From the 9th to the 27th of February 2004 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the conservation of our planet's biodiversity and the future regulation of the movement of genetically modified organisms will be negotiated. Governments, international institutions, corporations, Indigenous Peoples, NGOs and activists will converge to discuss the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety. While the safeguarding of our planet is supposed to be a common aim of these talks, not much is agreed upon.
Contentious issues are discussed with the CBD, particularly the aim of reaching an international agreement on the access and benefit sharing of genetic resources. Who owns the planets genetic resources? How will they be shared? Should our natural environment be copyrighted and sold for a profit as certain stakeholders would have it? It places Indigenous Peoples and some NGOs against many governments, corporations and institutions support the patenting of life. Other potential issues that will be discussed at the meeting will be the role of protected areas in the preservation of biological diversity as well as the transfer of technology and technology cooperation. The meeting will also discuss the biological diversity of mountain ecosystems.
The meeting for the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety promises to be just as confrontational. The protocol was developed as an international agreement to govern the transboundary movement of genetically (living) modified organisms. Initiated because of the concerns about the possible consequences of the introduction of genetically modified organisms into food and agriculture, it has been bitterly negotiated between the proponents for and against the free spread of the technology. The protocol has only recently come into force as a result of it having been ratified by over 50 nations, the 50th being the tiny island state of Palau. The meeting in Malaysia will be the first since the Protocol's ratification and signifies a crucial time for the future of biosafety and may determine the regulation of genetically modified organisms on a global scale, for many years to come. The meeting will discuss a biosafety clearing-house mechanism, bio-safety capacity-building, liability and redress, protocol compliance, and the handling, transport, packaging and identification of living modified organisms.
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