WASHINGTON (US) – An international treaty that seeks to protect the environment from the potential risks of Genetically Modified (GM) organisms will officially become law in 90 days from today.

The United Nations treaty, known as ‘Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety’, or Biosafety Protocol, had to be ratified by fifty countries before entering into force.

The 50th ratification, by the Pacific Island State of Palau, was announced today. The Protocol will enter into force in 90 days, on September 11, 2003. First discussed in 1992, it took more than ten years for the Protocol to become law.

Friends of the Earth International welcomed the start of the countdown to the entry into force of the Protocol. It is the first treaty that officially seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by genetically modified organisms.

It constitutes the first global environmental agreement of the new millenium. It is also the first international agreement which clearly says that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are different and therefore require a different treatment.

The Protocol will require all exporters of GMOs to be released into the environment to take measures to prevent contamination of GM seed products by implementing an identity preservation system.

But many issues are still pending. One key issue is liability. Friends of the Earth International today repeated its call for the immediate establishment of an effective liability mechanism under the Protocol to ensure that corporations that harm the environment, for instance through contamination by GM crops, pay for the pollution they create.

At the same time the international notification system under the Protocol does not replace national biosafety legislation, so Friends of the Earth warned that enacting stricter national legislation on biosafety is still needed.

The Biosafety Protocol backs the approach of the European Union, asserting that GMOs need different treatment from non-GMOs. Therefore the Protocol stands in contradiction to policies held by some countries, such as the U.S., which affirm that GMOs are not different from the conventional plants and animals they derive from.

“The times of uncontrolled trade of GMOs are over. The Biosafety Protocol sets a new era for global regulation of GMOs. Exporters from all over the world should take adequate measures to prevent contamination of GM seed products,” said Ricardo Navarro, Salvadorean Chairman of Friends of the Earth International.


In Washington (U.S.),
Larry Bohlen, Friends of the Earth US
Tel: + 1-202-783-7400 ext. 251

In Brussels (Belgium),
Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International
Tel: +32-2-5420180 or +32-477-391496

In El Salvador (Central America)
Ricardo Navarro, Chairman Friends of the Earth International.
Tel: +503-2200046 or +503-2206480