strategy

Regulating transboundary movement of genetically modified organisms

Description:
It was agreed in 1995 that an international protocol on biosafety was needed to complement the [Convention on Biological Diversity] (CBD) adopted at UNCED in 1992. At present there are no binding international agreements addressing situations where GMOs cross national borders.

There is an accelerated process of biological globalization. The increase in trade, transport and travel has created many new opportunities, both deliberate and accidental, for organisms to move around the world and invade new environments. Some of these introductions bring net benefits but many are of aggressive invasive species that upset the local ecological balance and crowd out other more desirable, useful or perhaps unique species. These changes can degrade ecosystems and lead to significant losses in biological diversity, ecosystem resilience and productivity.

Context:
In a speech given by Ritt Bjerregaard, Member of the European Commission responsible for the Environment, entitled "Providing transatlantic leadership in achieving sustainable development", at the US-German Leadership Conference in Washington, 13 March 1999, stated "I am both surprised and disappointed at the failure at the last session of negotiations of a [Protocol on Biosafety] to the [UN Convention on Biological Diversity] in Carthagena, Colombia. Through this Protocol the European Union worked hard to achieve a credible safety system for the transboundary movement of living modified organisms GMO's. We wanted to have transparent procedures in place enabling a flow of information from the exporter to the importer. The point is to allow the importing country to make an informed decision as to whether to accept the shipment or not. An opportunity was in fact lost to establish a rather modest but nevertheless useful first step regulating important issues of concern to our citizens. This was not the best example of international leadership. Especially at a time when we want to enlist the support of developing countries in improving environmental standards and in moving towards a new round of world trade negotiations, confident that it would also serve their interests.
Implementation:
The objective of the [Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety] to the [Convention on Biological Diversity] (signed January 2000) is to contribute to ensuring an adequate level of protection in the field of the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health, and specifically focusing on transboundary movements.
Claim:
1. Governments have to respond to the concerns about the possible impact of biotechnology on biodiversity expressed within the scientific community and the public at large. We are now in a situation where widespread dissemination and the release of living genetically modified organisms into the environment take place in the context of experimental field trials, large scale agriculture, marketing of agricultural commodities and products. International action based on the precautionary principle is necessary. An indispensable step to achieve safety in biotechnology is to provide any country of import with the possibility to take reasoned and scientifically based decisions prior to the import of living modified organisms.
Subjects:
Biology
Genetics
Frontiers
Regulation
Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies