Trinidad and Tobago
The Implementation of the National Biosafety Framework Project was formally launched on May 1st, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad. The launch, sponsored by The University of the West Indies (UWI) and United Nations Environment Programme – Global Environment Facility (UNEP-GEF), was followed by a planning workshop attended by a wide range of national, regional and international partners.
Implementing the National Biosafety Framework is the third and final phase towards enacting the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in Trinidad and Tobago. The Cartagena Protocol is an international agreement which will establish minimum standards of regulating the products of modern biotechnology, with special emphasis on the import and export of these products.
Since early 2000, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has reached out to its citizens and the youth in particular, through numerous public consultations and meetings regarding biosafety. In the coming months, the Government will be preparing draft biosafety legislation based on the approved National Biosafety Policy of 2014. This will be followed by a second round of public consultations before the legislation is enacted into law. The establishment of these standards will give this country’s regulatory agencies, (the Environmental Management Agency; the Plant and Animal Quarantine Services and the Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division), the authority to monitor and test products, issue licences for import and penalise persons who fail to obey the biosafety laws. It is envisioned that the proposed legislation will also provide an enabling environment for local researchers to explore technological solutions to address challenges in food production and medicine, which are unique to the Caribbean.
To help oversee the execution of biosafety law in Trinidad and Tobago, a National Biosafety Unit (NBCU), was created in the Legal Affairs Division of the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs (MAGLA). The Unit, which can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, will also maintain a roster of experts on matters that relate to biosafety. All matters related to biosafety are currently being managed by this Unit, in conjunction with its decision making inter-ministerial biosafety committee.
Speakers at the programme launch
Mr. Bernard Sylvester
Former Chair of the Biosafety Committee
“Worldwide, there is recognition of the potential contribution that modern biotechnology can have on improving human wellbeing with new drugs, vaccines, increased agricultural productivity and improved environmental sustainability.
However, there are uncertainties regarding the possible impact of this promising technology on biodiversity and human health and, as such, there is a recognition in international law through the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, to create a harmonised international framework to regulate the transboundary movements of products of modem biotechnology.”
“When the framework is successfully implemented Trinidad and Tobago ideally should have a functioning biosafety legislation, a technically sound administrative system, a plan to build capacity in biosafety, a functioning and user-friendly web management information system (otherwise known as the biosafety clearing house) and a public awareness and outreach campaign.
To add to this list, a national roster of experts on matters related to biosafety is being compiled. This database of biological and environmental scientists, legal professionals, socioeconomists and medical professionals will be consulted in the decision-making process and in consultations.”
“Trinidad and Tobago was the first country to sign the Cartagena Protocol in the year 2000. T&T had in record time signed onto the protocol, since its opening for signature…to its credit the Ministry of Legal Affairs (MLA) has always stood steadfastly behind this task…
Minister, the Honourable Prakash Ramadhar and the PS,
Mr. Bernard Sylvester, [took] the draft policy through the cabinet approval process, setting up a Biosafety office in the MLA and supporting the start of this implementation phase.“
‘The overall goal of this project is the implementation of effective, operable, transparent and sustainable National Biosafety Frameworks, which cater for national and regional needs, deliver global benefits and are compliant with the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Countries currently involved in this project include: Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts/Nevis, St Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.”
Brief overview of the project milestones and important dates
The Cartagena Protocol is being implemented in three phases in Trinidad and Tobago; currently we are in the Third phase of its implementation.
Important Dates to be noted within each phase:
Phase I: Initial strategy for assisting countries to prepare for the entry into force of the Protocol on Biosafety
- January 29th 2000 – Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) was adopted by Trinidad and Tobago.
- August 23rd 2000 – The Government of Trinidad and Tobago signed and ratified the CPB to the United Nations Conventions on Biological Diversity (CDB).
- October 5th 2000 – Trinidad acceded to CPB. (The act whereby a state accepts the offer or the opportunity to become a party to a treaty already negotiated and signed by other states.)
- June 2001 – Trinidad participated in The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) Project on the Development of National Biosafety Frameworks (NBFS). This was one of the main components of the GEF Initial Strategy for assisting countries to prepare for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety entry into Force, over a three-year period.
- September 11th 2003 – Cartagena Protocol entered into Force.
Phase II: Development of National Biosafety Frameworks
- January 2004 – Trinidad successfully conducted a capacity building workshop on biosafety for Caribbean countries.
- December 2004 – Public consultations were conducted by the Consumer Affairs Division, Port of Spain, San Fernando and Mayaro.
- March 2005 – Public consultations were held in Tobago. There were also a number of exhibitions/open days at Gulf City Mall, Brian Lara Promenade, Trincity Mall and the Tourism Park, Macoya.
- June 2006 – A draft Policy was completed by the committee for the development of a National Policy and Regulations on Biosafety.
- December 2010 -A committee was established to examine the draft National Policy.
Phase III: Implementation of National Biosafety Frameworks
- April 2014 – The National Policy was approved. The National Biosafety Co-ordinating Unit was established in August 2014 in the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
- May 13th 2014 -Signed partnership agreement between the Ministry of Legal Affairs, the National Executing Agency, and University of the West Indies, the Lead National Executing Agency for the Regional Implementation project.
- May 1st 2015 – Launch of the Project to Implement the National Biosafety Framework, Hyatt Trinidad.
- April 2016 – The focal point of the Protocol and that of the BCH transferred to the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs, Legal Affairs Division.
National Co-ordinating Unit
Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs,
Legal Affairs Division,
Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Figure 1. Biosafety regulatory system in Trinidad and Tobago with regional apparatus