BBC on failure of biosafety protocol (fwd)
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- Subject: BBC on failure of biosafety protocol (fwd)
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- Date: Wed, 24 Feb 1999 16:52:57 -0800 (PST)
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It seems that the next UN biosafety conferenve can't happen for another 18
BBC Wednesday, February 24, 1999 Published at 11:31 GMT
GM food talks fail
"No genetic contamination" read the protesters' posters
The 170 nations at the UN Biodiversity Convention in Colombia have
failed to agree on international rules for the safe trade in
genetically-modified (GM) food.
The final round of talks began at 0900 GMT on Wednesday with delegates
deciding to "postpone" the adoption of an agreement to protect
The talks could not resolve disagreements between countries which
produce genetically altered foods and the rest of the world.
Their aim had been a legally-binding protocol on reducing the risks of
cross-border movement of GM organisms.
The meeting, in the city of Cartagena, involved delegates from the
countries which have signed the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
The United States had been accused of trying to wreck the talks. It
has not ratified the convention but was in Cartagena as an observer.
But it has used that restricted status to orchestrate a refusal to
allow the meeting to include commodities like soya beans and corn in
the negotiations. The two crops make up 90% of the world trade in GM
[ image: Soya beans for Downing Street: GM food protests are
If the commodities were included, it would mean labelling them in
international trade. That could mean they were boycotted.
The failure to reach agreement means there is no global agreement that
a country has the right to refuse to allow the import of GM organisms.
If individual states do refuse, they will be liable to challenge at
the World Trade Organisation.
Greenpeace accuses the Americans of threatening biodiversity in the
name of profit.
Greenpeace's political adviser, Louise Gale, said: "The US has
attempted to terminate the Biosafety Protocol".
"It seems that the US, driven by the commercial interests of companies
such as Monsanto, is willing to threaten the world's biodiversity and
forego any international safeguards on the trade in GMOs."
The US observers did have the support of five delegations, most of
them from major grain exporting countries - Canada, Argentina,
Australia, Chile and Uruguay.
The British delegation is also accused of giving support to the
Americans after it helped to draw up a set of proposals which favour
Dr Doug Parr, of Greenpeace UK, said that failed talks would mean that
millions more consumers would be denied a choice about what they eat
and a majority of the world's national governments would be powerless
to enforce this basic individual right.
He also criticised the UK Government's policy on GMOs.
"Whilst they make promises to the UK public about labelling, no UK
minister is present at international negotiations to ensure that it
can actually happen".
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