KUALA LUMPUR (MALAYSIA) / BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) – Friends of the Earth today welcomed the conclusion in Kuala Lumpur of the first meeting of the parties to the Biosafety Protocol – the global agreement on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) – as an important step forward for protecting consumers, farmers and the environment from the dangers of GMOs.
“Dozens of governments committed to biosafety defeated a US-led coalition that tried to undermine the right of consumers, farmers and citizens to choose non-genetically modified crops and food. The right to choose non-GM crops and food is crucial since GMOs pose a real danger to the environment and to the health and livelihoods of people around the world,” said Juan Lopez, of Friends of the Earth International.
“A strong Biosafety Protocol is a positive step towards an international liability regime for GMOs. We hope that the European Union will take this opportunity to establish a comprehensive legal framework that counters genetic contamination. This is urgently needed, especially in the area of liability, where rules to make polluters pay for damage caused by GMOs are practically non- existent,” added Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth Europe.
The three key areas in which decisions were made:
There are currently no international liability rules for GMO damage but thanks to the commitment of countries such as Ethiopia , Malaysia and Colombia in four years from today we will be many steps closer to an international liability regime. A Working Group was created with a strong and clear mandate to complete the international rules and procedures for liability and redress by 2007.
The US strongly objected to the text, but as a non-Party their demands were rightly not taken into consideration by the chair.
Crucial compliance measures have been agreed. (The objectives of compliance mechanisms are to promote compliance of Parties with their obligations and address cases of non-compliance.) A 15-member committee on Compliance has been created and will be effective immediately. Cases of non-compliance can be reported by other parties. Measures that can be taken to address non-compliance include both providing issuing cautions and publishing cases. For persistent offenders even stronger measures could still be agreed on the basis of consensus in future meetings. The EU has fought for strong compliance rules.
Rules to develop and implement clear identification of Genetically Modified Organisms were agreed and do not please the lobbyists from the biotechnology industry. While the likes of the International Grain Trade Coalition were pressing for many loopholes to be included, in fact Parties, such as the EU, India and China , opted for strong identification requirements. This means that countries can require exporters to provide clear detailed information about exactly what GMO is involved in a shipment and could refuse the shipment if this information was not provided. This would represent a huge improvement on many current trading practices.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT IN KUALA LUMPUR:
Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International, Tel: +60-123952149 or email@example.com
Geert Ritsema, Friends of the Earth Europe, Tel. +60-176570825 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Liana Stupples, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Tel. +44-7785365178 or email@example.com