Biosafety Protocol - a disastrous compromise in process
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- Subject: Biosafety Protocol - a disastrous compromise in process
- From: MichaelP <papadop@PEAK.ORG>
- Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 22:39:26 -0800 (PST)
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From: "Hambling, Joyce" <Joyce.Hambling@uk.greenpeace.org>
To: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, 19 Feb 1999 19:26:08 -0000
Reports from NGO observers in Cartagena, Columbia on the Biosafety
Protocol speak of a disastrous compromise being worked out and that the
EU is about to give in on major points.
the NGO's are writing a statement at the moment and are presently
working extremely hard to lobbying delegates to strengthen their
as far as we know - socio- economic considerations are relegated to the
preamble - where it would have no legal significance
The Precautionary Principle is possibly still in(being argued) but is
extremely weak - one NGO reported that it was as good as written out,
although this still has to be confirmed.
liability -the wording is believed to be 'parties may consider' rather
than shall have the right to - no timeline has been fixed to this
GE Commodity crops for processing and animal feed is excluded -this in
effect means 99% of all transported GE and is so loosely worded that it
could apply to almost anything.
Although the USA is not a signatory and therefore has no voting rights,
they and the other members of the Miami group seem to have had undue
influence on the drafting of the Protocol.
We hope to have more definite news shortly - but if anyone is doing an
action or has reason to do media work this weekend - please flag up the
importance and urgency of a strong positive position by the EU and
especially Britain. Meacher should be left in no doubt that the public
reaction to the UK not taking a stand and reflecting public concern will
As soon as there is a statement by either a delegate or the NGO's and/or
the official text, it will be posted.Press coverage from the states is
available on several search engines - there is good coverage on the
Greenpeace International site.
ENVIRONMENT: ACTIVISTS CHALLENGE BIOSAFETY PROTOCOL
February 19, 1999
CARTAGENA - Inter Press Service via NewsEdge Corporation : Representatives
of the world's
leading non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the environment gathered
in this Colombian city
today to call for a moratorium on the trade and release of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs).
Thirty-six delegates of NGOs from Latin America, Africa, Asia, the United
States and Europe
protested the attempt by the industrialized North to monopolize control
over food security, the
production of medicines and agribusiness processes.
The NGOs are meeting this week in Cartagena parallel to the final stage of
negotiations on the
The position of industrialized countries, backed by transnational
especially affects the countries of the developing South, the NGOs argued.
"The moratorium should remain in place until the risks posed to human
health and biological and
cultural diversity by the consumption and release of GMOs are assessed, and
until it is clear how
they affect the economies of developing countries," the NGO declaration
The environmentalists appealed to the sense of responsibility of the
government delegations from
more than 150 countries taking part in the talks on the protocol in the
port city of Cartagena in
By the fourth day of the meet, which began Feb. 14 and runs through Feb.
19, the more than 500
official delegates had made little headway in reconciling the opposing
interests of the North and
The objective of this week's talks is to agree on a series of international
regulations on the transfer,
handling and use of GMOs, which are mainly crops designed and modified by
The NGOs urged that civil society -- "the principal potential victim of
these products, and the big
absentee from the meetings," in the words of German Velez, with the Seeds
Program in Colombia --
must be informed of and involved in the debate on decisions regarding
Velez said that more than 100 groups of environmentalists, small farmers
and indigenous people in
Latin America, meeting in Quito a few days before the start of this week's
gathering in Cartagena,
urged a moratorium on the trade and release of GMOs.
The declaration issued in Quito also rejected the growing trend toward the
privatization of life, said Velez, who spoke in representation of the NGOs
from Latin America.
Marijane Lisboa of Greenpeace International, representing the European,
U.S., Asian and African
groups, warned that "citizens, consumers, farmers and doctors should be
informed and consulted,
besides actively participating in such decisions."
But "up to now their participation has been restricted to a minimal level,
" she added.
Mae Wan Ho, a geneticist at Britain's Open University, said a group of
colleagues around the world
had issued a petition for an "immediate moratorium on the trade and release
of GMOs." Among the
scientists who signed the petition figured Vandana Shiva with India's
Institute of Research for
Science and Ecology.
Wan Ho, a pioneer in research on the risks posed by the manipulation of
life, who is known for her
book "Genetic Engineering: Dream or Nightmare," said the declaration
included "a vigorous rejection
of patents and systems for the protection of property rights over living
Researchers are concerned over "growing scientific evidence" on the harmful
effects on health
caused by consumption of and trials involving GMOs, she added.
Wan Ho said that in studies carried out at the University of Virginia in
the United States, rats fed
transgenic potatoes suffered serious damage to their immunological systems
and developed viral
infections. The use of "marker genes" was also found to increase resistance
Meanwhile, transgenic seeds designed to resist herbicides could "
genetically contaminate" other
species and produce "superweeds" that are also highly resistant to
Such technology intensifies the use and consumption of large doses of
Round-Up, whose toxic effects on health have been abundantly documented,
even by researchers
for the U.S. government.
Genetic engineer Ricarda Steinbrecher said a nationwide campaign for a
moratorium on the trade and release of transgenic organisms was launched in
the British parliament
"We have the support of a group of parliamentarians from all of Britain's
parties, who have taken up
the growing citizen protests against the introduction of transgenics into
their national territory," said
The NGOS want the government delegations to take their views into account
when it comes to
drawing up the final text of the Protocol on Biosafety, which is to be
approved on Feb. 19.
[Copyright 1999, Inter Press Service]
Summit under way on the dangers of genetic engineering
Summit under way on the dangers of genetic engineering AP
Prospecting, piracy, private eyes -- the buzzwords negotiators
are using at an international summit this week suggest intrigue
Even the meeting's backdrop -- the exotic old Caribbean pirate port of
Cartagena, Colombia --
adds to the atmosphere.
But instead of weapons or precious metals, experts from 174 nations are
debating how to regulate
trade in gene-engineered potatoes, cotton, grains and trees.
The U.N.-backed summit represents the first global attempt to reduce the
laboratory-designed species might pose to public health and the environment.
For 20 years, biotech companies have been genetically manipulating plants
and animals to make
them more attractive -- redder, juicer tomatoes, for example -- speed
their growth or make them
more resistant to disease.
These new combinations could increase the food supply and reduce the need
for hazardous farm
chemicals. But opponents fear the unintended consequences of messing with
For example, scientists added commercially valuable traits from the brazil
nut to a strain of
soybeans but ended up making the soybeans risky for people with nut allergies.
Another fear is that genes inserted in crops to give them certain
favorable traits -- resistance to
herbicides, for example -- might jump to surrounding wild plants. Some
weeds have already
become impervious to weedkillers in this way.
These plants, animals and microbes are commercial products as much as they
are life forms, and
the rights are tightly held by a small and shrinking group of
multinational companies. Policing
these rights is also on the agenda at the conference, which was convened
to negotiate what is
being called the Biosafety Protocol.
"We're experiencing a big shift into a biotech century," said Jeremy
Rifkin, who is president of
the Washington-based Foundation on Economic Trends and wants a moratorium
commercial use of genetically engineered organisms. "We need to be asking
a whole different set
of regulatory, environmental and liability questions. It's going to affect
Biotech industry leaders contend their products are already subject to
stringent safety standards.
Agribusiness giant [ Monsanto ] says its 60 genetically engineered crops
have been the subject of
25,000 field trials in 45 nations. More regulation would "massively
disrupt all international trade
in biological materials," said Val Giddings of the Biotechnology
The United States is taking part in the summit but cannot vote on the
protocol because the Senate
has not ratified the U.N.-sponsored biodiversity agreement negotiated in
Rio de Janiero in 1992.
The biosafety debate has gotten little attention in the United States,
even though it exports 80
percent of the world's bioengineered materials.
Europe, however, has seen protests calling for a ban on the sale of
"Frankenstein foods," at least
until their risks can be determined.
"There is a huge domain of scientific uncertainty about the impact of
these things," said Ian
Taylor, scientific adviser for the environmental group Greenpeace in England.
A 68-year-old toxicologist in Scotland, Arpad Pusztai, has become a cause
celebre in the
He added insect-resistant genes and proteins to potatoes and fed them to
rats. The animals
suffered damaged immune systems, growth problems and shrunken brains, he
said. It was
thought to be the first time that trials of genetically modified food
showed harmful effects.
However, his employer, the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen,
described the findings as
"muddled" and "misleading" and refused in August to renew his contract.
Other scientists have
come to his defense.
Even supporters of genetic engineering say more testing is necessary,
especially when food is
"Genetically manipulated organisms are part of the solution of raising
food production in the
world," said Maarten Chrispeels of the University of California at San
Diego. "It is a good idea if
there are uniform practices and all countries subscribe to minimum
standards for testing and
Reaching a consensus before Tuesday, the last scheduled day of the summit,
may prove difficult.
As of Friday, negotiators from the developed world led by the United
States had succeeded in
watering-down a draft text to exclude food crops and most other
commodities -- such as jeans
made from genetically engineered cotton -- from the list of regulated
Other issues in the debate include:
-- Labeling: Consumer and environmental groups want genetically altered
foods and other
products to carry labels explaining their scientific histories. Many
biotech companies and grocers
-- Permits: Some nations want to establish export permits for each
biologically altered product.
The Clinton administration wants to require permits only for those
products that might cause
-- Prospecting and Piracy: Corporations employ researchers to "hunt" down
genes in biologically
rich countries and commercialize them. The host nations want to earn
royalties on the genes.
-- Private eyes: Monsanto has been sending private investigators to make
sure farmers are not
violating agreements that bar them from saving gene-engineered seeds and
using them in a later
Publication Date: February 19, 1999