Historic Cartagena Biosafety Protocol Comes Into Effect

Original Publication Date: 
10 September, 2003
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For Immediate Release
September 11, 2003

Historic Cartagena Biosafety Protocol Comes into Effect

Activists at WTO Meeting Vow to Protect it Against Bush Administration Attacks

Cancun, Sept. 11- A major environmental treaty, the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, comes into effect today, 90 days after receiving ratification by 50 nations. It recognizes the right of countries to impose conditions on allowing the import of any living organisms that have been genetically modified, including a full analysis of the risks that might be posed to the local ecosystems and human health.

One of the Protocol’s major provisions embodies the “Precautionary Principle”, recognizing that a country can forbid importation when there is not sufficient information or research results to do an adequate assessment. The burden is on the exporting company or country to provide the proof of safety.

The United States is not a party to the Protocol, and has stated that it has no intentions of joining it. However it appears that the Bush Administration is likely to threaten WTO action in order to blunt the thrust of its protective provisions.

Nongovernmental organizations from around the world have vowed to resist any such attempt at international power politics that would compromise human well-being and environmental security. “We will not let the rules of biosafety in the Protocol be undermined by the rules of recklessness and greed on display at this WTO meeting” said Vandana Shiva of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology of India.

Because the US government has allowed genetically modified crops to be planted, and foods to be consumed, without any oversight assessment at all, it has strenuously resisted the drafting of the Protocol, and was able to weaken several provisions. Given the recent US attack in the WTO on the European Union’s regulatory practices for genetic crops (which are generally consistent with Cartagena Protocol), citizen organization see the Protocol as a welcomed statement that environmental and health concerns cannot be relegated to second place after short term economic profits.

“By means of the Protocol,” notes Philip Bereano, who participated in its negotiations on behalf of several US group, “countries can use both science and the social preferences of their citizens to evaluate this new technology, which has received very little scrutiny and is already beginning to display troublesome consequences.

From :
Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
A – 60, Hauz Khas
New Delhi – 110001
Email: rfste@vsnl.com

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