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You are here: Home / Media / Archive / 2000 / biotech_chairman


28 January 2000



The Chairman of the Extraordinary meeting of the Conference of the Parties has issued a draft proposal for addressing the remaining "essential core issues" of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in the form of a Non- Paper. The Non-Paper covers: the scope of the Protocol; the application of the Advance Informed Agreement Procedure (AIA) to Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) intended for direct use as food or feed or for processing (commodities); and the relationship of the Protocol with other international agreements

This briefing is a response to the Non-Paper by Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest network of grass-roots citizens and environmental organisations with members from 64 countries.


1. Scope of the Protocol

The Chairman proposes retaining the scope of the protocol as set out in Article 4 of the draft report, the "Cartagena text" (UNEP/CBD/ExCOP/L.2/Rev.1).

Friends of the Earth International opposes this for the following reasons:

GMOs "destined for Contained Use"

The current Article 4(2)(b) exempts transboundary movements of LMOs destined for contained use. However the current definition of contained use, while attempting to limit this to LMOs used within physical structures, is inadequate because the structures do not have to be designed to limit contact with, and impact on the outside environment. The definition only requires that the LMOs have to be "controlled by specific measures". This could mean that an LMO with a so-called suicidal or "terminator" gene (or another non physical-barrier) intended for growing in a physical structure, such as a fenced field, would be excluded from the entire provisions of the Protocol.

The flawed definition of "contained use" would also imply that exporters could decide that their product, although destined to be released into the environment, does not have to be notified under the AIA procedure since it comes within the contained use definition and is therefore exempt from the Protocol provisions. The shaky definition of contained use creates a real "grey area" between LMOs falling under the Protocol and those which do not. This would not only create confusion and difficulties for implementation but would also have profound implications on agricultural economies and create significant risks to biodiversity.

Products derived from LMOs ("products thereof")

The current Article 4(1) excludes products of LMOs - such as GM Soya Cake or GM Maize Oil, or products containing such ingredients - from the Protocol and thereby may deny information and the right to say no to countries and people who wish to avoid these products for biosafety, health and precautionary reasons.


2. Commodities

The Non-Paper proposes that a separate and weaker AIA procedure is created for LMOs referred to as "commodities" by changing the Articles relating to AIA, information sharing and the Annex on information required in notifications.

Friends of the Earth International opposes this for the following reasons:

Twin-track AIA (Art. 9 bis)

There is no biosafety-based justification for a "twin track" AIA procedure, or for weaker requirements for commodities. In practice it will not always be possible to distinguish between, for example, LMOs imported for release into the environment and LMOs imported as commodities. Both can potentially present the same risk to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity if released to the environment. In any case, Article 10 already allows for a simplified procedure in cases judged to be safe, but, critically, it is the country of import that makes the decision.

Implicit consent (Art. 9 bis (3))

Furthermore the proposed Article 9 bis (3) would create a system of implicit consent whereby if the party of import does not respond within the given time period of two hundred and seventy days, implicit consent is inferred. This would mean that a transboundary movement could proceed although the Party of import has not given its consent. Since Art. 9 bis does not even require that the Party of import has actually taken notice of the approval issued by the Party of export, the proposed fast-track procedure would mean that transboundary movements could take place without the Parties of import knowing anything about it. Art. 9 bis puts a disproportionate burden on the importer which will be particularly felt by developing countries. This could well open the floodgate for GMO exports along the paths of least resistance and into countries which have no domestic legislation and the least capacity to manage biodiversity impacts.

First transboundary movements (Art. 5 (3))

Moreover, the fast-track procedure proposed by the Chairman would only apply to first transboundary movements (Art. 5 (3) of the Non-Paper). However, countries of import may have very good biosafety reasons to require notification prior to every subsequent movement - particularly in the case of imports for use in research or trials, which do not infer blanket approval.

Information requirements (Annex 1 B (new))

The proposed information requirements omit key areas namely suggested methods for safe handling, packaging, labelling, monitoring methods and contingency procedures, for example.

3. Relationships with other International Agreements/Non-Discrimination

The Chairman proposes to delete the current "savings clause" (Article 31) which in effect would give other agreements, including trade agreements concluded under the WTO, precedence.

Friends of the Earth International supports this.

The Chairman proposes new wording for the Preamble which recognises that "trade and environment agreements should be mutually supportive" and emphasises that "this protocol and other international agreements are of equal status".

Friends of the Earth International supports this and would also add that the Protocol should not be subordinate to other agreements.

Finally the Chairman proposes a new Article 8 (4) bis which essentially sets out that Parties should give the same treatment to the "same type" of LMOs irrespective of their "source". It is totally unclear what "same type" means.

Friends of the Earth International opposes both the proposed new non-discrimination clause and the old clause included in Article 22 on the grounds that there is no need for any such clause in a protocol dealing with the protection of biological diversity.



Dan Leskien or Liana Stupples at the Hotel La Tour Centre Ville on 866 8861 or cell phone 1 514 239 4253.

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