Bt Maize. Photo by CIMMYT.

Just as there are several definitions of safety and its mirror concept, risk, so too is there a latitude of definitions for biosafety. 

One potential definition, describes biosafety as the regulatory systems and other risk analysis measures designed to ensure that applications of modern biotechnology (in particular Genetically Modified Organisms) are safe for human health, agriculture, and the environment. This definition augments the scope of a biosafety assessment that centers on risk and its assessment, to include broader issues in a comprehensive biotechnology decision-making process that may lead to the approval the technology for release into the environment.  Therefore, in this definition Biosafety is a principle that tempers the adoption of GM technology with careful consideration of its potential effects on all stakeholders and the environment.EcoLomics International procedural definition:

The Protocol does, however, specify in Article 4 the scope of this agreement which is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, administered by the United Nations Environment Programme: “This Protocol shall apply to the trans boundary movement, transit, handling and use of all living modified organisms that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health.” Contrary to the definition, the specification of the scope of an international agreement is a crucial requirement for its application, and in the case of this Protocol it was in fact one of the most difficult issues to negotiate. These difficulties were resolved by providing importing countries with much stronger rights to restrict imports of GM seeds and fish than for GM commodities destined for feed or food because the former represent a far bigger threat to the protection of biological diversity.

In turn, the Convention of Biological Diversity Secretariat FAQ  introduces the following procedural definition.

Biosafety is a term used to describe efforts to reduce and eliminate the potential risks resulting from biotechnology and its products. For the purposes of the Biosafety Protocol, this is based on the precautionary approach, whereby the lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as an excuse to postpone action when there is a threat of serious or irreversible damage (see “What is the precautionary approach?”). While developed countries that are at the center of the global biotechnology industry have established domestic biosafety regimes, many developing countries are only now starting to establish their own national systems.

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