September 28, 2001 – A new report on GMO contamination worldwide shows the urgent need to ratify the biosafety protocol and for a liability regime as soon as possible.

Friends of the Earth International urges governments at the next UN Biosafety meeting in Nairobi (1-5 October) to ratify the Biosafety Protocol and to engage themselves in a fast-track procedure to introduce as soon as possible a liability mechanism under the Biosafety Protocol negotiations. The liability issue will be discussed at the next Intergovernmental Committee for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (ICCP), where Friends of the Earth International is also presenting a new report on the impacts of GMO contamination around the world. The report, entitled, “GMO Contamination Around the World,” gives more evidence about the impacts of the illegal transfer of GMOs which underlines the urgent need for a liability and redress mechanism. At the moment no international and only very few national rules on liability and redress exist regarding GMOs.

“GMO contamination has become the Trojan horse of the biotech industry. Without a liability regime, the responsibilities for the damage caused by contamination will more often than not fall on the victims of environmental, health and economic damages, not on the producers of GMOs,” said Larry Bohlen from Friends of the Earth, U.S.

Discoveries in August last year of StarLink, a genetically modified maize illegal for human consumption in the food supply in the U.S. and later in Japan and South Korea underline the urgent need for a liability regime under the Biosafety Protocol. Later discoveries of GMOs not approved in Europe and Latin America are described in the FoE report.

“Liability for harm would also give biotech companies an incentive to be more careful about the kinds of crops they produce and how aggressively they are commercialized,” continued Bohlen.

The costs of redress and compensation of StarLink, which has become the widest case of contamination by a GMO not authorized for human consumption anywhere in the world were estimated to be around 1 billion dollars. A year later, many nations, importers and farmers are sorting out who shoulders the costs of testing for the presence of GMOs like StarLink and who pays when contamination occurs. The lack of an international liability system has frequently put the burden of the costs of GMO contamination onto the countries that suffer the contamination.

A pdf version of the FoE report may be found here

Larry Bohlen, Washington DC 1 202 270 3650, x251
Gill Lacroix, Brussels 32 2 542 0182 or 00 32 (0)476 244 161
Juan LÛpez, Brussels 32 2 542 0187