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Project Background

The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted on 29 January 2000 a supplementary agreement to the Convention, known as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The objective of this Protocol is “to contribute to ensuring an adequate level of protection in the field of the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms  (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health, and specifically focusing on transboundary movements”.

Following the adoption of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in January 2000, the Council of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) adopted in November 2000 the GEF Initial Strategy on Biosafety, which is aimed at assisting countries to be prepared for the coming into force of the Biosafety Protocol through the establishment of national biosafety frameworks (NBFs). 


The objectives of the GEF Initial Strategy on Biosafety are:

  • To assist with national biosafety frameworks;
  • To promote information sharing and collaboration, especially at the regional and sub-regional level;
  • To promote collaboration with other organizations to assist capacity-building for the Protocol.

The activities proposed to implement these strategies are:

  • A project to assist in developing national biosafety frameworks;
  • A limited number of demonstration projects to assist in implementing the national biosafety frameworks;
  • Coordination with other organizations to provide biosafety-related assistance ;
  • Support to countries to participate in the biosafety clearing-house;
  • Enhancement of scientific and technical advice to GEF on biosafety issues.


UNEP-GEF Biosafety Projects

Currently, UNEP-GEF is running three projects to implement the GEF strategy:

What is a national biosafety framework?

A national biosafety framework is a combination of policy, legal, administrative and technical instruments that are set in place to address safety for the environment and human health in relation to modern biotechnology. These frameworks often focus on living modified organisms or, as they are often referred to, genetically modified organisms (GMOs)*.

Establishing an adequate level of biosafety is typically an ongoing, iterative process of developing a draft national biosafety framework, implementing the framework, and continuous evaluation and feedback.

Although national biosafety frameworks vary from country to country, they usually contain a number of common components:

  • A Government policy on biosafety, which is usually part of broader policies such as policies on biotechnology in general, agricultural production, health care or environmental protection.
  • A regulatory regime for biosafety, which often is a combination of enabling framework legislation, complemented with implementing technical regulations and guidelines.
  • A system to handle notifications or requests for authorisations for certain activities, such as releases of GMOs into the environment.  Such systems typically include administrative functions, risk assessment, decision making and public participation.
  • Systems for ‘follow up’ such as enforcement and monitoring for environmental effects. Enforcement typically focuses on compliance with the regulatory regime, whereas monitoring is a term that usually refers to evaluating actual impacts on the environment and human health.
  • Systems for public information and public participation, e.g informing and involving stakeholders in the development and implementation of the national biosafety framework. as well as international exchange of information.
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What can be found on our website?

This web site provides further information about the activities of UNEP working on the GEF Initial Strategy on Biosafety:

ABOUT gives background information on the GEF Initial Strategy on Biosafety, and the UNEP activities aimed at implementing that strategy.

DEVELOPMENT PROJECT gives background information and updates on the UNEP-GEF Global Project on Development of National Biosafety Frameworks.

IMPLEMENTATION PROJECTS gives background information and updates on the UNEP-GEF Projects on Implementation of National Biosafety Frameworks.

BCH PROJECT gives information on the Biosafety Clearing House Project and its components.

RESOURCES provides links to relevant documents and other resources on the Biosafety projects.

NEWS gives an update on the latest developments in UNEP-GEF Biosafety projects.



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