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BIOSAFETY: ENB Vol. 09 No. 110 (BSWG-6, Cartagena, Colombia)



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EARTH NEGOTIATIONS BULLETIN <enb@iisd.org>

                                             
   PUBLISHED BY THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR SUSTAINABLE 
DEVELOPMENT (IISD) <info@iisd.ca>


            Linkages WWW site: http://www.iisd.ca

            
                    WRITTEN AND EDITED BY:

                Changbo Bai <changbo@sprint.ca>
              Stas Burgiel <sb4997@american.edu>
             Chad Carpenter LL.M. <chadc@iisd.org>
            Joanna Depledge <j.depledge@ucl.ac.uk>
               Leila Mead <leila@interport.net> 
        Lavanya Rajamani LL.M. <lrajamani@hotmail.com>



                     DIGITAL CONTENT BY:

                Andrei Henry <ahenry@iisd.ca>
                                 
                          Editor
            Pamela Chasek, Ph.D. <pam@iisd.org>

                       Managing Editor
        Langston James Goree VI "Kimo" <kimo@iisd.org>
             
  
Vol. 09 No. 110
Monday, 15 February 1999

Daily coverage of the Sixth Meeting of the Open-ended Ad Hoc 
Working Group on Biosafety from Cartagena, Colombia can be found 
at: http://www.iisd.ca/linkages/biodiv/bswg6/

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE SIXTH SESSION OF THE OPEN-ENDED AD HOC 
WORKING GROUP ON BIOSAFETY (BSWG-6)

14 FEBRUARY 1999

Delegates to the Sixth Session of the Open-ended Ad Hoc Working 
Group on Biosafety (BSWG-6) met in opening plenary in the 
afternoon and heard statements on, inter alia, organizational 
matters and regional positions. In the evening, Sub-Working 
Group-I (SWG-I), Sub-Working Group II (SWG-II) and a drafting 
group on liability and redress began substantive discussion. Two 
Contact Groups (CG-I and CG-II) met to discuss organizational 
matters.

PLENARY

Chair Veit Koester (Denmark) expressed his condolences for the 
earthquake victims in Colombia and called for a minute of 
silence. Chair Koester recalled the composition of the BSWG 
Bureau: Elsa Kelly (Argentina) (replacing Diego Malpede); Lynn 
Holowesko (Bahamas); Behren Gebre Egziahber Tewolde (Ethiopia); 
Ervin Balazs (Hungary); R. H. Khwaja (India) (replacing A. K. 
Ahuja); Mohamed Mahmoud Ould el Gaouth (Mauritania); Darryl Dunn 
(New Zealand); Alexander Golikov (Russian Federation); and 
I.A.U.N. Gunatillake (Sri Lanka). He said that, despite 
frustration at the past five meetings, the prevailing spirit of 
cooperation was encouraging. 

Colombian Minister of the Environment Juan Mayr cautioned that 
countries richest in biodiversity would be most vulnerable to 
the adverse effects of living modified organisms (LMOs). He 
urged delegates to ensure that the protocol would allow 
transboundary movements of LMOs to take place under safe 
conditions. 

On behalf of UNEP, Sipi Jaakola transmitted the best wishes of 
UNEP Executive Director Klaus Töpfer for a successful meeting 
and announced that Dr. Töpfer would arrive Monday. Hamdallah 
Zedan, acting Executive Secretary of the Convention on 
Biological Diversity (CBD), commented on the protocol alongside 
broader trends, such as globalization, regionalization and the 
information era.

Chair Koester highlighted the decisions of the Extended Bureau 
Meeting, held from 21-22 October 1998, to pursue discussion of 
several articles as a cluster and to form a legal drafting group 
to facilitate the drafting of the protocol's text. He identified 
the key concepts to be resolved including, "products thereof"; 
contained use of LMOs; socio-economic considerations; 
precautionary principle; liability and redress; and trade with 
non-parties. 

He said the working-structure from previous meetings would be 
retained for BSWG-6. SWG-I, co-chaired by Eric Schoonejans 
(France) and Sandra Wint (Jamaica), would discuss Articles 4-16 
and 37; SWG-II, co-chaired by John Herity (Canada) and R. H. 
Khwaja (India), would discuss Articles 1, 2 and 17-27 and 34; 
CG-I, co-chaired by Piet van der Meer (Netherlands) and Osama 
El-Tayeb (Egypt) would discuss Article 3 and the Annexes; and 
CG-II, co-chaired by Ambassador John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda) 
and Katarina Kummer (Switzerland) would discuss the Preamble, 
Articles 28-33, 35, 36, 38-42. The new Legal Drafting Group 
would be chaired by Ambassador Lynn Holowesko (Bahamas). 

Chair Koester reminded delegates that the meeting's objective 
was to reach consensus on the text of the biosafety protocol. He 
said 30 articles, the Annexes and the Preamble remained to be 
negotiated. He encouraged delegations who submitted proposals 
for further annexes to withdraw them, as it would be impossible 
to negotiate further annexes given the time constraints. He 
recommended negotiating issues in only one group and discussing 
articles in clusters.

He outlined the elements of a mechanism, Friends of the Chair, 
consisting of individuals nominated by the G-77/CHINA, JUSSCANZ, 
the EU and CEE, to assist the process. In setting deadlines, he 
said SWG-I was to finish work on "commodities and LMOs destined 
for deliberate release into the environment" and "products 
thereof" and SWG-II on "socio-economic issues" and 
"precautionary principle" by Monday at 6:00 pm. All groups were 
to finish work by midnight Wednesday to enable identification of 
outstanding issues by Thursday and completion of work by Friday. 
GRULAC, the Asian Group and WEOG regional groups nominated 
members to the Legal Drafting Group. The Africa Group and the 
CEE will nominate members on Monday.

NORWAY withdrew its proposal for an annex on contained use of 
LMOs. GUYANA, for the G-77/CHINA, stressed the principle of 
common but differentiated responsibilities and highlighted the 
need for resolution on, inter alia, socio-economic 
considerations, capacity building and financial resources and 
mechanisms. GERMANY, for the EU, stressed the need for a 
protocol that protects biodiversity while preventing unnecessary 
barriers to trade. ETHIOPIA, on behalf of the Africa Group, 
expressed concern that an unsafe or ineffective conclusion may 
be taken due to time constraints. An NGO representative said 
civil society's concerns must be taken into account. She said 
the precautionary principle is pivotal, supported inclusion of 
liability in the protocol, stressed consideration of socio-
economic impacts in decision making, warned against 
subordination to WTO rules and opposed exclusion of transgenic 
crops from the protocol. On behalf of industry, the Global 
Industry Coalition supported a practical protocol and 
highlighted the benefits of biotechnology.

SWG-I: Co-Chair Sandra Wint (Jamaica) proposed that SWG-I 
mandate the Secretariat to prepare an edited text removing all 
footnotes and deleting Articles 10 (Notification of Transit), 12 
(Subsequent Imports) and 16 (Minimum National Standards), on the 
understanding that their substance was covered in other parts of 
the text. This proposal was accepted. She invited delegates to 
propose ways of removing duplication and inconsistency in the 
negotiating text, without entering into substantive negotiation. 
Several delegates pointed to the difficulty in separating out 
substantive and editorial points. The Co-Chairs agreed to 
produce a document identifying areas where editorial 
improvements could be made. 

Co-Chair Eric Schoonejans (France) introduced the topic of 
"products thereof" and circulated an informal note on 
discussions held at BSWG-5, which included the following 
proposed text: "processed products from LMOs containing dead 
modified organisms and/or non-living components of LMOs such as 
DNA or gene products are addressed in the protocol to the extent 
that there is a provision in the protocol that relevant 
information (risk assessment on environment and health issues) 
on LMOs used for processing is made available through the 
Clearing-house Mechanism (CHM)." One delegate stated that the 
proposal could be a basis for negotiation, but several opposed 
it. Another suggested that the protocol could define categories 
of LMOs, for example, those LMOs containing DNA and those that 
do not, which would then be subject to different provisions. Co-
Chair Schoonejans convened an informal group to discuss how to 
deal with "products thereof" and requested the group to report 
back to SWG-I on Monday morning with a summary of options. 

SWG-II: Co-Chair John Herity (Canada) opened SWG-II by stating 
that discussion on Article 19 (Competent National 
Authority/National Focal Point) was complete as all brackets and 
text within them had been removed. SWG-II then began 
discussions, but reached no conclusions, on the precautionary 
principle, socio-economic considerations and capacity-building.

On the precautionary principle, delegates expressed a wide range 
of views on its inclusion in the protocol. Co-Chair Herity 
reminded delegates that references to the precautionary 
principle remained in brackets in, inter alia, the Preamble, 
Article 1 (Objectives), Article 8 (Decision Procedure for AIA), 
Article 9 (Review of Decisions) and Article 14 (Risk 
Assessment). Many delegates underscored the importance of 
referring to the precautionary principle in Articles 8, 9 and 
14, and in Article 1. Some stressed, in particular, Article 14 
on risk assessment, while others said that inclusion in Articles 
8, 9 and 14 is the minimum needed to limit risks from 
biotechnology. While some delegates said the protocol's 
objectives should be in accordance with the precautionary 
principle, others noted that the principle is a means of 
achieving the objectives and opposed its inclusion in the 
article on objectives. Some said it should be addressed in the 
Preamble. One delegate indicated that the precautionary 
principle, not defined in international law, is difficult to 
implement without an agreed-upon definition. Several delegates 
said the draft protocol is in itself an expression of the 
precautionary principle. One delegate suggested that a 
scientific approach should be the priority, and when not 
available, the precautionary approach could be applied, 
cautioning that subjectively interpreting the principle could 
result in unintentional restrictions and harmful economic 
effects.

In considering Article 27 (Socio-economic Considerations), many 
developing countries preferred inclusion of the Article. Some 
suggested deleting language on financial and technical support 
for affected developing countries from parties substituting an 
imported commodity with an LMO. Some developed country 
delegations characterized the issue as: difficult to quantify; 
beyond the BSWG mandate; differing country to country; and more 
appropriate for domestic action. Among those who did not prefer 
a separate operative article, some suggested including it in the 
Preamble. Others suggested addressing it in sections on 
capacity-building, financial assistance or liability and 
redress. Co-Chair Herity, expressing concern over the lack of 
clarity in "socio-economic," said he would consider establishing 
a drafting group to reword the Article.

On Article 22 (Capacity-Building), Co-Chair Herity advised 
delegates to consider the connection between Article 22 and 
Article 29 (Financial Mechanism and Resources). Delegates 
generally supported the Article, differing on specific elements. 
Some developing countries stressed the inadequacy of addressing 
capacity-building without reference to financial resources. Most 
developing countries supported retaining a series of paragraphs 
to address access to financial resources, technology and know-
how; cooperation to enhance technological and institutional 
capacities; and assistance in areas of risk-assessment and 
management techniques. Some noted redundancies in these 
paragraphs, and one regional group recommended streamlining such 
provisions using existing text. Some developed countries 
advocated reducing the Article's scope to issues around 
transboundary movements and not more generally on biotechnology 
and biosafety, which extend beyond the protocol's mandate. 
Delegates differed over language to facilitate private sector 
involvement, with some noting its domestic nature and others 
stressing its importance in biotechnology. Delegates concluded 
their initial discussions on the Article and will next consider 
means to progress.

CONTACT GROUPS: CG-I discussed organizational matters in a brief 
meeting. Co-Chair Piet van der Meer (Netherlands) introduced Co-
Chair El Tayeb (Egypt), nominated by the Africa Group to replace 
Co-Chair Gert Willemse (South Africa). Delegates agreed to a 
preliminary work programme on definitions and annexes and will 
meet for the next three days with a view to completing work by 
6:00 pm on Wednesday, 17 February. CG-II met briefly to consider 
organizational matters and will reconvene on Monday. 

DRAFTING GROUP ON LIABILITY AND REDRESS: The drafting group, 
chaired by Kate Cook (UK), heard a number of opinions on 
condensing or merging existing texts and identifying useful 
elements from existing international agreements. One participant 
proposed including an article on liability and producing a 
recommendation for a COP decision to further develop that 
article. The decision could establish a group to address the 
issue in detail and within a specified timeframe. Stressing that 
enabling language must have parameters, one participant noted 
that the matter would be an issue for discussion under the 
protocol and must be addressed by the protocol's meeting of the 
parties. The group will reconvene on Monday. 

THINGS TO LOOK FOR

SWG-I: SWG-I is expected to meet at 10:00 am to hear from the 
Co-Chairs of the informal groups on "products thereof" and 
"commodities." 

SWG-II: SWG-II is expected to meet at 10:00 am to continue 
discussions on the precautionary principle, socio-economic 
considerations and capacity-building. 

LIABILITY DRAFTING GROUP: This group will meet at 1:30 pm in 
Room 308.

LEGAL DRAFTING GROUP: This group will meet at 3:00 pm in Room 
308.




This issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin © 
<enb@iisd.org> is written and edited by Changbo Bai 
<changbo@sprint.ca>, Stas Burgiel <sb4997@american.edu>, 
Chad Carpenter LL.M. <chadc@iisd.org>, Joanna Depledge 
<j.depledge@ucl.ac.uk>, Leila Mead <leila@interport.net> 
and Lavanya Rajamani LL.M. <lrajamani@hotmail.com>. The 
Editor is Pamela Chasek, Ph.D. <pam@iisd.org> and the 
Managing Editor is Langston James "Kimo" Goree VI 
<kimo@iisd.org>. The WWW Content is designed by Andrei 
Henry <ahenry@iisd.ca>. The Sustaining Donors of the 
Bulletin are the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 
the Government of Canada (through CIDA), the United States 
(through USAID) and the Swiss Agency for Environment, 
Forests and Landscape. General Support for the Bulletin 
during 1999 is provided by the United Kingdom Department 
for International Development (DFID), the German Federal 
Ministry of Environment (BMU) and the German Federal 
Ministry of Development Cooperation (BMZ), the Danish 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Community (DG-
XI), the Ministries of Environment and Foreign Affairs of 
Austria, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Environment 
of Norway, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of 
Environment of Finland, the Government of Sweden, the 
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Global 
Environment Facility (GEF) and the Ministry for the 
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