Biotechnology at the OECD

OECD Observer
Since 1980 the OECD has been a leading player in addressing biotechnology--related issues. During that time, modern biotechnology has evolved from a scientific curiosity towards commercial applications, and has reached the in-trays of more and more policy advisers, in different ministries or government agencies – science, industry, agriculture, health, environment, education, development, trade, patent office and others. It became impossible for any one agency to pretend to a monopoly on it.
At OECD biotechnology also reached the agenda of committees and subsidiary bodies, to such a point that in 1993 an Internal Co-ordination Group for Biotechnology was established to facilitate co-operation between the various programmes. So how do these various parts of the whole work?For science and technology policy, the main objective of the OECD’s Working Party on Biotechnology is to provide support to the policies of member countries, particularly in the areas of public health, sustainable industrial development and bio-resource centres, such as culture collections, databanks and bio-informatics. The Working Party is also undertaking a major project on biotechnology for sustainable development which will provide guidance to industry and government on implementing new bioprocess technologies.On the environment, a Working Group on Harmonisation of Regulatory Oversight in Biotechnology was established in 1993. Building on the earlier concepts of safety assessment, this group addressed in detail the safety assessment issues associated with a range of cultivated crop plants and micro-organisms, selecting first those plants or traits most commonly the object of transform-ation by modern biotechnology. The Working Group developed a standard pattern of activity, to produce over twenty ‘consensus documents’, on a standard model, and by a uniform procedure. A country with particular interest or experience volunteers to act as ‘lead country’ on a particular topic and the draft gradually develops through circulation and amendment. UN agencies – UNIDO and UNEP – participate, and when a document addresses a plant species whose wild relatives are indigenous to a particular region, experts in the countries concerned are consulted. Thus consensus documents are built through a science-based international dialogue, focusing on such matters as the biology of the organism and the -nature of the transformation.As to agriculture, the OECD Schemes for Seed Certification were developed to regulate international trade in seed. Their main purpose is to harmonise the assessment and certification of identity and -purity of cultivated crop varieties – including genetically modified ones. Another important agricult-ural project at OECD is a Co-operative Research Programme, which provides post-doctoral fellowships for young scientists to work in a foreign laboratory. It also organises scientific workshops covering a number of topics which include work on biotechno-logy (see article on dialogue, p. 31). Finally, as part of OECD’s work on trade, a synthesis of national submissions on intellectual property rights in biotechnology has been developed and the results of this work were published in February 1999.©OECD Observer No 216, March 1999

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q1 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% May 2019 annual
Trade: +0.4% exp, -1.2% imp, Q1 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% July 2019
Last update: 8 July 2019

OECD Observer Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Subscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To order your own paper editions,email

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • MCM logo
  • The following communiqué and Chair’s statement were issued at the close of the OECD Council Meeting at Ministerial level, this year presided by the Slovak Republic.
  • Food production will suffer some of the most immediate and brutal effects of climate change, with some regions of the world suffering far more than others. Only through unhindered global trade can we ensure that high-quality, nutritious food reaches those who need it most, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, write in their latest Project Syndicate article. Read the article here.
  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2019