Contained use of GMMs: Emergency planning


With the aim of minimising the potential harmful effects of the use of GMMs in a contained environment, Directive 2009/41/EC pays particular attention to accident prevention and management through various provisions (articles 13 to 15).

These provisions state that an emergency plan should be drawn up for contained uses where failure of the containment measures could lead to serious danger, whether immediate or delayed, to humans outside the premises and/or to the environment. Any user concerned must send the necessary information to the competent authorities so that they can assess the risks and adopt necessary measures to provide rapid, coordinated assistance during an emergency. The Directive also provides for a notification procedure in the event of an accident : the Commission and any Member State that might be affected by the accident must also be informed.

Belgian regulatory framework

Chronologically, these provisions were firstly implemented into the regional Decrees concerning the contained use of GMOs and/or pathogens. The Decrees therefore stipulate that users submit the information required to establish an external emergency plan to the regional authorities which will consult the competent minister in order to draw up the emergency plan. An external emergency plan is required for some risk group 2 contained use (large-scale production only) and for all risk group 3 and 4 contained uses.
In 2003 the Council of Ministers took the decision to invite the provincial and communal authorities to draft external emergency plans (“plans particuliers d'urgence et d’intervention – bijzonder rampenplan voor hulpverlening”) for the contained use of GMMs. The practical modalities were specified in the Ministerial Circular of the Federal Public Service Home Affairs of 4 August 2005 (Belgian Official Jounal, 21/12/2005, p. 54623). It should be noted that the convention between the Ministry of the Interior and Sciensano - Service Biosafety and Biotechnology foressen at point IV of this Circular does not exist anymore.
A more general reference on the subject is the Royal Decree of 16 February 2006 relating to emergency planing (Belgian Official Jounal, 15/03/2006, p. 15407).
The drawing up of external emergency planning is managed by the Federal Public Service (FPS) Home Affairs, and the associated exercises come under the responsibility of the Government Crisis Centre.


Internal emergency plan

The responsible of a concerned activity involving a contained use of GMMs must draw up an internal emergency plan. This plan describes the procedures for identifying accidents, measures to be applied inside the premises to protect humans and the environment from the effects of an accident ,and warning procedures for the relevant authorities.

External emergency plan

The responsible of a concerned activity involving a contained use of GMMs must provide to the municipality where the activity takes place, all the information necessary for drawing up an external emergency plan.
Based on the information provided, the provincial and municipal authorities will respectively establish municipal and provincial external emergency plans. Municipal emergency plans must be approved by the Governor. Provincial emergency plans must be approved by the Minister of Home Affairs.
The external emergency plans must be communicated to the authorities and public emergency services likely to be affected by an accident, without their having to request it, and to any other interested person who so requests.

In case of accident

The manager must notify immadiately the 112 and the DGCC (Government Crisis Center)
Rue Ducale 53 - 1000 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0)2 506 47 11 | Fax: +32 (0)2 506 47 09
Open 24h/24

The following information should be provided to the 112:

  • the circumstances of the accident;
  • the identity and quantities of the GMMs or organisms concerned;
  • any information necessary to assess the effects of the accident on the health of the general population and the environment;
  • the measures already taken.

Technical and scientific support

FAQ ("Frequently Asked Questions") – In French or in Dutch

Glossary (in French or in Dutch): For workers in the field, this glossary summarises the wording related to biosafety that is relevant in the context of emergency plans.