Legislative and administrative measures

Legal and legislative context

The legal and legislative context governing biosafety in Morocco tends towards the application of the precautionary principle which consists in not authorizing the marketing of living modified organisms (LMOs) until it is demonstrated that they have not harmful effects on human health and the environment. It is in this sense that the Department of Agriculture established, on 11 August 1999, a circular prohibiting the introduction into the national territory of products and food preparations containing products derived from LMOs. Similarly, the import of LMO seeds is prohibited.

Morocco has not yet put in place a law governing LMOs. An attempt to draw up a draft law relating to the control of the use, release and placing on the market of LMOs or products derived therefrom was prepared and submitted for consideration and approval in 2000, but was withdrawn for review.

It should be mentioned that the advisory committee, known as the "National Biosafety Committee", was established with the Prime Minister, by circular n°5/2005 of 12 April 2005 and which is made up of all the representatives of the ministerial departments concerned with biosafety, as well as representatives of the private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The main function of the Committee was to advise the government on all aspects related to LMOs. This committee held several meetings in its early days before becoming inactive.

With regard to organic production, Law n°. 39-12 on the organic production of agricultural and aquatic products (BO of 21 February 2013) also prohibits, in its article 11, LMOs or products obtained from these organisms in the organic production method.

Institutional context

Morocco's institutional capacities are well established and can easily set in motion an operational and comprehensive national biosafety framework. These institutions are divided between focal point and Competent National Authority (CNA), within the meaning of the Cartagena Protocol, official laboratory, research and training establishments and NGOs.

Indeed, the role of focal point, under the Cartagena Protocol, is ensured by the Department of Sustainable Development, in harmony with the attributions of this Department which is in charge of the elaboration, the follow-up of the implementation of the national strategy for sustainable development, and its evaluation, in coordination and collaboration with the ministerial departments concerned.

The National Office for Sanitary Safety of Food Products (ONSSA), presents a complete system, with all the central and regional administrative bodies and services to carry out its role as Competent National Authority (CNA), in accordance with the prerogatives attributed to this National Office.

The Official Chemical Analysis and Research Laboratory (LOARC), under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development and Water and Forests, is included in the list of laboratories authorized to carry out analyzes at the title of the repression of fraud. LOARC has the necessary equipment for qualitative OVM analyses, requested by ONSSA or other organizations, using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technique. This laboratory could develop this activity according to the needs of the ANC, and this, through the acquisition of new equipment and the necessary kits and through the training of its teams.

Alongside the institutions mentioned above, there is a diversified list of research establishments covering a very varied field of action, including biosafety. This list includes Institutes dedicated to research, such as the National Center for Scientific and Technical Research (CNRST), the National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA), the Scientific Institute, the National Institute for Fisheries Research (INRH), the National Institute of Hygiene (INH), the Forest Research Center, the National Agency for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ANPMA), etc. Research on genetic resources and biotechnology is often carried out in Research Training Units (UFR), which are distributed throughout the Kingdom in several science faculties, belonging to a large number of Universities, or in executive training (IAV, ENAM, ENFI, etc.).

These research establishments have more or less well-equipped laboratories, or even Biotechnology Units (such as those of the National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) and Technical Support Units for Scientific Research (UATRS) in within the CNRST for example). Universities and research-training establishments also have research laboratories with varying levels of equipment in plant, animal or microbial biotechnology, with recourse to molecular techniques, essentially for the purpose of characterizing genetic diversity. Among the techniques used in these laboratories, we find the techniques of molecular biology and genetics, they include: DNA extraction, DNA amplification (PCR), genotyping of PCR products as well as the extraction of molecules (proteins, enzymes, etc.). Some laboratories use the services of UATRS for detailed analyses.

The best-equipped laboratories could participate in the development of specific techniques for the qualitative and quantitative identification of plant, animal or microorganism LMOs, if requested, and subject to material and logistical support. These establishments also have human resources and expertise that can be used for the benefit of the National Biosafety Framework (the UATRS of the CNRST for example).