Sound biosafety reviews require the expertise of scientists knowledgeable about the organisms, the introduced traits, and the environment into which specific GMOs will be released. The scope of disciplines relevant to biotechnology and biosafety is extensive. Some countries, such as the Philippines and China, have a large pool of qualified life scientists and thus are capable of securing the necessary expertise. Many others lack sufficient scientific capacity and will find it difficult, if not impossible, to assemble a properly constituted national biosafety committee.

Circumventions (not necessarily solutions) to this widespread problem include:

• Using experts drawn from neighboring countries

• Using international experts, consultants, or advisors

• Accepting biosafety assessment conclusions reached by national review committees in other countries

• Establishing a regional biosafety system that pools resources to evaluate proposed field-test releases having regional relevance

In addition to basic scientific expertise, biosafety reviewers need skills in risk-assessment and risk-management procedures (see sections three and four). Those who will serve as inspectors and monitors of field-test releases need to understand the why, where, when, and how of field or facility inspection and monitoring (see section five).

Training programs can help build technical capacity; however, it takes time to build the competence and confidence of biosafety officials. Training should be an ongoing activity; attendance at one course, such as one based on this workbook, is not equivalent to being "knowledgeable and trained." For that, accumulated practice and hands-on experience are needed.


In the course of implementing biosafety, management responsibilities are commonly placed on people who have little or no prior experience in this area. New managers will need skills in:

• Priority setting

• Resource acquisition and allocation

• Coordination with multiple agencies

• Meeting management

• Communications across many sectors

• Information access and management

• Handling of confidential or proprietary information

Government Officials / Decision Makers

Political support, or its absence, is key to determining whether a functional biosafety system can be established and put into operation, or whether the effort falls short despite strong support at the institutional level and among scientists. Thus it is vitally important that ministry officials and their science advisors are well informed about the role of biotechnology in agricultural development and the role of the biosafety system in bringing beneficial products to all citizens.

Officials who have formal responsibility for biosafety and who make decisions on proposed field-test releases are, in essence, the gatekeepers who determine what biotechnology products, if any, will be allowed, and when. Those more directly involved in biosafety operations are potential allies in helping secure necessary financial resources. Those having regulatory authority set the pace for actual testing and commercial use. The cooperation and support of these people may, in fact, be the most important resource of all. Efforts to engage them and keep them as informed as possible are likely to be well worthwhile.

Molecular biology


Human health

Plant pathology

Pesticide usage




Plant genetics

Plant taxonomy

Soil biology




Food safety

Pollination biology

Plant physiology


Veterinary science



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