20 years of risk assessment of GMOs and pathogens in Belgium
Biosafety relates to the evaluation of the potential risks to human health and the environment associated with the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or pathogenic organisms. The first European Directives on biosafety were adopted in 1990. Since then, biosafety has evolved considerably at Belgian, European and international level.
The Scientific Institute of Public Health (WIV-ISP), in particular its Biosafety and Biotechnology Unit (SBB), has played a key role in the implementation of biosafety over the past 20 years, as a pioneering body in the early days and then as a permanent centre of expertise for the Belgian authorities and the Biosafety Advisory Council.
It is this expertise and experience that the SBB is sharing in a book which was just published in December 2010. This book retraces, through an historical overview and detailed facts and figures, the story of 20 years of biosafety in Belgium in its evolutionary context, showing how the implementation of a centralised system for the risk assessment of GMO and pathogens has enabled Belgium to develop highly valued, internationally recognised, scientific expertise in this area. The book also presents some prospective thoughts about what could be the future methodology and substance of the scientific assessment of biological risks.
This historical and descriptive part is completed with several witnesses from people who have been involved, or are still involved, in various ways in the field of biosafety in Belgium, showing how the expertise within the SBB has grown thanks to the permanent interaction and collaboration with partners from different fields.