The Biosafety Advisory Council (BAC) is one of the two pillars (with the Biosafety and Biotechnology Unit - SBB) of the scientific evaluation system that has been set up in Belgium to advise the Federal and Regional competent authorities about the biosafety of activities involving genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and/or pathogens.
The Council is composed of representatives from the Federal Ministries responsible for Agriculture and Public Health, as well as representatives appointed by the regional Ministers; the Minister of Employment and Labour and the Minister for Science Policy are also represented. The BAC has 12 effective members and the same number of substitute members. Members are appointed by the King on the proposal of the Federal Minister of Public Health, for a term of four years which can be renewed.
The Council is assisted in its scientific work by external experts from academic institutions and by the SBB. The secretariat of the Council is ensured by the SBB.
The missions, composition and functioning of the Council are described in article 5 to 11 of the Cooperation Agreement.
The Council advises the authorities for all regulatory dossiers related to to the placing on the market of products consisting of or containing GMOs, for applications for field trials of transgenic plants, and for applications relating to clinical trials in which a release of GMO into the environment is possible. The Council can be consulted by the Regions for contained activities involving GMOs and/or pathogens (i.e. activities taking place in laboratories, greenhouses, animal husbandries, production plants or hospital rooms).
The BAC can also give an advice on its own initiative or at the request of a Minister. For certain matters or certain types of dossiers, the BAC can delegate some of its competences to the SBB.
The members of the BAC were not officially appointed until 2003. Between adoption of the Cooperation Agreement in 1997 and the first official meeting of the members on 12 May 2003, the SBB temporarily performed the duties of the Council, in accordance with Article 19 of the Cooperation Agreement. During this period, all partners of the cooperation were already invited to meetings, in particular during the finalisation of advices concerning applications for deliberate releases into the environment or marketing of GMOs submitted via Belgium.
In December 2003, Rules of Procedure were approved setting out administrative, management and communication working methods.
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