National Node of the BCH

Biosafety News


3-5 March 2020, Tashi Namgay Resort, Paro, Bhutan

Training on 'National biosafety repository tools' was held in Paro from 3-5 March 2020. The workshop was organized by Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests with the financial and technical support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) involving BCH expert Prof. Ruel V Maningas. The training was attended by forty four officials from BAFRA field officials, Biosafety Technical Working Group members and participants from National Environment Commission, Food Corporation of Bhutan, Karma Feed and National Seed Centre.

Bhutan ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) in 2002. CPB emphasizes on the need to establish national Biosafety Clearing House (BCH) as an information exchange platform. BAFRA being the national competent authority to implement Biosafety Act of Bhutan 2015 and BCH Focal Point, initiated the revamping of Bhutan BCH and it was successfully launched on 4th March 2020. The main objective to revamp Bhutan BCH was to engage biosafety regulators, academia and food importers for exchange of scientific, technical, environmental and legal information on living modified organisms (LMOs) and to make the tool more user-friendly. The updated Bhutan BCH (bt.biosafetyclearinghouse.net) includes new features for registering information, forums for online discussion, updated biosafety news and biosafety information repositories, such as BCH, FAO-GM Foods Platform, OECD Biotrack database etc., which will enable stakeholders and regulators to get information at one go for better decision making.

The objectives of the training are to enable participants to:

  • obtain information and access to global biosafety information repositories such as BCH, FAO GM Foods platform and OECD BioTrack tool;
  • be able to find/locate/access relevant information in the context of Bhutan, using using global biosafety information repositories; and
  • obtain step-by-step instructions on how to register and access national information on the national BCH tool and BCH central portal.

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23 – 27 July 2018, NRDCL Hall, Thimphu, Bhutan

A national training workshop entitled “training on genetically modified (GM) food safety assessment, risk communication and advocacies programme” was co-organized by the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on 23 – 27 July 2018 in Thimphu, Bhutan. Eight-nine participants comprising members of the Bhutan Biosafety Technical Working Group (TWG), BAFRA officers and inspectors from various stations in Bhutan, relevant stakeholders, and resource people attended the workshop.

The objectives of the workshop were to provide:
  1. an understanding of the relevant rules and regulations concerning GMOs and GM products in Bhutan;
  2. an understanding of the internationally accepted principles of GM food safety assessment, risk management and risk communication and information on challenges involved in enacting these principles;
  3. an understanding of the required expertise and types of experts for undertaking GM food safety assessments so that possible shortcomings in assessment capacity/resources in Bhutan could be identified;
  4. hands-on experience in extracting relevant safety information from condensed GM food case studies and presenting the information in a simple and concise way;
  5. general information about biosafety and biotechnology in the international arena with particular emphasis on communication; and
  6. a way forward for BAFRA to conduct any suggested follow up activities.

An external link to Full report


4 – 15 February 2019, Metta Resort, Paro

In Bhutan, non-viable forms of genetically modified (GM) foods and feeds are permitted if approved by the National Biosafety Board, while the environmental release of viable genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is prohibited. Ensuring the safety of imported GM food in the market is one of the main priorities for the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) within the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, especially given Bhutan’s reliance on significant imports to satisfy food needs.

While BAFRA now has a basic enabling structure that includes a legal framework, aligned protocols and standard operating procedures it has yet to receive an application for a GM food safety assessment. The body charged with assessing a GM food application under section 15(2) of the Bhutan Biosafety Rules and Regulations 2018 is Biosafety Technical Working Group (TWG). This Group comprises members from a number of key agencies within Bhutan and is also responsible for advising on the technical and scientific issues related to GMOs. Given that no application has yet been received, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) had provided its complete regulatory dossier on biofortified rice event GR2E (Golden Rice) as an in-kind contribution to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), for the express purpose of providing an example of a ‘real’ application for the Biosafety TWG to work through and gain experience from.

As such training workshop entitled “Training workshop on GM Food Safety Assessment: Using a Real Case Study” was co-organized by BAFRA and the FAO from 4 – 15 February 2019 in Paro, Bhutan. A total of 12 participants including Biosafety TWG members or their nominated representatives and BAFRA officials attended the workshop, which was conducted by FAO Technical Panel Expert from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) assisted by an FAO Food Safety Officer. Using the IRRI GR2E dossier, workshop participants were able to meet the objectives of the workshop, which were to provide:

  1. An understanding of the various techniques that are used to generate the data for a GM food application;
  2. An appreciation of how to go about assessing the safety data
  3. An understanding of the administrative, legal and communication activities associated with handling a GM food application
  4. Recommendations for finalizing a guideline and information document for potential applicants.

An external link to Full report