GENTECH archive


BBC on failure of biosafety protocol (fwd)

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.
   US accused
   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."
   Britain criticised
   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
   their position.
   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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