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Certificate of Advanced Studies in Biosafety and Plant Genetic Resources Management

January to November 2008


Les inscriptions pour la troisième édition du certificat en biosécurité sont closes.


Plaquette de présentation du Certificat (pdf)
Formulaire d'inscription (word)


Plant genetic resources (PGR) are the core material from which farmers since the Neolitihic revolution have progressively selected and improved the multitude of crop varieties on which we rely today. Much more recently, molecular biologists have developed what is known as green biotechnology, a wide array of technical tools. Among these tools, genetic engineering directly modifies DNA sequences to create genetically modified plants. However, the diversity of plant genetic resources is nowadays threatened by various factors and urgently requires specific management and conservation strategies.
Unique in Europe, this interdisciplinary training provides full theoretical and practical skills in biosafety and plant genetic resources (PGR) management. The training is enriched by the contribution of worldwide specialist (molecular biologist, sociologist, economist, lawyer, and philosopher). Lectures will cover technical, legal and socio-economic aspects, including:

1) Biosafety – the wide range of instruments (legal, political, administrative, biological and agronomical) aimed at providing the right level of protection against the possible risks to the environment and human health arising from the production, use, transport and transformation of genetically modified organisms
2) Access to PGR, including issues related to intellectual property rights and benefit sharing
3) PGR management and conservation of crop diversity

• to develop an interdisciplinary approach to biosafety and plant genetic resources management (PGR)
• to give a synthesis of the most recent scientific knowledge in the field of green biotechnology and biosafety
• to understand the various practices of selection developed by small farmers as well as formal agronomic research, and their impact on plant crop diversity
• to identify technical and economic challenges related to the conservation of PGR
• to analyse plant biodiversity conservation and management from a North-South perspective
• to study legal systems, both national and international, that aim to preserve biodiversity, guarantee food security and promote biosafety regulation
• to provide a comprehensive view of socio-economic and ethical issues related to the use of genetically modified organisms and PGR

Target Audience
Professionals from the public/private sector and representatives from non-profit organizations – e.g. scientists, industrialists, legal practitioners, technicians, project managers – with a particular interest in biosafety and/or PGR management. Advanced students can also apply.

Steering Committe
Prof. J.-D. ROCHAIX, Faculty of Sciences, University of Geneva, director
Mirko SAAM, RIBios - Biosafety Interdisciplinary Network, co-director

Alain KAUFMANN, Interface sciences-société, University of Lausanne
Dr Pia MALNOË, Agroscope Changins-Wädenswil
Prof. Anne PETITPIERRE, Faculty of Law, University of Geneva
Dr Anne-Gabrielle WUST-SAUCY, Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)
Dr Marc-Antoine FOURNIER, Graduate Institute of Development Studies (IUED) and Swissaid


• Federal Office for the Environment - FOEN
• Agroscope Changins-Wädenswil
• Faculty of Law, University of Geneva
• Interface sciences-société, University of Lausanne
Most of the courses will be held in English and a few in French. The documentation will be provided in English
Educational approach
• Interdisciplinary: the contributions of specialists coming from various fields allow participants to get an overview of critical biosafety and PGR management issues
• Flexible: an e-learning platform offers the opportunity of gaining the certificate by distance learning
Interactive: workshops, debates/roundtables and exchange of experiences are included in the curriculum
• Concrete: the experiences and knowledge shared by a diverse array of lecturers and professionals allow participants to discover the “everyday” practice of biosafety and PGR management
The whole Certificate will last eleven months (January to November 2008), with the first six month (January to June 2008) dedicated to the courses and the last five months (July to November 2008) to the thesis work. This is a part-time programme, totalling 576 hours, comprising 168 hours of courses, 228 hours of personal work and 180 hours for the thesis work.

The course curriculum features nine modules and a thesis work. Each module consists of thematic lectures and discussions and lasts two to three days. An e-learning platform allows students to participate in the courses at home.
A five-onths period – from July to November 2008 – is dedicated to the thesis work preparation.


Unit 1 Scientific and technical aspects

Module 1: Introduction to biotechnology and plant genetic resources, January 10-11, 2008
This module gives a scientific introduction to biotechnology and genetic engineering especially. The participant will be able to deal with e.g. transgenesis, cloning, tissues cultures, methods. The main issues related to plant genetic resources will be investigated as well.
Dr Pia Malnoë, Agroscope Changins-Wädenswil and Barbara Bordogna Petriccione, RIBios – Biosafety Interdisciplinary Network

Module 2: Risks related to GMOs and preservation of agrobiodiversity, January 24-25, 2008
Risk assessment methods and risks arising from genetic engineering in food and agriculture will be addressed in the first part of this module. The second part will focus on threats to animal and plant biodiversity as well as the main strategies for biodiversity conservation.
Dr Angelika Hilbeck, GMO Environmental Risk Assessment project

Module 3: Biotechnology applications and tools for studying and preserving PGR,
February 21-22-23, 2008
Cases of biotechnology applications in the fields of agriculture, pharmaceutics and industry will be described, while the majors tools used to study and conserve plant biodiversity will be examined.
Mirko SAAM and Jonathan KISSLING, RIBios – Biosafety Interdisciplinary Network

Discovery-Day 1 GMO detection workshop March 7, 2008

Unit 2 Legal and institutional aspects
Module 4: International regulations related to biodiversity, biosafety and PGR, March 13-14, 2008
This module deals with legal aspects of biosafety and biodiversity management, especially international legal agreements such as the Convention on Biodiversity, the Cartagena Protocol and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). Commercial treaties with direct relevance to biosafety and biodiversity such as the WTO’s SPS and TBT will also be studied.
Dr François PYTHOUD, Swiss Federal Office of Agriculture

Module 5: National regulatory frameworks (Swiss, European, American), April 3-4, 2008
This module will focus on comparative study of national and regional regulatory frameworks (Swiss, European, and American) in the field of biosafety and biodiversity.
Dr Anne-Gabrielle WUST-SAUCY, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment

Module 6: Access to genetic resources and benefit sharing, intellectual property rights and liability
April 17-18, 2008
Issues related to intellectual property rights on living material and access to genetic resources and benefit sharing will be considered in this module. Furthermore, the specific problem of liability and redress in connection with GMOs will be presented.
Dr Susette BIBER-KLEMM, University of Basel

Unit 3 Socio-economic and ethical aspects
Module 7: Socio-economic aspects of biotechnology and plant genetic resource, May 8-9, 2008
Biotechnologies and seed production markets as well as their production process will be analyzed. A focus on production, selection and conservation of seed at farmer and industrial level will be made.
Ezra RICCI, Lullier School of Engineering

Module 8: Impact of biotechnologies on ethics (precautionary principle, world vision)
and ethical standpoint on biodiversity, May 29-30, 2008
Precautionary principle, patents on living material, intrinsic value of biodiversity, ethics of research practices and the point of view of various religious traditions will be examined from an ethical perspective.
Dr Andrea ZANINETTI and Dr Mark HUNYADI, RIBios – Biosafety Interdisciplinary Network

Module 9: Interdisciplinary approach of risk and expertise – Public participation in science and technology
June 19-20, 2008
Starting from a critical approach of classical risk assessment and management, this module will explore the role of expertise and public participation in designing a more democratic governance for emerging technologies such as biotechnologies.
Alain KAUFMANN, Interface sciences-société, University of Lausanne

Discovery-day 2 Station Agroscope Changins-Wädenswil, Valais June 2008

Application form, CV and a cover letter should be submitted before October 31, 2007 to:
RIBios – Biosafety Interdisciplinary Network
C/o IUED, Rue Rothschild 20 – 1211 Geneva 21
Tel: + 41 (0)22 906 59 75
E-mail: jonathan.kissling@iued.unige.ch
Candidates will be selected on the basis of their application file, taking into account the following requirements:
A university degree or equivalent and professional experience in a field related to biosafety or PGR management.
Excellent knowledge of English, spoken and written, and good oral comprehension of French are required.
Diploma awarded
The Certificat de formation continue en biosécurité et gestion des ressources phytogénétiques / Certificate of Advanced Studies in Biosafety and Plant Genetic Resources Management is awarded by the University of Geneva. It is a postgraduate diploma worth 20 ECTS credits. It is obtained after successfully completing the 9 modules and a thesis work.
Tuition fee
CHF 4’800.- for the whole Certificate
CHF 700.- per module
CHF 1’900.- for a thematic unit (3 modules)
The State of Geneva offers a CHF 750.- contribution to tuition fees under certain conditions. For more information, please contact - before the course starts: Office pour l’orientation, la formation professionnelle et continue www.geneve.ch/caf
University of Geneva (modules 1 to 5) and University of Lausanne (modules 6 to 9)
2-days modules (Thursday-Friday): 9h00 to 12h30 and 14h00 to 17h30
except module 3, which is a 3-days module (Thursday-Friday-Saturday): 9h00 to 12h30 and 14h00 to 17h30

For further information, please contact:

M. Jonathan Kissling
RIBios - Réseau Interdisciplinaire Biosécurité
20, rue Rothschild
Case postale 136
1211 Geneva 21
022 908 44 94

or the website : Formation Continue Universitaire






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mise à jour : 24.02.2009