Montreal 2000 Biosafety ProtestEver since genetic engineering was introduced over a decade ago, scientists have recognized that genetically modified organisms pose special risks to the environment and biodiversity.  That is why over 140 countries have signed a treaty on the international movement of GMOs, known as the Biosafety Protocol.  Meetings of the Biosafety Protocol were held last week in Cartegena, Columbia.

When GMOs get out of control and contaminate neighbouring fields or the general food supply, it’s usually farmers and the poor who are left holding the bags of unwanted genetically engineered seeds. The costs can be astronomical.  Since 2006, GE contamination of American rice exports has cost the rice industry over a billion dollars.  Who pays to clean up this mess?  Usually farmers bear the costs themselves, or there is no clean up and the environment is allowed to suffer.

Countries at the United Nations meeting failed to reach consensus on how to hold companies and nations responsible for contamination caused by genetically engineered organisms.  It’s not surprising that the big GMO producers and exporters, including Canada, the United States and Argentina are dragging their heels to prevent an agreement from being concluded.   The Canadian government has still not passed legislation ratifying the Biosafety treaty. Until the international agreement is completed, companies will not be held financially responsible.   


Dear Friends and colleagues,

RE: No Agreement Yet on Liability Regarding GMOs

The recent meeting of the Working Group discussing the establishment of a liability and redress regime for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) under the UN Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, failed to conclude its negotiations as mandated.

Another meeting is scheduled to be held in May, aimed at reaching an agreement, as under the Biosafety Protocol, an international regime on liability and redress addressing damage from the transboundary movement of GMOs should be agreed upon and concluded by 2008. This "Friends of the Co-Chairs" meeting will comprise six representatives each from Africa and GRULAC, six representatives from the Asia-Pacific region which were named as Bangladesh, China, India, Malaysia, Palau and the Philippines, two representatives each from the European Union, and Central and Eastern Europe, and New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and Japan. The meeting will be open to advisors from Parties as selected by the Friends and is scheduled for 7-9 May in Bonn. Regional group meetings will be held on 6 May.

The outcome of the meeting will be presented to the Fourth Meeting of the Parties (MOP 4) to the Cartagena Protocol, which will be meeting from 12-16 May in Bonn. MOP 4 will then have to decide on how to proceed with the rest of the negotiations. It is expected that a Contact Group will be formed early in the week to negotiate substantively on liability and redress, in order to reach a final outcome by the end of the MOP 4.

Below is a report of the deliberations of the Working Group's meeting. It was published in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) #6445 and is reproduced here with permission.

With best wishes,

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