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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.

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 Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (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.

Laboratory network
Technical Tools and Guidance