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About biosafety mainstreaming

Biosafety mainstreaming refers to the integration of biosafety concerns into cross-sectoral and sectoral legislation, policies and institutional frameworks, taking into account national circumstances and priorities.

Mainstreaming biosafety involves a number of steps and should ideally be a planned process. It could involve the development of a mainstreaming vision and objectives that are aligned with other relevant policy objectives.

Mainstreaming biosafety requires that relevant legislation, policy instruments and institutional structures are selected in which biosafety considerations need to be strengthened (so called ‘entry points’. Based on the selected entry points, responsible authorities and stakeholders should be identified and engaged in follow-up steps.

By undertaking awareness raising, outreach and capacity-building activities, an enabling environment for mainstreaming biosafety can be created in which stakeholders are equipped and prepared to contribute to successfully contribute to the mainstreaming process in a meaningful way.

Tools and approaches may exist that can be used to support and enhance mainstreaming activities that target legislation, policy and institutional structures. They can range from self-regulation, private standards and guidelines to networks and subsidies.

When planning mainstreaming interventions, existing opportunities should be identified, such as ongoing amendment processes of legislation or policy reform that provide avenues for addressing biosafety as part of broader processes. Making use of such opportunities will enable countries to mainstream biosafety in a resource-efficient way.

  • Vision
  • Entry points
  • Stakeholders
  • Enabling environment
  • Tools and approaches
  • Opportunities

Formulating a mainstreaming vision and goals

A national vision for biosafety mainstreaming is important to guide national action. A vision serves to set clear and realistic goals for biosafety mainstreaming.

A national mainstreaming vision serves to prioritize mainstreaming goals and to plan for mainstreaming activities taking into account national capacities and needs. In formulating a biosafety mainstreaming vision, other relevant national goals and priorities need to be considered to ensure consistency.

Following the formulation of a mainstreaming vision, goals may be developed. These goals may be set taking into consideration opportunities that are expected to arise that facilitate biosafety mainstreaming opportunities. The vision, goals and opportunities allow for prioritizing activities.

A national vision and goals may be adapted over time in light of changes in national policy, priorities and opportunities.

Identifying entry points

Mainstreaming activities are aimed at addressing biosafety issues across cross-sectoral and sectoral legislation, policies and institutions. It is crucial to identify the instruments in which biosafety needs to be better addressed early on in the mainstreaming process. The identified instruments and institutions can be referred to as mainstreaming entry points.

Once the instruments and institutions have been identified, it is important to formulate the aspects of biosafety that need to be addressed in each instrument or institution. Subsequently, activities need to be conceptualized that could be undertaken to achieve this. It may be necessary to prioritize certain entry points over others, depending on opportunities, resources and in light of the mainstreaming biosafety vision and goals.

A logical point of departure for biosafety mainstreaming may be the national biodiversity strategy and action plan (NBSAP). The NBSAP functions as the national implementation strategy of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The integration of biosafety aspects in the NBSAP would reflect the interconnected objectives of the Protocol and the Convention and could give an impulse to biosafety within the context of national actions related to biodiversity. Furthermore, the NBSAP could be used to underline the national mainstreaming vision and foster mainstreaming across cross-sectoral and sectoral instruments.

Other entry points for biosafety mainstreaming could be policy or legal instruments related to environment protection, trade, consumer protection, sustainable development, agriculture, food and land use, health care, forestry, fisheries, energy and research.

Several institutions may serve as entry points too. Relevant institutions may include biosafety-specific institutions, such as Competent National Authorities, and other national institutions on biosafety. They may also include cross-sectoral and sectoral government bodies, platforms for cooperation and advisory bodies. Mainstreaming biosafety in institutions may involve the inclusion of biosafety experts or a representative of competent authorities for biosafety in sectoral or cross-sectoral institutions or the establishment of coordination mechanisms.

Identifying authorities and stakeholders

Identification of responsible authorities and stakeholders is a crucial part of any successful biosafety mainstreaming process. Once entry points have been identified, authorities responsible for these instruments or institutions need to be identified to ensure that the changes necessary to address biosafety in these instruments or institutions can be made.

Throughout the mainstreaming process, participation and consultation of stakeholders, experts and the public is essential to ensure informed decisions and to enhance the understanding of and support for choices made. Participation is furthermore important to ensure that planned actions are practical, feasible and effective. Involvement of representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities deserves special attention. The entry point and specific aspects of biosafety that need to be addressed, determine the choice of stakeholders and authorities.

Participation is an important element of the Cartagena Protocol as reflected in its Article 23, which requires that Parties promote and facilitate public awareness, education and participation concerning the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms.

Creating an enabling environment

Activities related to awareness-raising, outreach, education and capacity-building are important to create an enabling environment for biosafety mainstreaming. These activities build support for mainstreaming biosafety and facilitate participation in the process. In an attempt to save resources, countries may seek to integrate biosafety aspects into awareness-raising, outreach, education or capacity-building activities carried out on related topics.

Education activities may target students at all levels of education, for example university students, as well as professionals involved in biotechnological activities, farmer representatives and scientists. Education on biosafety may include workshops and guest seminars by biosafety authorities within relevant institutions. They may also include courses or seminars on biosafety as part of the curriculum of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

Capacity building is important to make biosafety mainstreaming a success. Activities may be targeted at different entities within various sectors, such as Ministries, agencies, institutions and laboratories. It may not be necessary to develop new materials for capacity building, but to make use of materials already available. Capacity-building efforts should focus on involvement of stakeholders and should be targeted at those involved in or affected by specific mainstreaming activities. Existing and already scheduled capacity-building activities could be used for also addressing biosafety aspects in a cost-effective way.

Raising awareness on biosafety may help to make biosafety a political priority and spark initiatives on mainstreaming. Activities may involve private stakeholders, such as industry actors, farmers, the public and indigenous peoples and local communities. These activities may involve public stakeholders that are not directly responsible for action on biosafety, but who can influence the political agenda, possibly academia. Actions may be initiated by relevant biosafety authorities, including decision-makers and advisory bodies, and can be implemented in partnerships with others, for example, academia.

Mainstreaming tools and approaches

While mainstreaming activities may focus on legal and policy instruments and institutional structures, other avenues for biosafety mainstreaming may be available in the form of tools and approaches. A broad range of such tools and approaches may be available to support and enhance the impact of biosafety mainstreaming activities. Sometimes, tools could be used when relevant entry points in legislation, policy or institutional frameworks do not yet exist. In this case, tools can perhaps lead the way to the future creation of entry points. Examples of tools and approaches that may support mainstreaming biosafety activities include: subsidies and taxes; private standards and certification; guidance documents; research funding; and network.


While national priorities and goals ultimately determine the actions a country will take to mainstream biosafety, opportunities for specific actions may exist that facilitate the prioritization of certain mainstreaming actions.

Timely opportunities may arise which make for a good case for mainstreaming under the particular circumstances. Such opportunities include ongoing drafting processes for new legislation or policies and reform or revision processes for existent ones. Making use of the infrastructures created for these purposes, such as platforms, consultations and workshops, allows for efficient use of resources. Other timely opportunities include changes in government, with corresponding changes in political agendas. Furthermore, certain imminent threats arising from biotechnology or the adoption of potentially beneficial innovations that require action on biosafety may provide opportunities to advance on mainstreaming biosafety. Opportunities may also arise from high-level events, such as a scientific conference or international or regional summits.