When the tiny pacific nation of Palau ratified the UN Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety last Friday, the way was cleared for the world's first legally binding agreement that reaffirms the sovereign right of countries to reject imports of genetically engineered organisms (GMOs). Entering into force on 11 September 2003, the Biosafety protocol recognises that GMOs are fundamentally different from their conventional counterpart since their release pose a risk to the environment, biodiversity and human health.
The protocol will help nations decide freely if they wish to allow imports of GE crops.
The US Bush administration is leading an aggressive campaign to
force worldwide acceptance of GMOs, and is using the World Trade
Organisation (WTO) to challenge the EU's GMO policy to intimidate
developing countries from following the cautious EU approach to
GMOs. Two-thirds of the Biosafety Protocol signatories are
developing countries, however, and with the Protocol they will soon
have a much needed tool to defend themselves against this US war on
farmers, consumers and the environment. According to the Protocol,
importing countries can reject GMOs or impose higher safety
standards on the basis of the precautionary principle.
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More information about the Biosafety Protocol's history, key
provisions, labelling requirements, socio-economic concerns and
relationship with the World Trade Organisation.