AFSI maintains the Crop Composition Database – an open data resource for scientists and regulators with an interest in crop composition, especially as it relates to comparative assessment for crops derived from biotechnology.

Beyond its work in convening scientists to address the need for science-based risk assessments for biotechnology, AFSI manages capacity-building programs with local governments to inform the development of functional biotechnology regulatory systems. This includes working with partners in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, through programs like the South Asia Biosafety Program and cooperative agreements with international bodies such as the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture. 

Current focus areas for AFSI include advancing the concept of data transportability in order to facilitate the use of globally available data to inform decision-making. This is especially important in countries that may not have the time, resources, or facilities to repeat field trials for biotech crops or reduce redundant and duplicative testing. AFSI provides regulators and decision makers with training and materials to better understand genome editing, its similarity to traditional plant and animal breeding practices, and the need to provide rational and risk proportionate oversight so that current and future breeding technologies can contribute to global efforts to meet the increasing demand for quality food while supporting safe and sustainable practices.