Eidgenössische Ethikkommission für die Biotechnologie im Ausserhumanbereich EKAH

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Scope of the Biosafety Clearing House

The Biosafety Clearing House (BCH) is an information system for the parties of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. It should facilitate the exchange of scientific, technical and legal information on living modified organisms (LMOs) between parties and the general public. The name was chosen in reference to the international exchange mechanisms for financial services and commodities.

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is a supplementary agreement to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Protocol guarantees a secure level of protection in regards to the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology, specifically focusing on transboundary movements.

The Protocol came into effect in September 2003. Switzerland ratified the Protocol on March 26, 2003 and is thus one of the initial parties to the Protocol. The Biosafety Clearing House is open for participation to non-parties of the Cartagena Protocol. Certain non-parties, such as the USA, actively participate in the BCH.

The Convention and the Protocol use the term 'living modified organisms' (LMOs). In the Swiss legislation and in the common language, the term 'genetically modified organisms' (GMOs) is used. These terms are equivalent.

National Framework for the Cartagena Protocol and the Biosafety Clearing House

In Switzerland the terms of the Cartagena Protocol, including the requirements with regard to the BCH, are implemented by the Cartagena Ordinance (CartO), which has been in force since January 1 2005. The CartO aims to fill the gaps in the current legislation while facilitating the work of the actors involved in the transboundary movements of LMOs in offering them a specific tool.

Aims of the Biosafety Clearing House

  • The BCH shall assist the parties to implement the Protocol and provides information for the general public.
  • It facilitates the general exchange of scientific, technical and legal information on living modified organisms (LMOs) concerning transboundary movement and release into the environment. Furthermore it shall act as a platform to share experiences with the use of LMOs.
  • The BCH provides the mechanism by which parties are informed about final decisions regarding domestic use (including placing on the market) of LMOs, that may be subject to transboundary movement for food, feed use or for processing.
  • Last but not least the BCH is the only means for the exchange of information as required by the Protocol, including information for the Advance Informed Agreement procedure (AIA).

Purpose of the Swiss Biosafety Clearing House

The Swiss Biosafety Clearing House (CH-BCH) contains the information demanded by the Cartagena Protocol and the parties' decisions of the conferences in three official languages (German, French and Italian) as well as in English.

Additionally, relevant Swiss information sources and information on the web sites of the Federal Offices are interlinked to the CH-BCH.
The BCH-information from Switzerland is contained in searchable form and in all 6 UN-languages (English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Chinese) at the central portal of the BCH.


Last updated on: 18.04.2016





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