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Session 1: Summary of the first part of the debate & Call for comments [#776]
This message is posted by Hartmut Meyer, the moderator of this online forum. I hope that the summary of the contributions cover all main issues raised by you during the first phase of this debate. Based on your contributions, I have compiled suggestions how the BCH could deal with the issues and try to support officals and stakeholders in their work with regard to RA and PMM. I would like to urge you to post your comments and amendments during the next days.


A) on information:
- A lot of informal and formal information (on the common LMOs) is available in the internet
- Many users seem not to be aware of the existence of official information sources or cannot access/use them efficiently
- it is problematic to find information to support RA and PMM that is relevant for the receiving environment, this refers to both the LMO and the possibly affected goods like non-target organisms, wild species
- guidance seems to be necessary to show users what kind of information they can find where

B) on capacity building:
- most capacity building was on paper so far
- need for development of experimental protocols, evaluation methods and trained personnel for RA and PMM
- need for increased cooperation and synergy between the different national institutions
- institutional capacities, human resources training, research development and environmental monitoring seems to be related to the degree of adoption of LMOs, to greater or lesser investment in science and technology and to the development of domestic and export markets for LMOs
- developing countries / countries in transition might receive applications for LMOs that have not been released elsewhere in the world and thus cannot draw on existing information
- need to develop guidance documents etc in national languages
- need to adapt and use existing information on environment, agriculture, geology, climate etc. for PMM
- need to include LMOs into existing environmental monitoring programs and to adapt these programs accordingly


The BCH should further enhance its capacity building web page in such a way that it not only presents information about biosafety meetings but also gives overviews about their topics, outcomes and recommendations/decisions. The web page should also give overviews and links on competent authorities that are engaged in national decision making on LMOs and on biosafety capacity building initiatives in RA and PMM. This more explicit form of the presentation would make it more easy for the users to find their way through the amount of information that is already available and to see where the gaps are when developing systems for RA and PMM that take into account the specific characteristica in the individual countries.

Following items could be covered by the web page:

A) general information on biosafety capacity building resulting from the work of the Coordination Mechanism meetings eg. special topics, lectures, country reports

B) overviews on the content of the very useful reports of the SCBD on the status of capacity building

C) specific information eg. the lectures and outcome of the regional meetings on capacity building in risk assessment

D) links to official governmental web pages that present information, guidance and decisions on risk assessment and post-marketing monitoring (the link to the Australian web page was given during the debate, the BCH should present a list of as much as possible web pages of the competent authority(ies))
eg. Cuba: guide for RA/RM of LMOs, available in the BCH soon

E) links to the national BCHs
eg. Costa Rica: national BCH http://cr.biosafetyclearinghouse.net/

F) links to capacity building projects that deal with risk assessment and post-marketing monitoring, following links where given during the debate, more links should be added:
- Asian Biosafety Education Network: network of scientists and academicians from public sector of China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam - http://www.aben.ait.ac.th
- BiosafeTrain: collaboration with scientists from University of Nairobi and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute in Kenya, Makerere University in Uganda, University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, University of Aarhus and University of Copenhagen, Denmark, funded by the programme on Enhancement of Research Capacity (ENRECA), Danida - http://www.biosafetrain.dk/
- Biosafety Project of Desarrollo Medio Ambiental Sustentable, Peru: http://www.asdmas.com/bioseguridad
- GMO ERA Project: initiative driven by public sector scientists, most of whom have strong expertise in environmental science, as well as biotechnology and socioeconomics. The project has identified and developed scientific methodologies and teaching tools that can be used for environmental risk assessment (ERA) and management of transgenic plants - http://www.gmoera.umn.edu
- International Life Science Institute, USA: Training Workshops on Safety and Risk Assessment of GM Foods and Feeds - http://www.ilsi.org/AboutILSI/IFBIC/IFBICcoreactivities.htm

G) Resources, handbooks etc of high general interest:
- Environmental Risk Assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms, Series editors A.R. Kapusinski and P.J. Schei, GEF Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel
Volume 1: A Case Study of Bt Maize in Kenya
Volume 2: Methodologies for Assessing Bt Cotton in Brazil
Volume 4: Challenges and Opportunities with Bt Cotton in Vietnam
posted on 2008-11-20 15:49 UTC by Dr. Hartmut Meyer, Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
RE: Session 1: Summary of the first part of the debate & Call for comments [#791]
Dear Colleagues:
Hi! My name is behzad ghareyazie, President, Biosafety society of Iran. I would like to thank you all for your contributions and in partcular tahnk Hartmut Meyer, the moderator of this online forum for his excellent summary of the contributions. I wish to add to this summary the followings:

A) on information:
- I beleive there should be a mechanism for the validation of the information before including them in on BCH. It is OK to post the official information provided by the governments, but it would be very interesting to include "other" information on the same subject from academia, NGOs and media. Sometimes some of the information provided by some governments do not seem to be correct or at least up to date.

B) on capacity building:
- capacity building should be considered as a continious process and can not be achieved by one training course or one project. It requires delivering some balanced information to the politicians and decision makers in most developing countries.
- preparation on a training tool (similar to the one produced by FAO) and using this tool as training amterial in developing countries will result in more harmony and efficiency in delivering the message.
- Developing countries are not a homogeneous set of countries and there exists huge differences in terms of their capacities in RA and PMM and their needs. Case by case approach is the best approach for building capacity for each and every developing country. This case-by-case approach is not contradictory to regional activities in capacity biulding but require some flexibility and some extention of the activities specifically designed to meet the special situation in every developing country in that region.


I liked the suggestions. All of them look very interesting. I would like to add to the resources of high general interest, the following  tool which is in pre-publication state now.
"GM food safety assessment, tools for trainers". This tool was developped under the supervision of Dr. Massami Takeuchi of FAO and is currently used for capacity actvities/projects delivered by FAO for developing countries.
I will ask FAO if I can provide you with a pdf copy (since it has not yet been released officially).
posted on 2008-11-22 09:30 UTC by Mr. Behzad Ghareyazie, Iran (Islamic Republic of)
RE: Session 1: Summary of the first part of the debate & Call for comments [#821]
Behzad, i thought that the mechanisms for validation of information of countries was left with the BCH national focal point.  I also observe quite often that information is updated by countries on the BCH.  I suppose that the National BCH Focal Points just have to be more vigilant to ensure that information posted is accurate and up to date.
posted on 2008-11-28 15:16 UTC by Ms. Anita James, Saint Lucia
RE: Session 1: Summary of the first part of the debate & Call for comments [#831]
Dear All,

My name is Piet van der Meer. I have been involved in biosafety since 1986, the first 13 years for the Dutch Government and the last 9 years providing support to Governments and various international organizations, among which the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI).

First of all, I agree with Darja that these discussion fora are a fabulous instrument to share views and experiences and to discuss matters, and I thank particularly those colleagues who took the trouble of posting their comments in two languages.

The moderators have pretty well summarized most of these initial discussions, and the main question is: now what? or, as the discussion page says: “what are the next steps?”

As Erie summarized under the heading “conclusion”: the challenges ahead are enormous.

I agree with that, and in order to define next steps we have to fine tune what those challenges exactly are.

Following up on Hartmut’s useful approach to address the different topics (e.g. information, capacity) separately, I submit the following for your digestion:

1. Methodology:

The methodology of risk assessment as outlined in Annex III of the CPB is scientifically sound and based on the experience of over 2 decades of risk assessment.

While this methodology is generally applicable for all types and uses of GMOs, further guidance how to apply this methodology in specific areas will be useful.

One particularly important question is the first step of the risk assessment, i.e. the identification of potential adverse effects. This is often source of confusion and the suggestion to pay extra attention to “problem formulation” is a very welcome one.

Another important aspect with regard to the methodology of Annex III is to have further discussion as to which “points to consider” of annex III are addressed in which of the steps mentioned in annex III.

I trust that all these questions will be addressed in the discussion fora on risk assessment.

2. Information

Hartmut made a pertinent observation that there is a lot of information available.

This is very true, there is a lot of information available, varying from information that has been gathered over hundreds of years, such as the wealth of knowledge over the behaviour of crops plants in agricultural and natural environments, and very recent information resulting from RA research. This information available also varies from peer reviewed articles in scientific journals to newspaper articles about ‘hear say’.

There is an unbelievable amount of information available and the trick is not only to find information, but also to identify the data tat are relevant to the risk assessment of a particular case. Both finding information and identifying the relevant scientific data are key elements of biosafety capacity building.

The BCH can play a very important role in this respect, and we need much more effort to enter data in the BCH. This should include basic scientific data as well as links to existing guidance documents and capacity building projects on biosafety.

Following Hartmut’s invitation to mention more examples of existing capacity building projects, I would suggest the PRRI draft guide on risk assessment (http://pubresreg.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=29&Itemid=40) and the UNIDO distant learning courses (http://binas.unido.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page).

Bearing in mind the limited resources for travel, e-learning courses can– although not a panacea – offer some very attractive solutions

3. Capacity

With regard to capacity I would distinguish between 1) human and financial resources and 2) the scientific capacity.

With regard to the human and financial resources, much has been said already by Erie and I share John Komen’s views on this.

As regards the scientific capacity I often underline in training workshops that risk assessment is not as much a new science but to a large extent a particular, methodical way of making use of existing knowledge and experience. Much of the required scientific capacity is often available with the plant breeders, ecologists etc etc in countries, and training how to use that scientific capacity is a key aspect of biosafety capacity building.

Piet van der Meer
posted on 2008-11-28 23:58 UTC by Mr. Piet van der Meer, Ghent University, Belgium