Sampling, Detection and Identification
The detection and identification of living modified organisms (LMOs) is a broad reaching activity, which can facilitate the application of several articles of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. In the context of Article 18, which addresses the issue of the handling, transport, packaging and identification of LMOs, the detection and identification of LMOs plays a part in the ability of national authorities to distinguish whether or not there are LMOs in a shipment both through proper packaging and labelling of shipments and through the analytical, laboratory based analysis of the contents of a shipment to detect unauthorised and unintended LMOs.
Furthermore the identification of LMOs is also vital to the activities relating to Risk Management as outlined in Article 16 which requires Parties to adopt measures and strategies for preventing adverse effects and for managing and controlling risks identified by risk assessments. This may involve risk management activities such as monitoring the receiving environment in which detection and identification can be used as a tool. This can be further applied to the provisions of implementing Articles 17 and 25 on unintentional and illegal transboundry movements respectively.
Current 2023-2024 intersessional period
At its tenth meeting, in decision CP-10/11, the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (COP-MOP) welcomed the publication of Biosafety Technical Series 05: Training Manual on the Detection and Identification of Living Modified Organisms in the Context of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Further, the COP-MOP invited Parties to submit information on their experience detecting newly developed and unauthorized living modified organisms, and developing reference materials, as well as ongoing collaborations involving national and regional laboratories. At its twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth meeting, the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice will consider the information submitted by Parties and prepare a recommendation to the COP-MOP regarding the need to update the training manual on the detection and identification of living modified organisms. In addition, the COP-MOP requested the Executive Secretary to continue the work mandated under decision CP-9/11, such as online discussion of the Network of Laboratories for the Detection and Identification of Living Modified Organisms, among others.
Implementation Plan and Capacity-Building Action Plan for the Protocol
Furthermore, in decisions CP-10/3 and CP-10/4, the new Implementation Plan and Capacity-Building Action Plan for the Cartagena Protocol for the period up to 2030 were also adopted. The plans include a goal specific to the detection and identification of LMOs (Goal A.8 “Parties are able to detect and identify LMOs”). The goal aims to ensure that Parties are able to respond to unintentional and illegal transboundary movements and to implement the handling, transport, packaging and identification requirements in accordance with the Protocol.
The objectives of Goal A.8 of the Implementation Plan are:
A.8.1. Parties have access to the necessary technical infrastructure and expertise for the detection and identification of LMOs;
A.8.2. Parties have access to and use appropriate resource materials for the detection and identification of LMOs; and
A.8.3. Parties have access to and use the necessary information to detect and identify LMOs, including detection methods and certified reference materials
With the adoption of the Strategic Plan for implementation of the Protocol for the period 2011-2020 by the COP-MOP as per decision BS-V/16, several outcomes were set out that are relevant to LMO sampling, detection and identification, specifically:
- Easy to use and reliable technical tools for the detection of unauthorized LMOs are developed and made available (under Focal Area 1, Operational Objective 1.6);
- Guidance developed to assist Parties to detect and take measures to respond to unintentional releases of living modified organisms (under Focal Area 1, Operational Objective 1.8); and
- Personnel are trained and equipped for sampling, detection and identification of LMOs (under Focal Area 2, Operational Objective 2.3).
The successful implementation of these operational objectives will have a direct impact on the application of several articles of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, as represented below.
In working towards establishing activities relating to the sampling, detection and identification of LMOs, the COP-MOP at its fifth meeting, in decision BS-V/9, requested the establishment, through the Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH), of an electronic network of laboratories involved in the detection and identification of LMOs and the organization of workshops for representatives of detection laboratories with the view to making progress toward the outcomes of the Strategic Plan.
In moving towards the implementation of the relevant operational objectives of the Strategic Plan and elements of decision BS-VI/16 the Network of Laboratories for the Detection and Identification of Living Modified Organisms included in its objectives activities to make progress towards the outcomes under, inter alia, operational objective 1.8. As a result of its activities, the Network launched a compilation of Technical Tools and Guidance for the Detection and Identification of LMOs.
At the eighth meeting, in its decision CP-VIII/16, the COP-MOP invited Parties to nominate experts in the field of LMO detection and identification to the roster of biosafety experts and requested continued online discussions of the Online Network of Laboratories for the Detection and Identification of Living Modified Organisms. The COP-MOP noted the draft training manual on detection and identification of LMOs and requested the Executive Secretary to continue working on the draft manual in collaboration of the Online Network of Laboratories for the Detection and Identification of Living Modified Organisms and to make the manual available for consideration by the ninth meeting of the Parties.
At the ninth meeting of the Parties, in decision CP-9/11, the COP-MOP took note of the draft manual on detection and identification of living modified organisms as a tool for building capacities in this field. Furthermore, the COP-MOP encouraged Parties to require the responsible operator of a living modified organism to provide information or access, direct or indirect, to reference materials to enable the laboratory work on detection and identification of such organisms for regulatory purposes. The COP-MOP invited Parties to submit information on (a) their capacities and needs with regard to detection and identification of LMOs and (b) a list of laboratories, including information on specific activities carried out by such laboratories. The list of laboratories can be accessed on the Biosafety Clearing-House.
For related key issues under the Protocol, also see Unintentional Transboundary Movements and Emergency Measures (Article 17) and Handling, Transport, Packaging and Identification (Article 18).