Biosafety Issues

Introduction to biosafety

Biosafety is the structure that makes use of certain specific methodologies, guidance, security gear, and exceptionally built offices to safeguard workers, the surrounding area, and the environment from unexpected exposure to contagious agents and chemicals. A biosafety program puts measures in place to distinguish biohazards, evaluate the amount of risks related to health the biohazard offers to people, farming, wildlife, and the environment, and develop solutions to lower the dangers related to the biohazard. Biosafety has become more crucial than ever to protect the ecosystem as a result of the development in the fields of biotechnology and genetic engineering.

Rules and monitoring body for biosafety

The field of biosafety is intricate and not without risks so, it is necessary to have a set of guidelines and safeguards in place to prevent biological dangers brought on by contact with infectious biological agents. The general public should be informed of the biosafety guidelines and the organisations in charge of monitoring them. The goal of the Biosafety Protocol is to safeguard biodiversity against the dangers that could be posed by modern biotechnology. The "Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety" is an agreement on biosafety issues that came into enforcement in 2003. The Protocol covers all living modified creatures that might have adverse effects on the preservation and reliable use of biodiversity, while aditionally considering human health hazards into account.

Biosafety rules to be followed in general inside a laboratory

  • It is not permitted to store food, eat, drink, or smoke in a lab.
  • Mouth pipetting is not permitted.
  • Lab coats are required and must be taken off upon leaving the lab.
  • After each working day/ hour, working surfaces must be cleaned with soap and alcohol.
  • Waste products need to be decontaminated using either autoclaving or incineration.
  • Regular hand washing.
  • Avoid coming into contact with GMOs and other unusual biological agents; while handling them use disposable gloves.
  • The laboratory door should always be closed.
  • Use of laboratory hood while handling chemicals that produce fumes.
  • Biohazard warning signs should always be present in lab.

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Regulatory authorities for biosafety measures

  • Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) is a single-window platform for the scientific risk evaluation and control of all biotech goods including GMOs, across the agricultural, healthcare, environmental, and industrial sectors. The BRAI won't give regulatory permission until a multi-level process of evaluations has been completed.

  • Currently, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and State Governments are overseen by six competent agencies, to execute rules and recommendations across the nation −

    • DBT's Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RDAC)

    • Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBSC) are affiliated with any organisation that engages in the rDNA test − DBT

    • RCGM − Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation-DBT

    • Genetic Engineering Approval Committee − DBT

    • State Government's − State Biosafety Coordination Committees (SBCC)

    • State Government's − District Level Committees (DLC)

Different levels of biosafety

Activities and projects carried out in biological laboratories are divided based on biosafety levels. The highest level of containment is BSL-4, while the other three levels are BSL-1, BSL-2, and BSL-3. Agricultural research (BSL-Ag), animal research (ABSL), and other sorts of research all have their own unique regulations and designations.

Level 1 of Biosafety (BSL-1)

Infectious agents or toxins that are non-infectious to humans are studied in BSL-1 labs. They don't need any specialised tools or architectural characteristics and adhere to standard microbiological practices.

Level 2 of Biosafety (BSL-2)

Contagious agents or toxins with a moderate level of risk that could be dangerous if accidentally inhaled, eaten, or exposed to the skin are studied here. Design specifications for BSL-2 laboratories must have automated closing and locked doors, eye washing stations, and hand washing sinks. BSL-2 laboratories must also have access to decontamination tools, such as an autoclave, an incinerator etc.

Level 3 biosafety (BSL-3)

Infectious substances or toxins that can scatter through air and develop fatal infections are studied in BSL-3. All investigations are carried out in biosafety cabinets with regulated airflow to avoid infection. 2 self-closing, or interlocking, doors, secured walls and windows, and filtered air ventilations are further safety elements. Additionally, a decontamination system, an autoclave, and an incinerator must be available.

Level 4 biosafety (BSL-4)

Infectious substances or poisons that are highly dangerous for transmitting diseases and laboratory illnesses through aerosols are studied in BSL-4. The laboratories are located in safe, isolated zones within a bigger premises or an isolated building, and they include all BSL 3 elements. Entry to a BSL-4 lab is completely controlled and requires proper guidance.

Advantages of biosafety

Biosafety practices are based on containment concepts and technology, and they are used to protect people from unintentional direct contact with toxic substances, hazardous microorganisms, other accidental releases, etc.

Benefits include −

  • Minimizes exposure to dangerous and poisonous substances and risks.

  • Built-in ventilation controls prevent the inflow of dangerous gases and bacteria.

  • Create a sterile atmosphere.

  • By using HEPA filters, it is possible to keep living things and people away from potentially dangerous particulate matter.

Significance of biosafety

  • The country's regulatory authorities must first give their consent for the use of genetic engineering practices to reduce biosafety.

  • Exotic microorganisms are the subject of ongoing modern research. Even if current research procedures can, however, benefit the human population, it can also be risky.

  • In the light of ensuring the safety of humans and the environment, biosecurity and bioterrorism must be monitored. Therefore, biosafety is crucial to ensuring the secure application of technology.

  • Depending on the hazardous microorganisms being studied, certain biosafety levels are suggested for the labs to guarantee the secure use of science and technology.


The goal of biosafety is to protect the environment, the organism, and human health and safety from danger. Biosafety issues refers to a set of rules that staff members working in laboratories or other establishments that handle potentially dangerous chemicals or biological material must follow. Everyone including the ecosystem is protected when the biosafety requirements are strictly followed.


Q1. Explain Cartagena protocol.

Ans. The first international regulatory framework for the secure transfer, processing, and application of LMOs was established by the Cartagena Protocol in 2003. 169 nations are currently parties to the Protocol.

Q2. Describe biohazard.

Ans. Substances with a biological origin could cause serious disease or infection and are highly dangerous to living things. Example waste from hospitals etc.

Q3. What is bioterrorism?

Ans. A kind of terrorism which involves the purposeful use of biological agents (bacteria, viruses, or other germs) to create a threat to civilians. For example, Use of Botulism causing Clostridium botulinum toxin

Q4. Year in which DBT came into existence and its significance?

Ans. It is a division of the Indian government that came into existence in 1986 and is in charge of managing biotechnology and its development and commercialization in India.

Q5. What are HEPA filters?

Ans. High Efficiency Particulate Air Filters are those filters used in laboratories which capture almost 99.9- to 99.999% of particles and thus purifying air.

Updated on: 29-Nov-2022


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