MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, May 31, 2005 (ENS): Representatives
of 119 governments are expected to adopt binding rules
on the documentation that has to accompany genetically
modified agricultural commodities, such as wheat, corn
and soybeans, when they are transported across borders.
These rules will ensure that only approved genetically
modified organisms enter the territory of the respective
The documentation requirements are the most important
point on the agenda of the Second Meeting of the Parties
to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, taking place
all the week of May 31 in Montreal.
In addition to the documentation requirements, the
meeting will take decisions on other issues such as
guidance on risk assessment for genetically modified
Delegates will work towards cooperation in research
and information exchange on the socio-economic consequences
of genetically modified organisms, and create avenues
for public awareness and participation.
The rules of procedure for the protocol’s compliance
mechanism will be defined, and the operation of the
Internet information exchange portal established by
the protocol, the so-called Biosafety Clearing House,
will be clarified.
The effectiveness of capacity-building activities in
developing countries will be assessed.
Tougher measures are needed to prevent contamination
of conventional food by genetically modified organisms,
a new report from Friends of the Earth International
concludes. The report was distributed Monday by campaigners
in decontamination suits in Montreal at the start of
the international negotiations.
In its report, Friends of the Earth advocates clear
labeling of all shipments that contain genetically modified
products, the right of countries to stop imports of
illegal genetically modified organisms, and the need
to make the biotech industry liable for pollution caused
by genetically modified organisms.
Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth Canada
said, "Canada, as one of the few countries that
grow genetically modified crops must be forced to put
in place effective segregation measures so that the
rest of the world’s food supply, and our environment,
is not contaminated.”
While it has not ratified the Biosafety Protocol, Canada
does grow genetically modified crops, but globally 84
percent of the area cultivated with biotech crops is
in two countries – the United States and Argentina.
Juan Lopez, coordinator of Friends of the Earth’s
International Program on Genetic Engineering said, “These
talks are key to protecting the environment and the
world’s food supply from GM contamination. Most
countries growing GM crops on a large scale have not
even signed up to the Biosafety protocol, yet they will
be at the talks lobbying for weak controls on their
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is the only international
treaty governing the cross-border transport of genetically
modified organisms and a supplementary agreement to
the 1992 Convention on Biological Biodiversity.
The rules set out in the protocol are intended to promote
the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity
and protect the public from the potentially harmful
effects of genetically modified organisms.
The meetings began with a flurry of controversy as
Canada refused visas to several negotiators from developing
countries who are known to be critical of genetic engineering.
The Canadian authorities refused visas to the GM critic
Agbenyo Dgzobedo of Friends of the Earth Togo and also
to the Iranian government's biosafety expert Jafar Barmaki.
Both have attended UN talks on biosafety in the past.
Barmaki is a senior expert at the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and is responsible for biodiversity related
international agreements. He is a member of the National
Coordinating Committee for the National Biosafety Framework
Canada also originally refused a visa to Africa's chief
negotiator for the talks, Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher
of Ethiopia, but granted him a visa at the last minute
after international protests.
Referring to visa difficulties experienced by some delegations,
Barry Stemshorn of Canada Monday assured delegates that
the government would continue working with the Secretariat
to ensure delegates may enter the country.
The meeting of Parties that opened Monday was preceded
May 25-27 by another meeting in the framework of the
protocol that was devoted to the development of rules
and procedures on liability for damage caused by genetically
modified organisms. This is the first step in a negotiation
process due to finish by 2008.
The Biosafety Clearing-House is an information exchange
mechanism established by the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
to assist Parties to implement its provisions and to
facilitate sharing of information on, and experience
with, living modified organisms. Find it online at:
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