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Partners for the Online Discussion on Public Awareness of LMOs

Under operational objective 2.1 (d) of the programme of work, the Secretariat, Parties, civil society, industry and academia are invited to foster cooperation and coordination of public awareness and education activities with governments, organizations, UN agencies, civil society, industry, academia and the public. Under priority area 2 to the programme of work, the Secretariat, Parties, relevant organizations and academia are invited to organize joint awareness and educational activities.

In this regard, the Secretariat is promoting partners for the online discussion. If this is of interest, please contact secretariat@cbd.int. So far, the following are partners to the discussion:

United Nations Environment

The United Nations Environment with the support of the Global Environment Facility has conducted development and implementation projects to build capacity to implement Article 23. Over 100 countries have incorporated systems for public awareness, education and participation in their draft and/or final national biosafety frameworks and proposed specific measures for implementation. As a result, many countries have national policies, strategies and programmes on public awareness.

CEE Region

Czech Republic

The United Nations Environment Programme – Global Environment Facility (UNEP-GEF) supported, among others, two projects with components on public awareness: the Development of the National Biosafety Framework (NBF) (2002-2004) and the Implementation of the draft NBF (2006-2010). As a result, the Czech Republic's biosafety strategy was included in the broader national strategies, including the Strategy for Sustainable Development, the National Biodiversity Strategy, the State Programme on Environmental Education and Public Awareness, the Food Safety Strategy and the Action Plan on Health and the Environment.

Based on the initiatives, some of the awareness programmes include: the Ministry of the Environment making information available to the public on its official board through the Internet and in the region where contained use or introduction into the environment of a GMO are expected; the Czech Commission on the Use of GMOs and Genetic Products holding an open meeting for the public once a year, including meetings with media; information provided in the national, European Union and Central portal of the Biosafety Clearing-House; and cooperation on awareness activities with organizations, centres (e.g. Center of Environmental Education), museums, libraries, social societies and NGOs (e.g. Scientific-technical Society, Biotrin), local governments and institutions.

GRULAC Region

Guatemala

Guatemala participated in a series of projects supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). One project was the Development of Biosafety Mechanisms to Strengthen the Implementation of the Cartagena Protocol in Guatemala. The main outcome of the project was the National Biosafety Policy for Living Modified Organisms (2013-2023). The policy, in particular, promotes recommendations for capacity-building related to implementation of Article 23 and the Programme of Work on public awareness, education and participation regarding LMOs. As a result, a public awareness and education strategy on biosafety was developed. Guatemala has implemented the strategy through, among others, conducting surveys, holding workshops for journalists, holding media activities by governmental spokesmen, disseminating publications and maintaining the national Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH Guatemala at http://www.bchguatemala.gob.gt/) with information workshops to different stakeholders, news articles, events and social media sites (e.g. a Facebook site at https://www.facebook.com/bchguatemala/).

African Region

Tunisia

Tunisia participated in a pilot Project on the Development of the National Biosafety Framework (NBF) in 1999 supported by the United Nations Environment and the Global Environment Facility. By the end of this project, a National Biosafety Regulatory Framework was drafted including two relevant laws. Tunisia also participated in the development and implementation of the NBF and the Biosafety Clearing-House projects (BCH I and BCH II). Based on the Programme of Work on public awareness, education and participation concerning the safe transfer, handling and use of LMOs (2011-2015) and extended it until 2020, Tunisia also established the national subcommittee on communication, education and public awareness in 2014 to, among others, facilitate the exchange of information on LMOs in the BCH; and to operationalize the national BCH including the development and validation of information and outreach materials. In addition, Tunisia has a communication plan and in 2016, an NGO was established, the Tunisian Association for Biosafety and Environmental Education (ATB2E) to, among other things, raise awareness among various social groups regarding issues related in particular to biosafety. Tunisia also shares various outreach materials and other information on a regular basis through, among other things, Dropbox, USB keys, CD-ROMs in French, Arabic and other national languages.

Asian and the Pacific Region

Viet nam

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) supported Vietnam in the first Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH) project as well as add-on projects of the development and implementation of the national biosafety framework. Besides the establishment and operation of a national BCH, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) has formulated regulations to enable the operation of the national BCH. The national BCH provides, among others, information on a network of experts on biosafety, materials, publications, conferences, workshops. Since 2006, MONRE has been collaborating with other ministries and international organizations to conduct various workshops and training in order to enhance capacity and awareness for various stakeholders, including management of staff and researchers at the central and local levels. Information on biosafety is also widely published through mass media. Other outreach materials that are helping to improve biosafety awareness were also developed and distributed. These include, for example, frequently asked questions about GMOs and pocket books on fundamental knowledge about biosafety.

MONRE has also raised awareness by carrying out a series of nation-wide training and outreach activities. One of the initiatives includes to the Circular No. 09/2012/TT-BTNMT, dated 22 August 2012, from the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment on the provision and exchange of information and data on GMOs. This Circular provides specific provisions on figures, information and databases on GMOs, the development and management of a database on GMOs, and the posting, provision, exploitation and use of information. These initiatives give mandates to different organizations regarding the proper sharing of information on biosafety.

WEOG Region

The Netherlands

Article 23 is implemented in a number of ways for example through integrating it into other strategies and policies regarding biosafety. Public participation in decisions on specific LMO applications is strictly regulated in European Union (EU) and Dutch law, including mandatory publication of draft decisions. The Dutch and EU policies and regulation regarding biosafety are available online. The independent journalistic organization “Nemo Kennislink” provides information as well as the opportunity for the general public to discuss topics within the realm of modern biotechnology (e.g. on the website, social media and during ´live´ evening events). Communication efforts are usually part of a larger programme. For example, a programme is held to explore methods to modernize Dutch policies and regulation regarding modern biotechnology. Within that context, stakeholders and the general public are involved in a number of ways.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has contributed to the promotion of public awareness regarding LMOs through a number of ongoing activities. These include through the FAO Biotechnology website and e-mail newsletter FAO-BiotechNews, both published in all six official UN languages, as well as the FAO Biotechnology Forum. The website provides access to relevant information to the public including news updates concerning ongoing biotechnology and biosafety activities and existing publications. Likewise the FAO Biotechnology Forum, established in 2000, provides a platform for the exchange of views and experiences on agricultural biotechnologies.

FAO has also supported a number of biosafety projects for promoting public awareness LMOs. For example, FAO’s publication on "Building biosafety capacities: FAO's experience and outlook" gives an overview of 26 FAO biosafety capacity-building projects worth approximately USD 7.5 million that have been completed or are underway, including 18 national projects as well as six that are subregional, regional or interregional and two that are global. In 2011, FAO also published its essential "Biosafety Resource Book" based on materials from training courses organized by FAO from 2002 to 2010 which were tailored to meet the needs of biosafety regulators, policy-makers and members of national biosafety committees. The book consists of five modules, including on risk communication.

In 2016, the FAO organized an International Symposium on “The Role of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition” at FAO Headquarters with over 400 participants (from governments, intergovernmental organizations, private sector entities, civil society organizations, academia/research organizations and producer organizations/cooperatives). Proceedings and a summary report are available at http://www.fao.org/about/meetings/agribiotechs-symposium/en/. As highlighted in the symposium there is a need to bring the dialogue from the global to the regional level, so FAO organized two regional meetings in 2017. The first for Asia-Pacific, on 11-13 September in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the second for Sub-Saharan Africa, on 22-24 November, 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. More information on the two regional meetings is available at http://www.fao.org/asiapacific/events/detail-events/en/c/1440/ and http://www.fao.org/africa/events/detail-events/en/c/1035227/ respectively.

Third World Network

The Biosafety Information Centre is a website set up and managed by Third World Network. The goals are to: • Increase knowledge on, and deepen understanding of, (w)holistic approaches for a comprehensive assessment of technologies and techniques that involve genetic engineering • Contribute to a wider public discussion and critical understanding of the scientific, ecological , social, economic and ethical dimensions of genetic engineering under the rubric of biosafety • Contribute to the enhancement of the biosafety capacity of policy makers and regulators in developing countries • Promote research (including the identification of gaps in knowledge) on biosafety • Promote research on, and implementation of, sustainable systems for agriculture, health and ecological integrity • Promote understanding of, and respect for, the rights, knowledge and practices of indigenous peoples and local communities

The Biosafety Information Center is available at Information Center

The Biosafety Information Service is an electronic mailing that provides a wide range of information related to biosafety; shares developments and experiences on biosafety policies, laws and practices as they evolve at the international, regional and national levels; and promotes the implementation of sustainable systems for agriculture, health and ecological integrity. The objective is to provide a flow of information, particularly to policy makers, regulators, scientists, researchers and civil society organisations in developing countries so that informed decisions can be made on the basis of comprehensive and most up-to-date data and analysis.

Croplife International

Croplife International has facilitated public awareness of issues related to biosafety and GMOs. One such project that its members support is the GMO Answers website and program that enables consumers to ask questions about GMOs and get answers from independent volunteer experts, including farmers, dietitians, nutritionists, scientists and researchers. It also has videos, articles, infographs, information materials and other resources. The website is available at www.gmoanswers.com.