National Node of the BCH

Frequently asked questions

1. What is biotechnology?

The term `biotechnology' refers to any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for a specific use. Biotechnology, in the form of traditional fermentation techniques, has been used for decades to make bread, cheese or beer. It has also been the basis of traditional animal and plant breeding techniques, such as hybridization and the selection of plants and animals with specific characteristics to create, for example, crops which produce higher yields of grain. Click here for more information on biotechnology

2. What is biosafety?

Biosafety is a term used to describe efforts to reduce and eliminate risks resulting from biotechnology and its products. Click here to learn more about Biosafety initiatives in Trinidad

3. What is a Living Modified Organism (LMO)?

A Living Modified Organism (LMO) is any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.

Common LMOs include agricultural crops that have been genetically modified for greater productivity or for resistance to pests or diseases. Examples of modified crops include tomatoes, cassava, corn, cotton and soybeans. Click here to learn more about local research

4. What are LMO products?

LMOs form the basis of a range of products and agricultural commodities. Processed products containing dead modified organisms or non-living GMO components include certain vaccines; drugs; food additives; and many processed, canned, and preserved foods. They can also include corn and soybean derivatives used in many foods and nonfoods, cornstarch used for cardboard and adhesives, fuel ethanol for gasoline, vitamins, vaccines and pharmaceuticals, and yeast-based foods such as beer and bread.

5. What are some potential benefits of biotechnology?

Genetic engineering promises advances in medicine, agriculture, and other fields. These may include new medical treatments and vaccines, new industrial products, and improved fibres and fuels. Proponents of the technology argue that biotechnology has the potential to lead to increases in food security, decreased pressure on land use, sustainable yield increase in marginal lands or inhospitable environments and reduced use of water and agrochemicals in agriculture. Click here to read more on risks and benefits

6. What are some potential risks of biotechnology?

Being a new field, little is known about the interaction of LMOs with various ecosystems. Concerns include adverse effects on biological diversity, and potential risks to human health. Potential areas of concern might be unintended changes in the competitiveness, virulence, or other characteristics of the target species; the possibility of adverse impacts on non-target species (such as beneficial insects) and ecosystems; the potential for weediness in genetically modified crops (where a plant becomes more invasive than the original, perhaps by transferring its genes to wild relatives); and the stability of inserted genes (the possibilities that a gene will lose its effectiveness or will be re-transferred to another organism). It should be noted that to date there is no scientific evidence of any of these outcomes occurring.

7. Why do we need an international biosafety agreement?

While advances in biotechnology have great potential for significant improvements in human well-being, they must be developed and used with adequate safety measures for the environment and human health.The objective of the International Protocol on Biosafety is to contribute to ensuring an adequate level of protection in the field of the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology. Click here to learn more about the Protocol

8. What is the status of the Protocol in Trinidad and Tobago?

This country currently has no legislation to deal with GMOs and LMOs. The Cabinet of the Government has appointed a committee to develop a national policy and regulations on biosafety. Trinidad and Tobago is one of 11 countries in the Caribbean developing regulations to treat with Genetically modified organisms Click here to learn more about Biosafety initiatives in Trinidad and the region

Contact us at trinidadbiosafety@gov.tt if you have a special information request, and we will be happy to help.

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