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Capacity-building in environmental risk assessment and post-release monitoring of LMOs: current status, priority needs and future capacity-building measures

Online conference: 3–28 November 2008

This conference is now closed. All previous posts are available for reading by following the links below:

Conference background

At its first meeting, the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol Biosafety (COP-MOP) established a Coordination Mechanism to, inter alia, facilitate interaction and exchange information, views and ideas on different topics and emerging issues and to facilitate the sharing of knowledge, experiences, good practices and lessons learned.

At the third coordination meeting of Governments and organizations involved in implementing and/or funding biosafety capacity-building activities, which was held in February 2007 in Lusaka, Zambia, participants identified environmental risk assessment and post-release monitoring of LMOs among the top priority areas in which urgent capacity-building support and further guidance are needed by many countries. The participants agreed to discuss, at the fifth coordination meeting, the specific capacity needs and priorities, the current status, the experiences gained and lessons learned and propose forward-looking strategies for enhancing capacity-building in these two areas.

At the fourth coordination meeting, which was held 11 - 13 February 2008 in New Delhi, India, the Secretariat was requested to organize, prior to the fifth meeting, an online conference to allow for an initial sharing of experiences, views and ideas on the above issues and prepare for a background paper to facilitate the face-to-face discussions at the fifth coordination meeting.


Risk assessment and post-release monitoring of living modified organisms (LMOs) are key cornerstones to achieving the objective of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The Protocol aims to contribute to ensuring an adequate level of protection in the field of the safe transfer, handling and use of LMOs resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health.

The Protocol requires Parties to make decisions on import of LMOs for intentional introduction into the environment in accordance with scientifically sound risk assessments (Article 15). Risk assessment should be carried out to identify and evaluate the potential adverse effects of LMOs on biological diversity in the likely receiving environment, taking also into account risks to human health. The Protocol also requires Parties to adopt measures for preventing adverse effects and for managing risks identified by risk assessments (Articles 16). Post-release monitoring of LMOs is one such important measure and is aimed to enable relevant authorities to detect or predict indirect or unforeseen adverse effects of LMOs and take appropriate measures in a timely manner.

Risk assessment and post-release monitoring of LMOs are technical undertakings that require specialised knowledge, skills and technical resources, including expertise in different scientific and technical fields, appropriate infrastructure, access to relevant data and information and adequate financial resources. However, one of the major impediments to the effective implementation of the Protocol is that many developing countries and countries with economies in transition currently lack the necessary capacities to effectively carry out or review risk assessments and post-release monitoring of LMOs. This limitation has been recognised in different reports and fora including the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (COP-MOP). For example, the Action Plan for Building Capacities for the Effective Implementation of the Protocol, adopted by the first meeting of the COP-MOP in decision BS-I/5, and revised in decision BS-III/3, identifies risk assessment and risk management as among the 15 key areas that require urgent action. Also, in their first regular national reports on the implementation of the Protocol, most countries highlighted the importance of capacity-building in the field of risk assessment and risk management.

At its meeting held 15-18 November 2005 in Rome, the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Risk Assessment, which was established by the second meeting of the COP-MOP, identified a number of areas where limitations in capacity may be an impediment to the effective implementation of the risk assessment provisions of the Protocol at the national level as well as where capacity-building activities may be particularly important. These relate to human resource capacity, information and infrastructure needs. The AHTEG also identified some possible measures and activities to improve risk assessment capacities including:

  1. hands-on training in specific aspects of risk assessment,
  2. promotion of academic training and education programs,
  3. establishment of networks of risk assessment experts,
  4. improvement of infrastructure/facilities, @ support for local biosafety research and
  5. sharing of risk assessment information.