After genetically-modified tomatoes were released in 1996, the planting area of living modified organisms (LMOs) has shown a trend of substantial increase, led by beans, corn, cotton and canola. LMO producing countries such as the United States, Brazil and Argentina and LMO importing countries such as the European nations, Japan, China and Korea have shown increased transnational movement, resulting in heightened awareness of the importance of not only safety of LMOs per se, but safety management such as in treatment, transportation and inspection.
As a result, countries around the world have adopted the Biosafety Protocol, to strengthen inter-regional and international cooperation, providing for the establishment of the Biosafety Clearing House (BCH) within the Protocol to emphasize the importance of sharing LMO-related information. In order for the BCH to function properly as a tool for information exchange, the role of the BCH-NFP (Biosafety Clearing House – National Focal Point) of each country is critical. Subsequently, there has been continuous demand for not only capacity building programs but also close cooperation and solidarity amongst the BCH-NFPs. In addition, in a situation in which most Parties have limited personnel and financial resources for the implementation of the Biosafety Protocol, there have been demands for BCH-NFPs to not only perform the role of submitting their country’s LMO information to the BCH, but to conduct various PAEP (Public Awareness, Education and Participation) activities for the promotion of awareness of LMOs among the general public.
In the case of the Asian region, not only China and India, but now Pakistan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam and Bangladesh have begun planting crops such as cotton, corn and eggplant, while Korea, Japan and China are importing large amounts of LMOs globally, reflecting the great increase in the trend of LMO usage. However, there is a relative lack of legal institutions and safety management and information management systems for the safe use of LMOs, and Asian countries must cooperate actively to share their experience in regard to Protocol implementation and LMO-related information.
Consequently, countries such as Korea, Cambodia, China, the Philippines and Malaysia in the Asian region have put in much effort into the sharing of LMO-related information among the Asian countries and the strengthening of capacity building in PAEP, through the BCH Workshop in the Asian Region held together with the UNEP. To date, Korea has held a total of four Regional BCH Workshops together with the UNEP, beginning with the first pilot type BCH workshop for six Asian countries in 2005. Cambodia and China have each hosted a BCH Workshop, together with providing advisory assistance in the BCH Workshops of the Asian Region. In this process, the Asian Parties have formed a consensus which has naturally led to the formation of the Asian BCH Family.
In particular, at the 4th Asian Regional BCH Workshop held in China in 2015, participants held meetings up until the evening of the last day to draw up the Asia BCH Roadmap (2016~2020), and additional Experts’ Meetings were held in which the Philippines was selected as the Coordinator Country to review the status of progress in the BCH roadmap, which it is doing currently.
The Asia BCH Family shall continue to submit country reports and country opinion on major issues, share necessary information and experience regarding PAEP activities through the Regional Portal, and provide assistance to countries in difficulty to facilitate the smooth implementation of the Protocol. By achieving biosafety promotion through assistance in implementation of the Biosafety Protocol of each country, going forward we shall strive so that the Protocol may consolidate itself as an exemplary regional cooperation model that is voluntarily organized.