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Public information for the deliberate release of GMOs for experimental purposes in Belgium
(Last revised: February 28, 2006 )

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Guidelines

An overview of the guidelines to compile the information sheet for the public for experimental releases is given in the following table:

organisms year english dutch french
plants 2002 pdf pdf pdf
plants 2003 pdf - -
micro-organisms 2003 pdf - -

The information sheets for the public (hereafter termed "the public dossier"), for field trials of transgenic plants are available on the Belgian Biosafety Server since 1999 (go to the Database).

Objectives of the public dossier

The main objectives of the public dossier are (1) to inform citizens about the activities of companies or research institutes in the biotechnology field and (2) to stimulate public awareness and education. Therefore, a public dossier should not only address general and more technical information on biosafety issues (risk assessment) as provided in the SNIFs, but should also consider the concerns of the public. People have ethical and moral concerns and have questions about e.g. the added value of GMOs and biotechnology, the benefits and the choice of technology. Only in case public concerns are addressed, citizens will be able to weigh up the risks and benefits and to form a proper opinion about GMOs.

In order to inform the public, the public dossier should be readable and easily understandable. It is therefore important to use a comprehensible language, which is accessible to everyone. Scientific terminology and concepts should be explained, good argumentation should be used and advertising messages and statements which are not scientifically founded should be avoided, as these are generally received by the public with suspicion and scepticism.

The notifier has complete responsibility about the contents of the public dossier. The notifier can be contacted for specific questions or further information as each public dossier contains the co-ordinates of the notifier.

Background information

In Belgium, the Royal Decree for the deliberate release of GMOs of 18 December 1998, which implemented the European Directive 90/220/EEC, stipulated in articles 8§1 and 16§1 that each application dossier of a deliberate release had to contain a proposal of information for the public: article 8§1 being of application for experimental purposes (part B) and article 16§1 for the placing on the market (part C).

As this regulation did not give any guidance to the notifier to compile the requested public dossier, and in order to provide a clear framework to the notifier to draft the public dossier, guidelines to compile the public dossier were set up by the Division of Biosafety and Biotechnology (SBB) in close collaboration with external experts specialised in the field of public information.
The first guidelines for experimental releases with transgenic plants were made available to the notifiers in 2001. In 2002 and 2003, these guidelines were adapted to meet the recommendations and concerns made by different actors active in this domain. Similar guidelines were elaborated for experimental releases with micro-organisms in 2003.

The Royal Decision of 18 December 1998 has recently been replaced by the Royal Decree for the deliberate release of GMOs of 21 February 2005, implementing Directive 2001/18/EC. Although Directive 2001/18/EC recommends the SNIF (Summary Notification Information Format) as the mean to inform the public, the new Royal Decree gives the public dossier a central role in informing citizens. Articles 13§2(g) and 29§2(k) stipulate that each notifcation for deliberate release, be it a Part B or Part C release, has to contain an information sheet for the public.

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