Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (REU)

Biotechnology and biosafety

Biotechnology, which includes tissue culturing, gene transfer, immunological techniques, molecular genetics, recombinant DNA methods and currently, system biology, is recognized as a powerful tool in a broad range of agriculture related areas.  If properly focused, biotechnologies, often combined with traditional knowledge, can offer solutions for a number of novel and old challenges and thus, significantly contribute to the sustainable development of agriculture, livestock, fisheries, forestry and food industry, while adding value to the food safety and improved health when a science-based approach of biosafety and biosecurity is applied.

In a broader sense Biotechnology is determined as “Any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use" (Convention on Biological Diversity); and interpreted in a narrow sense, “...a range of different molecular technologies such as gene manipulation and gene transfer, DNA typing and cloning of plants and animals".

For more details regarding the FAO concept on agricultural biotechnology, you may wish to visit Biotechnology in food and agriculture FAO webpage and read FAO Statement on Biotechnology.

The FAO international technical conference on agricultural biotechnologies (ABDC-10), and its regional session for Europe and Central Asia, held in Guadalajara, Mexico, March 2010 paved the way for moving beyond business-as-usual.

Biosafety refers to policy and legislative frameworks aimed at assessing and managing potential risks to human and animal health and their environments resulting from the sustainable use of genetically modified organisms.

FAO was mandated by its member countries to assist in capacity building in biotechnology and harmonization of biosafety regulations, to give science-based advice and guidance in biotechnology, and provide access to neutral and balanced information to help to improve agricultural productivity in developing countries and economies in transition.

FAO and REU provide biotechnology information in Russian language through the regular publication of the e-mail newsletter FAO-BiotechNews-Ru and on the FAO Biotechnology website. The FAO Biotechnology Glossary, available in English, French, Spanish, and other languages, spoken outside of the Region, has also been published recently in Russian, and is freely available on the web. Serbian and Polish versions are also available.

Other examples of assistance provided are:

TCP/RER/3207 D “Capacity building in agricultural biotechnologies and biosafety” for Armenia, Georgia and Republic of Moldova

TCP/CRO/3102 “Capacity building of regulatory agencies for handling and monitoring genetically modified crops, products and processed food” in Croatia

Series of regional workshops in biosafety, risk assessment and management were jointly organised with the Czech Government;

Stakeholder consultation workshop on measures to assure co-existence among conventional, organic and GMO–based agriculture and hands-on training on GMO detection in seeds and food in Osjiek, Croatia

Joint FAO and ICARDA workshop on “Risk assessment and Risk Management in the Central Asia Region” held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, June 2008

Biotechnology and biosafety studies in several CEE countries (e.g., Belarus, Ukraine) were published.

Issue paper for the Regional Session for Europe and Central Asia on FAO Global Biotechnology Conference, Guadalajara, Mexico 2010: “Agricultural biotechnologies in Europe and Central Asia: new challenges and opportunities in a view of crises and climate change; in English and Russian.