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Dutch Legislation

The legislation around biotechnology in the Netherlands is largely build around European guidelines and decrees. The main subjects in this legislation are to guarantee:

  • Safety of humans, animal and environment
  • Protecting the consumer and fair trade

Working with genetically modified organisms (GMO's) in the Netherlands is prohibited without a permit. The Ministry of housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment grants these permits, on grounds of the decree Genetically modified organisms, as it is the primary authority on this subject. The decree Genetically modified organisms is supplemented by the sanction Genetically modified organisms containing specifications for rules, general safety precautions and facility and workrequirement. However the lab facility should also follow the decree for arrangement- and permits environmental management.
The Ministry of housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment shares its responsibilities with the Dutch ministries of:

All represented in the Interdepartmental consultation Biotechnology, where actual affairs and progress of biotechnological projects are discussed.

Technical-scientific advice on the issues concerning the risks for humans and environment with applications of GMO's is given by The Dutch Committee on Genetic Modification (Cogem) which also gives advice on the safety precautions to take to protect them against those risks. Cogem also gives information on the ethical- and society issues on genetic modification. Cogem already reviewed the Synthetic biology in the Netherlands: Biological machines? Anticipating developments in synthetic biology, in which they divided the question about the hazards of synthetic biology in three parts:

  1. Is there a legislative framework for action?
  2. Can technical safety measurements be taken to manage risks?
  3. Can the risks be assesed?

The final conclusion of this report stated that for synthetic the current legislation for GMO's (summarized above) is fully applicable to synthetic biology. A need for new safety legislation especially for synthetic is non-exsting, however this report assumes that the work of synthetic organisms remains in laboratory environments.

University of Groningen

Within the University of Groningen the organization of biological safety, including all activities that are carried out with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is the legal responsibility of the Board of the University of Groningen. The University Board thus acts as the notifier in all GMO-related research where notification is required. The Faculty Boards have been mandated by the Board of the University to implement the rules as set out in the GMO Regulations within their own faculty.

Within the University of Groningen, biological safety is ensured on the central level by a biological safety organization comprising the biological safety officers (BSO) as well as a staff member of the Health, Safety and Environment Service (HSE). The HSE coordinates the notifications, maintains the register and, in cooperation with the BSO, advises the Faculty Boards and the University Board in the field of biological safety. The central organization is complemented on the local level by responsible officers.

BSO officers are appointed by the University Board on the recommendation of the Faculty Boards. In order to be considered for this position, BSO officers must have been approved by the The Ministry of housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment on the basis of the qualifications as set out in the GMO regulations. BSO officers are members of the staff office and can report directly both to the University board and their own faculty.

For each project a responsible officer will be appointed by the University Board on the recommendation of the Faculty Board. This officer is responsible for various aspects, including day-to-day matters concerning the activities involving genetically modified organisms.

Further reading

Global legislation

European legislation

Dutch legislation

Involved organisations

International organisation

The Biosafety Clearing-House

National organisation

Institutional organisation

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Below are the safety and security questions raised by iGEM to be addressed by all teams!!!

If you find something interesting or important, please write them down below!


For iGEM 2009 teams are asked to detail how they approached any issues of biological safety associated with their projects.

Specifically, teams should consider the following four questions:

  1. Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of:
    • researcher safety,
    • public safety, or
    • environmental safety?
  2. Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution?
  3. What does your local biosafety group think about your project?
  4. Do any of the new BioBrick parts that you made this year raise any safety issues?
    • If yes, did you document these issues in the Registry?

Teams, please document any answers to these (or other) safety questions in your presentation, wiki presentation, or poster.

Judges will be asked to evaluate your project, in part, on the basis of if and how you considered and addressed issues of biological safety.

If any questions arise regarding iGEM and biological safety please send an email to safety AT

Security in iGEM

In recent decades scientific research has created new and unexpected knowledge, technologies and approaches, such as synthetic biology, that offer unprecedented opportunities to improve human and animal health and environmental conditions. But science and technology can be used for destructive purposes as well as for constructive purposes. Advances in our control of biology opens up opportunities to intentionally cause harm to humans, animals, plants and the environment. It is important for us to appreciate what is being done, and perhaps more importantly, what more needs to be done and why.

Given the power of engineering biology, practitioners have a special responsibility when it comes to the potential for misuse of our science and technology. Ensuring that biology is used safely, securely and constructively should be of concern to us all. This is a challenge we will have to face together. To do this we will need to figure out what we want biological engineering to look like, what we are prepared to do with it for others' sake and just how we want to tackle security issues. This page provides a space to focus on these issues and for you to help shape what should be done to stop those with a malign intent.

Securing biology is not a simple task. It is not something those outside biology can do alone. Equally it is not something that biologists can do without the access and resources that governments can provide. It will require us to work together, in new ways, to find an approach that provides benefits for all. There is a real opportunity here for iGEM and those participating in iGEM, to not only shape how they will deal with security issues but to drive national and international processes. You can make a real difference in securing biology.


When defining the difference between Bio-Safety and Bio-Security the easiest discrimination is that between Mistakes and that of Bad intentions. Security in the synthetic biology has to deal with this, where every application has to deal with Dual use, meaning that every application can be used with good and bad intentions.

In synthetic biology, the threshold for practicing biology is set lower and lower creating an unprecedented security problem [Schmidt2008]. More and more people will have the possibility to engineer biology and without proper regulatory oversight these Biohackers can create potential hazards.

Concentrating arsenic