BONN, GERMANY. 12 May, 2008 – A last minute attempt by six biotech giants to undermine international negotiations on biotech crops was condemned today by environmental group Friends of the Earth International as a proposal to ‘privatise international law’. [1]

Friends of the Earth International
Media Advisory
May 12, 2008

Attempt to derail UN talks on biotech contamination condemned

Delegates from 140 countries meeting in Bonn for United Nations (UN) talks this week are expected to make key decisions on global rules to deal with damage caused by the release of biotech or genetically modified (GM) crops.

However, their attempts to agree an international liability regime within the framework of the UN are now threatened by a ‘compact’ proposal from six major biotech corporations.

The ‘compact’ recommends to settle all damages related to GM contamination through private compensation mechanisms with individual countries. Such ‘compact’ proposal is seen as totally inadequate by many stakeholders, since there would be no liability for the victims in most scenarios of GM contamination.

The majority of developing countries participating in the talks requested solid international rules to protect them against possible damage from GM crops.

Since the commercialisation of the first GM crops in the mid 1990s, GM contamination repeatedly caused damages in a number of countries. International and legally binding rules to protect the world’s citizens from these types of damages are urgently needed. [2]

“The majority of the world’s governments are demanding that the biotech industry pays for any damage caused by genetically modified crops. The industry has its back against the wall and can only offer weak last minute promises that would leave countries and the public unprotected in the event of future damage.

The polluter must pay and should not be allowed to dictate the terms of the compensation”, said Juan Lopez Villar, international coordinator of the Friends of the Earth GM campaign.

The UN Biosafety Protocol was agreed in January 2000 and has been joined by over 140 countries. The Protocol provides basic international rules that allow especially developing countries to regulate the safety of GM foods, crops and seeds. [3]

More than 70% of the global GM crops production takes place in North America and in a few Latin American countries.

Despite decades of research, only two different GM ‘traits’ are commercially available – herbicide and insect tolerance – and they have been engineered mainly into maize, soy and cotton seeds.

Since the introduction of GM crops, the use of chemical herbicides has increased dramatically in many instances, and GM crops failed to tackle world hunger or poverty. [2]


Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International. In Bonn: +49 1604 251 493 (German mobile valid until May 17)

Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe. In Bonn: +49 1609 490 1163 (German mobile)


[1] The six major biotech companies are: BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont/Pioneer, Monsanto and Syngenta.

[2] For a detailed analysis of socio-economic impacts of GM crops, see Friends of the Earth International Who Benefits from GM crops? series at

[3] For more information go to