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Discussion Group 2

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Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3293]
Dear Forum Participant,

Welcome to Theme 1 on "Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information".

We welcome you to answer the guiding questions listed below.

1. What procedures are in place in your country to facilitate public access to biosafety information?

2. Should countries mainly notify its public on essential biosafety information made available or also make available information upon request?

3. How are requests for access to biosafety-related information handled? Is there a standard request form?

4. In your experience, is it necessary to designate specific government agencies handling specific types of LMOs or biosafety experts in one government agency handling all types of LMOs to be responsible for making information available to the public?

Best regards,

Ulrika Nilsson
(edited on 2012-05-24 22:00 UTC by Ulrika Nilsson)
posted on 2012-05-24 17:34 UTC by Ms. Ulrika Nilsson, UNEP/SCBD/Biosafety
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3526]
1. Procedures for facilitating public access to information
The international impulse is very important and helpful in this process. E.g. Aarhus Convention iniciated or speeded process of information accessibility for public in many coutries.
The chalenges are reflected at national level. There basic step represents adoption of corresponding legislation. Nevertheless, this legislation as such does not solve the problem, its implementation in practise is indispensable, that means adoption of corresponding administrative measures, institutional arrangement, establishment of national information system, including national BCH, etc.
The information can be disseminated in 2 basic ways:
- to be published,
- to be provided upon request.
As to the first case, way enabling access from distance is nowadays used.

Milena Roudna
posted on 2012-06-11 15:24 UTC by Ph.D. Milena Roudna, Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3552]
1. Until now, nothing is in place in Algeria to facilitate biosafety information. But, in the National Biosafety framework, it was proposed a procedure of information via a public book and for decision making with involved actors (as farmers in a region) via District committees and local assembly
2. The two possibilities are complementary, especially for the revision if decision
4. For Algeria, it was proposed a national agency handling all types of LMOs, first because there is no true modern biotech experts so it is better to put them together. Secondly, with this kind of organization, the cost could be reduced
posted on 2012-06-12 14:39 UTC by Pr. Meriem Louanchi, Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3555]
1. In Benin my country, the procedure which ensures the access of the public information on the biosafety draws its gasoline from the bearing decree creation, attributions and procedure of the National Committee of biosafety  in its article 3 paragraph 5, 6, 8, 9. 
Thus these provisions ensure the easy access of the public information on the biosafety.  In the ministry of the Environment, there is an information and resource centre on the environment information in general.  The access is free.  With through the medias written or audio-visual, information on the biosafety is given by the government through its qualified structures on the matter:  National office of Radio and Television, the governmental daily newspaper:  the Nation, and also by the private radios and televisions just as the private newspapers.  It is necessary to add the channels very accessible from the NGO and CSO which very active in Republic of the Benin. 

2. The countries must make available information on the biosafety in order to allow the public participation in the decision-making.  It is besides an obligation for the countries. 

3. The only request that the public made in my country for information on the biosafety, is to make continuous and permanent information. 

4. To prevent that information on the biosafety is not handled, and is made sometimes contradictory, it is necessary to have a government agency which has the experts in biosafety in order to produce informations in direction of the public on all types LMO.
With this intention the National Committee of biosafety is responsible (art 3). 

KAKPO Comlan Marcel
Benin NFP of PCB and BCH
posted on 2012-06-13 08:53 UTC by Mr. Comlan Marcel KAKPO, Ministère de l'Environnement, de l'Habitat et de l'Urbanisme
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3568]
Posted on behalf of Mr. Mahaman Gado Zaki, Niger:

Dear all
In Niger republic many tools of information are made available to facilitate public access to biosafety information.Ministry of Environment usually uses public medias for populations information and awareness. These include national television ( Tele Sahel), private televisions ( RTT, Dounia TV ,Canal plus ,RTS etc.)Many radio debates also are organized .In addition some local journals publish biosafety information for the public.
Standard request can be adressed through a journal of environment published by a group of local journalists specialist of questions related to biosafety and biotechnology.
Best regards
Dr Gado
posted on 2012-06-13 15:09 UTC by Ms. Ulrika Nilsson, UNEP/SCBD/Biosafety
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3578]
Addendum
National legislation – Czech Republic
Following acts were adopted regarding access to information:
Act 106/1999 (amended in 2006) on Free Access to Information
On the basis of this Act, state authorities, self-administrastive territorial authorities and public institutions financed with public funds are obliged to provide information (in general) for public. The information is published by the menmtioned authorities or institution, or provided on the basis of request. More detailed conditions are given by the Act.
Act 123/1998 on the Right to Environmental Information (later ammended in 2000 and 2005) (adopted before adoption of the general Act on Free Access to Information).
This Act enhances access to environmental information and use of  modern techniques for communication. The Act describes detailed conditions. One special part of the Act deals with Environmental Education and Awareness. On the basis of this Act the Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Education, central administrative authorities, regional and local authorities are obliged to support environmental education. The Ministry of the Environment  elaborates State Programme on Environmental Education and Awareness, which is implemented through regularly updated Action Plans. State administrative authorities can support environmental education and awareness through special funds.
Act 78/2004 on the Use of Genetically Modified Organisms and Genetic Products
On the basis of this Act the list of authorised users of GMOs and the issued approvals together with relevant legislation and other related information are publicized and regularly updated on the Ministry of the Environment website and on the national BCH website.
Procedure regarding personal data (collection, storage and access to public) is regulated through the Act 101/2000 on Protection of Personal Data and through the Commercial Code.
All mentioned Acts were translated to English. They are available at the website of the Ministry of the Environment – both in Czech and in English (http://www.mzp.cz) and the Act 78/2004 in English also on the national BCH website (http://mzp.cz/biosafety).

Milena Roudna
posted on 2012-06-14 06:58 UTC by Ph.D. Milena Roudna, Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3588]
1. The Biosafety Law on Genetically Modified Organisms (LBOGM, spanish acronym) refers to the government responsibility on information exchange and its association with the development of dissemination mechanisms such as:
- National System of Information on Biosafety
- National Registry of Genetically Modified Organisms Biosafety
Besides, the Mexican government has available others information systems for instance:
- CIBIOGEM´s website http://www.cibiogem.gob.mx
- Mexican profile on the BCH (http://bch.cbd.int/about/countryprofile.shtml?country=mx)
-Facebook profile
-Twitter

2. The basic information on biotechnology and biosafety is uploaded in the CIBIOGEM´s website and it is towards to different target groups, according to our communication strategy.  However, our website visitors could request information using the contact email (info_cibiogem@conacyt.mx), social networks (facebook and twitter)phone, and fax.
posted on 2012-06-15 18:26 UTC by Sra. Rosa Inés González, Mexico
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3591]
Posted on behalf of Kazuo Watanabe, University of Tsukuba as ABEN chair University:

Dear Ulrika and all:

My observation comments on the current forum are:

1) Comparison with other forum: modality is different from the on-line forum on RA&RM.
RA&RM forum has more rigid discussion based on the topics from A 15 and ANNEX III of the Protocol plus the RA&RM AHTEG related documents including reflection from national reports, and the  current forum on Public Awareness, Education and Participation Concerning the Safe Transfer, Handling and Use of Living Modified Organisms,  is very dispersed in topics over a short time and the forum title does not match exactly with the topics and guiding questions. Are we discussing particularly on A18 of the Protocol or generally speaking on LMOs associated with the Protocol?

2) While it is appreciated to call for rather free participation and free topics, there should be base-line information rather than the guiding questions. For an example, making country status report of the public awareness would be one for common starting. Request a national report specific to the subjects and put opinions over the status rather asking the guiding question to assemble info? Many of the forum themes should be initiated based on the survey info rather thank asking individual participation.

3) May be give examples of some countries of the awareness efforts, to give ideas: Thai BIOTEC, Korea-BCH, Japan-BCH etc. would be some case examples. Conceptual approach to reach to some recommendation would not be easy for many participants.

4) Having indicating so, yet initiation of such a forum is challenging and I must appreciate efforts of the forum manager and participants, but in future above points shall be considered for forum elaboration.

Prof. Kazuo Watanabe, Japan
posted on 2012-06-15 21:04 UTC by Ms. Ulrika Nilsson, UNEP/SCBD/Biosafety
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3592]
Dear Prof. Kazuo Watanabe,

Thank you for your contribution to the Online Forum on Public Awareness, Education and Participation Concerning the Safe Transfer, Handling and Use of Living Modified Organisms for far. We appreciate the feedback regarding the online forum.

Please note that the discussion is based on Article 23 of the Protocol that requires Parties to endeavour to ensure that public awareness and education encompass access to information on living modified organisms. This online forum aims to facilitate exchange of views and information regarding facilitating public access to biosafety information in the context of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. To date, there are limited decisions and specific information on access to biosafety information. Risk assessment (Article 15 and Annex III), on the other hand, has a more developed process under the Protocol.

We have taken note of your recommendations regarding the need for background documents and more preparatory work prior to the online forums. We will endevour to take them up during the future forums.

Best regards,

Ulrika Nilsson

Associate Information Officer, Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
posted on 2012-06-15 21:15 UTC by Ms. Ulrika Nilsson, UNEP/SCBD/Biosafety
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3596]
Dear Ulrika and all participants, thanks a lot for this fruitful forum. I got a lot of useful information for discussion with my colleagues. I hope that information provided by me also is informative and useful for this forum. And now, my responses.

1. What procedures are in place in your country to facilitate public access to biosafety information?
         The basic way to access to biosafety information by public in Belarus is reading newspapers and watching TV. As well, each citizen has a right to contact with biosafety authorized personnel at the Ministry of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the National Coordination Biosafety Centre and the Aarhus Convention Centre. The citizens and public associations interested in biosafety problems telephone or send written requests.

2. Should countries mainly notify its public on essential biosafety information made available or also make available information upon request?
        Yes, they should. Essential biosafety information should be available for public through mass-media and upon any form of request. 

3. How are requests for access to biosafety-related information handled? Is there a standard request form?
          No, there is no standard request form in Belarus. Each request upon biosafety issue can be handled in free manner.

4. In your experience, is it necessary to designate specific government agencies handling specific types of LMOs or biosafety experts in one government agency handling all types of LMOs to be responsible for making information available to the public?
        Belarus has some experience in that field. There are three government bodies in Belarus handling all types of LMOs (see below) and four agencies (three mentioned above + Aarhus Convention Centre) responsible for making information available to the public.
        The government agencies handling all types of LMOs are as follows:
- The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus has designated two National Focal Points (CBD NFP and BCH NFP) to be in constant liaison with CBD Secretariat and to provide the biosafety information upon requests of public interested in it.
- The Expert Council for Safety of Genetically Engineered Organisms has been established at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus in 2007 (the Resolution of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus of 17 August, 2006, No.52). The tasks of the Expert Council are as follows:
        * Organization of making State Safety Examination of genetically engineered organisms;
        * Making recommendations for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus concerning the nomination of experts for making State Safety Examination of genetically engineered organisms;
        * Consideration of decisions of the State Expert Commission for safety  of genetically engineered organisms;
        * Acceptance of recommendations on permission to release genetically engineered organisms into the environment for testing or using for economic purposes.
         The resolutions and/or decisions made by the Expert Council shall be placed at the website of the National Coordination Biosafety Centre.

- The National Coordination Biosafety Centre (NCBC) at the Institute of Genetics and Cytology, National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, has been established in 1998 (The Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus of June 19, 1998, No.963) for the implementation of the following functions: collection, analysis and systematization of biosafety information (legislative, scientific, educational, etc.); submission of biosafety information to ministries and other governmental and administrative bodies and mass-media; biosafety information sharing through NCBC and BCH websites; provision of responses to public requests for biosafety issues; provision of reliable biosafety information to mass-media.

The government agencies responsible for making information available to the public are as follows:
        - Three governmental bodies mentioned above;
        - Aarhus Convention Centre in Belarus.

        We think that those four governmental agencies cover all areas for making information available to the public.
posted on 2012-06-16 13:15 UTC by Assoc. Prof. Elena Makeyeva, Belarus
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3605]
Section 101 of the Environment Protection and Management Law of Liberia obligates the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia to provide information to the public on environmental issues.  However, person requesting the information needs to do so using a prescribed form.  Additionally, a minimum cost may be charged for providing the information.   The freedom of access to information does not, however,  extend to proprietary information, which upon application by proprietor for protection shall be treated by the Agency as confidential

Notwithstanding provision of information upon request, the EPA does provide necessary information to the public on environmental issues through various media outlets, to inform the public and also provide opportunity for their participation in decision-making.

The responsibility of providing information to the Public may be carried out by one agency of government or several entities depending on the mandates. Where several government institutions have mandates based on their competencies, it would be appropriate that they provide information individually to the public based  on  their mandates. However, there is a need for coordination amongst  responsible entities and individuals regarding release of public information.

Regards,

Johansen T.Voker
BCH NFP/ Liberia
(edited on 2012-06-16 14:43 UTC by Johansen T. Voker)
posted on 2012-06-16 14:40 UTC by Mr. Johansen T. Voker, Liberia
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3613]
Countries should mainly notify public on essential biosafety information made available on Biosafety Clearing House as well as prepare information and make it available upon request. In present  there is no a specific standard request form for biosafety information.
In my opinion, it is no need to separate a specific government agency handling all types of LMOs. There should be a unit in the same agency of research / regulatory agency deals with each type of LMO ,so those agencies can manage their own information.
posted on 2012-06-18 03:30 UTC by Ms. Praopan Tongsom, Thailand
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3619]
The Biosafety information should be disseminated in following ways:
- to be published via national websites nBCH, ME, CIM, newspapers, ecological bulletin,
- to be disseminated via e-mails to the E-Register of interested public (including NGOs),
- to be disseminated via radio, TV, special press-conferences, round tables,
- to be provided upon request in hard copies.

An efficient company for public information should be done on the following levels:
Local level:
-direct information of public in an accessible form (classes, meetings with public associations, actions etc);
- work with mass-media (interviews, preparation of articles, information of the international events related LMOs etc.);
- children and youth education in the field of biosafety (classes, actions, concourses on theme);
- work with target groups (exchange of opinions, discussions, formation of common position);
- work with public authorities (information , consultation);
- work with producers related to LMOs (information of their rights and duties, as well as responsibilities in cases of deliberative release of LMOs into environment or in the market, consultation related public information mechanism);
- coordination of interrelations of public and government and other interested public (public hearings, public expertise, comments to the notifications).
District's level:
- organisation of information center (collection of information related LMOs events, dissemination of information, inclusiv via Internet);
- work with governmental authorities (participation to the competent decision making bodies, participation to realization of national programmes on biosafety);
- work with LMO producers (farmers)( exchange of information, common realization of principles for biosafety, biodiversity conservation and protection of rights of national producers);
- monitoring of LMOs in the environment or in the market (communication with laboratories on detection  and testing of LMOs, , ecological inspectorate, health care inspection etc.);
- coordination of inerrelations of public and national authorities (public hearings, public expertise, public comments to notification during decision making).
National level:
- development and improvement of national legislation on Biosafety, inclusive the secondary level regulation and enforcement system;
national reporting on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Aarhus convention on public information.
- ensure participation of public in the decision making process of the National Biosafety Commission;
- monitoring of LMOs into environment and in the market (laboratory testing, inspection, custom control);
- coordination of actions of public and governmental authorities  at national level.

International level:
- participation of public at the international and global processes, agreements in relation to LMOs (make public the common position of the civil society and public, preparation of thematic drafts of documents, reports, proposals for improvement of international legislation and norns in the framework of Cartagena Protocol, CBD, Aarhus convention, Sustainable Development Commission, WHO et oth.
- ensure the feedback from public to international process, as well as the local public (make available in an accessible form the documents agreed at international level);
- coordination of international public information campaign with specific of national and regional particularities.

In terms of 10 days the National Biosafety Commission make public information on notification via Internet. An Allert on the notification on LMOs is disseminated to the interested public via E-mail. The comments from the public are received during 30 days from the day of publication and should be take into consideration  by the National Biosafety Commission during decision making. One representative of the civil society, namely NGOs "Eco-TIRAS" is member of the National Biosafety Commission, and provide their contribution to decision making.
National Biosafety Commission should make published the Draft of decision on the LMOs notification via web-site. The final decision is made not early that 20 days after publishing of Draft via Internet.
National Biosafety Commission maintain and publish the E-Register of approved LMOs and products via the national BCH website.

Register of Interested public involve the following target groups:
- NGOs,
- cunsumer associations,
- medical personnel and medical associations,
- mass media;
-academia and universities;
-farmer's associations;
-seed importers;
local public administration;
-farmers in location of deliberative release of LMOs to environment;
- local communities;
- teahcers, doctors, youth, women, local NGOs, etc in the localities where LMOs is intended for release.
(edited on 2012-06-18 11:20 UTC by Angela Lozan)
posted on 2012-06-18 09:43 UTC by Angela Lozan
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3630]
Dear All,

I wish to share our situation experience on this topic on the basis that Our National Law of Access to Public Information, which is not specific to biosafety information, demands to provide since its entry into force in April 2009, as a means for strengthening transparency.

1) Due to its high-level application as Decree 57-2008, the main procedure is the above-mentioned Law which is implemented by a specific unit in every institution holding biosafety information.  The petitioner can ask for public information (which is not considered as confidential or reserved information by specific laws) through a defined access procedure (art 38) and the recipient institution is obliged to reply within the period of 10 working days (art 42).

With respect to more specific/specialized information on biosafety, the National BCH website (http://www.bchguatemala.gob.gt) holds a significant amount of biosafety information obtained from the most important initiative concerning biosafety regulation, which is the Cartagena Protocol Implementation Project (all information is written in Spanish only).  Our country profile in BCH Central Portal is a mirror image of part of the mentioned information: Guatemala country profile.

More recently, the proposal of a national policy on biotechnology/biosafety, which is currently undergoing a socialization and approval process, established an action line of citizen participation and two clear procedures:  a) the strengthening of National BCH website and b) the design and implementation of a release and education national program.

2) On the basis of the current perceived awareness level on the different publics in Guatemala, both the release of essential biosafety information and available information upon request need to be used for public, awareness, education and participation purposes.

First, the release of biosafety documents in the National BCH website have proven to need the support of another set of instruments and procedures to influence more effectively the significant diversity of target audiences and related needs and interests.  Even though some occasional and commemorative programs have taken place around biodiversity issues from time to time, this set should include periodical radio and TV programs, bulletins and other kinds, as well.  Second, the key aspects here are to bring the information producer´s actors (data sources) closer to the information petitioner (data applicants) and learn what their standpoints, needs, interests and capacities are and apply procedures accordingly.  This situation is also the result of the wide spectrum of information applications, going from general/basic information requests made by any kind of citizen all the way to specific request about the risk assessment of a given GMOs for a specific use.

Key insight will be obtained through the feedback of the results of the undergoing poll concercing awareness on biosafety.

3)  At the moment, the received requests for access to biosafety-related
information are generally handled by referring applicants to the corresponding sections of the national BCH website where the information or documents was published in the content structure or the related printed publication when it is the case.  Most information requests are focused to basic information questions regarding the scientific knowledge of how GMOs are produced, etc.  There exists no standard request form, except for the one of the Law to access to Public Information but that is not specific to biosafety topics.

4) Here in our experience, we have worked through the perspective of distributing the topic among the different government agencies involved in accordance with the legal competence of each one, which are at the same time the ones that will managed the necessary and appropriate information that should be shared to the public.  I believe that enabling biosafety experts in a unique government agency managing the requests of all types of LMOs from the public will give them a hard time because of the varied target publics that demand information and the associated topics such as education, socio-economic considerations, unlike scientific aspects or technical information of GMOs.  In our country setting, most target publics are crucial to walk toward the building of an informed perception of GMOs and the corresponding assessments and resulting decisions with national level impacts.

Warm Regards,

Estuardo Solórzano
Guatemala BCH-NFP
National Council of Protected Areas
posted on 2012-06-18 17:32 UTC by Leslie Melisa Ojeda Cabrera
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3631]
Normally Public access to biosafety information should be granted by 2 complementary procedures:
- Publishing basic information; in this case the level of details may be low, depends on the targeted audience, ways enabling access from distance are used
- Information to be provided upon request; which is normally more extensive (and includes all information in the application dossier with the exception of those considered to be confidential) and may require processing fees and standard request form

Typically both procedures aim to improve public participation in the decision making process in line with country’s international and national obligations
O.A.ElKawy
(edited on 2012-06-18 18:01 UTC by Ossama Abdelkawy)
posted on 2012-06-18 18:00 UTC by Mr. Ossama Abdelkawy, Syrian Arab Republic
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3634]
With respect to question 2, the Global Industry Coalition believes that governments play the primary role in providing relevant and objective information about products of agricultural biotechnology and how it is regulated. This includes dissemination of information through national and local channels and timely provision of information to the Biosafety Clearing House.  As recommended by the OECD Council on Regulatory Policy and Governance, governments should, “[a]dhere to principles of open government, including transparency and participation in the regulatory process to ensure that regulation serves the public interest and is informed by the legitimate needs of those interested in and affected by regulation.”[1]

The private sector also has an important role in contributing to public education and awareness regarding LMOs. Therefore, the GIC supports work under the Protocol focused on identification of ways Parties and organizations may share best practices and cooperate to promote and facilitate public awareness, education and participation concerning LMOs.

To this end, the GIC has developed 14 case studies from around the world that provide examples of private sector activities related to public awareness and education concerning the safe transfer, handling and use of LMOs, including major accomplishments, success stories, best practices and lessons learned.  The case studies are available online at http://www.croplife.org/public_participation_case_studies.
posted on 2012-06-18 20:40 UTC by Ms. Sarah Lukie, Croplife International, Global Industry Coalition
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3636]
Posted on behalf of Ms. Mahlet Teshome Kebebe, African Union: 

Access to information should be made in a transparent manner. Parties could commonly agree in regional blocks of how ideal procedures should look like and in this case Models that could be utilized such as model legislations/guidelines could be provided through regional bodies.
posted on 2012-06-19 13:31 UTC by Ms. Ulrika Nilsson, UNEP/SCBD/Biosafety
RE: Theme 1: Procedures for facilitating public access to biosafety information [#3644]
Posted on behalf of Ms. Pélagie Solote, Benin:

(Edited from French by the SCBD)

Stakeholders in a country, such as media, NGOs, scientists, lawyers, are the first to be concerned about biosafety issues. It should be obliged to inform them of issues related to GMOs. They should be informed about the benefits of GMOs in the continent, what needs to be done before GMOs are introduced into the environment and the correct facts about GMOs. It is because it is very important for us.
posted on 2012-06-20 15:01 UTC by Ms. Ulrika Nilsson, UNEP/SCBD/Biosafety