National Node of the BCH
Capacity Building Activities, Projects and Opportunities
Record information and status
Record ID
Date of creation
2001-11-28 22:48 UTC (dubravka.stepic@biodiv.org)
Date of last update
2010-01-11 11:41 UTC (intern.ross.carroll@cbd.int)
Date of publication
2010-01-11 11:41 UTC (intern.ross.carroll@cbd.int)

General information
Title of the initiative
International Workshop on Biosafety Regulatory Capacity-Building (Canada-Mexico Workshop)
Contact person
Mr. Marcus Ballinger
Environment Canada
International Policy and Coordination Branch, 22nd Floor
Les Terrasses de la Chaudiere
10 Wellington Street, Hull K1A 0H3, Canada
Beneficiary country(ies)
  • Mexico/global scope
  • Global
Type of initiative
Start Date
Ending date
Donor(s) information
Agency(ies) or Organization(s) implementing or sponsoring the initiative (Additional Information)
  • Organization: Mexican Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheres; and Environment Canada
  • Type of Organization: Bilateral Donor Agency
Budget information
Government of Canada
Government of Mexico
Availability of funds for participants
Activity details
Description of the initiative
This International workshop examined the basic elements of biosafety regulatory frameworks, explored the experience gained in countries with economies at different stages of development in implementing a biosafety framework and reviewed current capacity-building initiatives. Special emphasis was placed on identifying the emerging needs of developing countries and countries with economies in transition to implement the basic elements of a biosafety regulatory system as envisaged by the Biosafety Protocol.

Papers on the experience to date were presented by Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico and the Russia Federation. Cameroon, India, Malaysia, and Brazil presented papers on their emerging needs to manage biosafety. Papers by UNEP, ISNAR, the European Commission, Australia, Canada, the United States, and Japan described and assessed current capacity-building efforts.

Participants discussed four topics in workshops, each of which produced a summary report of discussions: 1) regulation; 2) risk assessment and risk management; 3) administrative implementation and 4) information supply and public participation. These workshops are described briefly below.

Workshop 1: Emerging needs in regulation: different ways of implementing biosafety regulations- The workshop focus included biosafety regulations on LMO-related development activities that range from regulations on contained uses to confined releases, small- and large- scale field trials, deliberate field releases, and the consumption of products, including transboundary movement, in order to safeguard the biologically diverse resources and the environment as well as human and animal health. Emerging needs for biosafety regulation in developing countries and countries with economies in transition depend largely on the existing level and anticipation of the development of modern biotechnology within respective countries and/or regions. Of immediate concern are the regulations on notification and applications for importation for contained use and field trials of transgenic plants or animals from developed countries to be carried out in countries with no biosafety regulation or guidelines available or being enforced. In addition to the lack of appropriate biosafety regulation, these countries also lack required human resources and experience to handle such tasks and responsibility.

Workshop 2: Risk assessment and risk management The workshop identified risk assessment needs including: (a) Identification of necessary experience and training for risk assessment using the following strategies: use of the UNEP Guidelines as starting points to identify disciplines; having flexibility to bring in other disciplines as necessary; identifying personnel to be trained- a core group who can then train others to maximize continuity; provision of hands on training through an iterative process which builds on existing efforts; and using existing regional efforts as models for other regions; (b) Identification of information that is needed - e.g., on biodiversity, on local crops, on centres of origin and diversity, using the following strategies: regional efforts on centres of origin; and collection of information on crops used at local or regional level; (c) Identification of information that is available and systems for accessing the information in real time, using the following strategies: compilation of websites; provision of Internet access points that can then disseminate information to the rest of country; mailings of risk assessment reviews; and establishing closer links between government, private, and research institutes; (d) Access to experts through rosters at the regional and international levels. Risk management and risk mitigation needs include: (a) Appropriate facilities and technical resources, to be addressed through centres of excellence on a regional basis; (b) Human-resource training through: hands-on training, remembering that those to be trained may differ from those people involved in risk assessment; and use of regional institutions to help with national programmes; (c) Sharing of experiences through workshops at regular time frames at the regional and international levels, and the provision of internships; (d) Risk management communication through effective use of media, public information meetings, and use of industry to communicate risk management to users.

Workshop 3: Administrative aspects of implementing biosafety regulations The lack of experts in the field was identified as a key constraint. This is reflected by the general insufficiency of knowledge of the subject matter, as well as by the gaps in specific areas of biosafety in the different countries. These deficiencies can be observed both at the level of the competent authorities and at the level of the advisory bodies. A number of approaches were proposed to address these, including a national-level mentoring programme, in addition to educating and training people within the country. At the regional level, it was proposed to create regional groups of experts in order to fulfil the needs for expertise in subjects important in the different geographic regions. At the global level. the workshop agreed that a possible solution might consist of putting a list of independent experts at the disposal of the countries, to be included in the mechanism already in place for the exchange of information under the Convention on Biological Diversity. With regard to handling of notifications.

Workshop 4: Information supply and public participation Discussions were broad in scope and emphasized the importance of education and dissemination regarding biotechnology and biodiversity more than information supply and public participation in the decision-making processes regarding biosafety.

National level activities
Development of national biosafety frameworks
Objective and main expected outcomes or lesson learned
To provide an opportunity to explore further practical efforts in biosafety regulatory capacity building to meet the emerging needs of developing countries and countries with economies in transition to implement the Biosafety Protocol.

Lessons learned
1) The workshop identified the lack of human resources as one of the principal areas that must be addressed.

2) It is important to build the capacity of government officials to assess information contained in the advanced informed agreement notification and in the risk assessment, in order for them to make it available to the public.

3) It is important to produce information related to risk assessment and management regarding specific releases of LMOs to the environment.

4) A simple disaggregation of the public clearly reveals the need to develop specific materials for target audiences.

5) Public acceptability of regulations and decision making in biosafety is a very important issue related to all aspects of information supply and public participation (education, dissemination, the Biosafety Clearing-House, etc).
General thematic area(s)
  • Human resources capacity development and training
  • Public awareness, participation and education in biosafety