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Capacity Building in Biosafety and Biotechnology
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Internationally Funded Training in Biosafety and Biotechnology - Is it Bridging the Genetic Divide?


UNU-IAS seeks comment on the Draft Final Report of the Assessment on capacity building in biosafety and biotechnology “Internationally Funded Training in Biosafety and Biotechnology - Is it Bridging the Genetic Divide?

The closing date for comment is the 12th of July 2007.

Comments can be sent via email to Sam Johnston at, or by fax to +61 9686 2637.


Biotechnology is a controversial technology that presents significant challenges to policy makers, requiring as it does a breadth of knowledge encompassing science, ethics, social and economic policy. The Biosafety Protocol and the reality of trade in genetically modified organisms have made it imperative for countries to act promptly to define and implement policy in biosafety and biotechnology. The challenge that this poses is especially apparent in countries where indigenous resources and capacity are limited, as in many African countries, or where the biotechnological sector is rapidly expanding, as in much of South East Asia. The size, importance and scope of international assistance has a significant effect on the nature and way that the developing world takes up and uses biotechnology.

Though international assistance is necessary to prepare countries for the challenges of biotechnology, it inherently exposes countries to outside influences that affect whether, how, and to what extent countries adopt or resist biotechnology. These activities and their focus may or may not accord with the needs, values and priorities of recipient countries.

International assistance has, over the last decade, played an increasingly important role in assisting developing countries to hone their biotechnological capacities and to respond to biosafety concerns. The Assessment’s review of existing biosafety capacity development projects has identified that funding for biosafety capacity development activities in developing countries, has in the last ten years, totaled more than US$135 million. Hundreds of millions more have been spent on capacity development in biotechnology more broadly. International assistance for biotechnology is set to dramatically increase over the next decade as donors and recipients fully comprehend the importance and potential of the technology.

In the case of biosafety capacity development, the majority of projects are relatively small, but the largest projects represent a significant proportion of total funds allocated to biosafety capacity development. Ten projects represent approximately 80% of the entire funding. Africa has attracted the highest percentage of the total funding available. Within regions there is great disparity in the number of different projects active in individual countries, with several countries having no projects, or only one project, and others having up to nine. Countries with large numbers of projects tend to occur in clusters, such as in East Africa.

The central conclusion of the Assessment, though, is that there remain such significant biosafety capacity deficits in many developing countries that the very relevance of the Biosafety Protocol is in question. Meanwhile, biotechnology capacity development continues to attract substantial support.

<!--[The UNU-IAS Assessment involved undertaking the following basic steps:

  • Desktop review of existing international initiatives;
  • Case Studies in four selected countries (Bangladesh, Cameroon, the Philippines, Uganda);
  • A final report, including draft conclusions and recommendations


Draft conclusions and recommendations were presented during a side event at the Third Meeting of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (MOP3). During MOP3 several stakeholder interviews were undertaken to gain feedback that has been subsequently integrated into the draft final report.

The project was implemented by a core team of UNU-IAS staff, overseen and guided by an advisory committee of leading experts and stakeholders.

The assessment is aimed at assisting participants to ongoing and future initiatives – including trainers, trainees, governments and donors – to understand the scope and limitations of global capacity development efforts, to enable them to request balanced information, and to lead to the commissioning of improved training materials and methodologies.

For further information, or to be placed on a mailing list for distribution of the final report, please contact:

Sam Johnston

Senior Research Fellow


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