Statutory role of The Netherlands Commission on Genetic Modification

The Netherlands Commission on Genetic Modification (COGEM) is an independent scientific advisory body that provides advice to the government on the risks to human health and the environment of the production and use of GMOs, and informs the government of ethical and societal issues linked to genetic modification.

Permits for the production and experiments with GMOs are granted by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W). Consequently, COGEM is primary an advisory body of the ministry of I&W. COGEM advises and informs both independently and at the request of the Minister for the Environment.

COGEM’s remit covers all fields from agriculture to medicine and from contained use to deliberate release of GMOs. COGEM advises on environmental risks but not on feed or food safety of GMOs, animal welfare or patient safety (e.g. in relation to gene therapy).

The abovementioned means that COGEM (amongst others) advises:

  • on request of the ministry of I&W on specific permit application (notifications) and the safety measurements which should be in place to warrant the safety,
  • on the classification in risk groups of pathogens or specific experiments and techniques with GMOs (on request or unsolicited),
  • on adaptation (interpretation) of the regulations in case of new technological developments.

And that COGEM informs (on request or unsolicited):

  • the government on ethical or societal aspects linked to genetic modification, without taking a standpoint.

Therefore, COGEM is on the one hand sometimes part of the permit application process, and on the other hand also advises and informs on more general issues.

The tasks and structure of COGEM are laid down in the Environmental Protection Act. Further details e.g. procedures concerning voting, appointments, meetings, minority views etc. are laid down in the COGEM Rules of Procedure.