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BIOSAFETY: Colombian NGO biosafety appeal



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Cartagena/Colombia, Feb 16 1999, 11:00

Dear GENET-news readers,

today Colombian NGOs launched below attached biosafety appeal on a press conference at BSWG-VI. The international NGOs which follow the biosafety negotiations since the very beginning were invited to support the call of colombian NGOs for a strong biosafety protocol which is suitable for protecting the biodiversity and human health of developing countries against the commercial interests of TCNs.

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Colombia needs a strong Biosafety Protocol 

The representatives of Colombian NGOs are worried about the contrast between highly advanced technology and a legal framework that does not properly deal with the issues raised by such technologies.

One example of why a strong legal framework is vital, is the field trials that Monsanto has run in Colombia with transgenic cotton plants since 1996. The cotton plants contain a stretch of DNA which determines the production of toxic substances of the bacteria Bacillus thuringensis, and this gives them resistance to certain insect pests.

These field trials were set up even though at that time there were no national regulations to handle the problems generated by transgenic plants. Since the issue of biosafety was not considered as relevant, and the information and knowledge about this issue was poor, neither the enterprises responsible for the trials nor the national authorities made an evaluation of the potential risks.    There was no investigation of possible threats from an introduction of transgenic plants, to Colombiaís biodiversity, environment, its peopleís health or socio-economic issues. 

As well as its huge variety of wild plant species, Colombia possesses particularly important agricultural diversity.   The potential impacts on this diversity arising from introducing transgenic plants into cultivation in Colombia have to be investigated with care, as does the possibility of genetic contamination of the adjacent agricultural and wild flora.

In addition, the socio-economic risks associated with the introduction of transgenic seeds needed to be taken into account.  The relevant authorities in Colombia should have assessed the socio-economic risks, such as the risk of  local cotton producers becoming dependent of multinational companies once they buy genetically modified seeds instead of using traditional, local seed varieties.

In some Bt cotton field trials in the USA,  insect pests became resistant against the toxic substance produced by the plants.   There has also been evidence on horizontal gene transfer and cross-pollination between genetically modified plants and wild species. 

Considering the potential dangers implied by biotechnology, the responsible authorities should have applied the precautionary principle and suspended the experiment until the total safety of GMOs is proved. 

Colombia as a megadiverse country needs a strong biosafety protocol, especially as currently there is no comprehensive national legislation integrating all the aspects mentioned above. There must be an internationally accepted legal instrument to regulate any use of transgenic organisms.

As Colombian NGOs, we demand the following: 

Before deliberately releasing GMOs into the environment, a full risk assessment is absolutely necessary. National authorities must evaluate any threat posed by GMOs to the environment, biodiversity, peopleís health and local socio-economic structures.

A Biosafety Protocol must provide a comprehensive legal framework to regulate the commercial, agricultural and scientific use of GMOs. 


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-| Hartmut Meyer
-| Co-ordinator
-| GENET
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
-|
-| Reinhaeuser Landstr. 51
-| D - 37083 Goettingen
-| Germany
-| 
-| phone: #49-551-7700027
-| fax  : #49-551-7701672
-| email: genet@agoranet.be
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