In 1997 the ICGEB established a dedicated Biosafety Group aimed at providing its Member States with services related to the safe and sustainable use of biotechnology in agriculture, and in particular to the environmental release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The Biosafety Group is involved in several activities, including information dissemination and the establishment of biosafety clearing-houses (BCH), scientific training in risk assessment for the environmental release of GMOs (capacity building and technology transfer), and co-operation with other international agencies involved in biosafety.
Information dissemination and BCH
Bi[bli]osafety is an on-line, searchable collection of scientific studies on biosafety and risk assessment in biotechnology which is updated monthly; related updates are distributed to subscribers (free subscription). The database contains more that 15000 records (full reference with abstracts) of scientific articles published in international peer-reviewed journals since 1990. Full version of each article may be obtained via the DOI (Digital Object Identifier) or by contacting the corresponding author directly (email addresses are provided when available). All articles are selected and classified by ICGEB scientists in accordance with the main topics of concern for the environmental release of GMOs. The database is also inter-operable with the central portal of the Biosafety Clearing House, hosted by the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The Risk Assessment Searching Mechanism (RASM), is an online collection of authoritative Risk Assessment documents related to official government decisions concerning the commercial release of GMOs, irrespective of the individual authority's CBD signatory status. It contains over 1000 documents issued globally, relating to more than 150 different GM crops.
ICGEB collaborates with the Italian Ministry of the Environment in administering the Ministry's National Biosafety Clearing House, which operates according to the requirements of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the European Directives on the access of information related to GMOs. Through an Agreement entered into with the Ministry, the Centre has developed a new web-based portal and has trained specialised personnel to operate the said portal from the Ministry's headquarters.
Biosafety Capacity Enhancement and Technology Transfer
In recent years, the ICGEB has trained over 1000 scientists from more than 80 countries in semi-annual introductory biosafety workshops hosted at the Trieste Component. Starting in 2005, it began a series of more focused workshops, aimed at designated experts working in the area of risk assessment, providing experience in examining scientific data in order to produce and evaluate a risk assessment dossier.
In addition, the Biosafety Group implements Capacity Enhancement projects on behalf of national and international donors. These projects operate in our Member States and throughout the world, and are tailored to address locally-identified needs using intensive stakeholder consultations, aimed at producing long-term self-sustainable capacity in biosafety.
In addition to the Biosafety Group's authored articles in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, the Biosafety Group also publishes the Collection of Biosafety Reviews, which is financially supported by the Italian Government, and is an annual compilation of scientific studies on areas of major interest for biosafety and risk assessment. They are prepared by internationally-recognised scientists and summarise the state of the art in their field of expertise. Individual reviews are available for free download for the ICGEB website.
Regular BU activity updates can be found on the dedicated Facebook page.