A Biosafety Protocol at Last!

A Biosafety Protocol at Last!: But Will it Work?

AFTER nearly five years of protracted and, at times, acrimonious negotiations, an international Biosafety Protocol was finally concluded at Montreal in January 2000. Below we report on the historical Montreal meeting and provide a comprehensive analysis of the Biosafety Protocol that emerged from it. Also, some areas of concern which the Protocol fails to address, and measures that can be taken by developing countries to fill in the lacunae and rectify the weaknesses of the Protocol are highlighted.

  • Biosafety talks end on mixed note (L.L.Lim/TWN)
    After five years of difficult and painful negotiations, the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity finally concluded a Biosafety Protocol in late January at Montreal. It was public pressure and concern that finally forced recalcitrant countries (led by the US) to agree to such a Protocol. While the final outcome was a compromise document which is not fully satisfactory and leaves many questions still unanswered, the fact remains that there is now an international treaty which specifically regulates the transboundary movement of genetically engineered (GE) organisms. (Third World Resurgence No. 114/115, Feb/Mar 00)

  • Delayed, but better, Biosafety Protocol (Chee Yoke Ling/TWN)
    Looking back, it is clear that the collapse of the biosafety negotiations in Cartagena was a blessing in disguise. The growing strength of public concern in the interim, as a result of mounting scientific evidence of the hazards of genetically engineered crops and foods, made possible the conclusion of a more satisfactory Biosafety Protocol at Montreal. (Third World Resurgence No. 114/115, Feb/Mar 00)

  • The core issues in the Biosafety Protocol: An analysis (L.L.Lim/TWN)
    Only the core issues of the Biosafety Protocol were negotiated at Montreal. The remaining provisions were basically the same as those negotiated at the earlier talks in Cartagena. Lim Li Lin analyses and comments on these core provisions. (Third World Resurgence No. 114/115, Feb/Mar 00)

  • The way forward (Chee Yoke Ling/TWN)
    Now that the Biosafety Protocol has been negotiated, what are the steps that can be taken to fill in the gaps left by the Protocol? Some key dates and suggestions for consideration are set out above. (Third World Resurgence No. 114/115, Feb/Mar 00)

  • Biosafety negotiations - flashbacks
    Tewolde Berhan G Egziabher, the spokesperson of the Like-Minded Group (Group of 77 & China) at the Montreal and Cartagena talks and who has been involved in the biodiversity negotiations since the Nairobi Conference in 1991, reflects on his experience as a negotiator from the Third World at the biosafety talks. (Third World Resurgence No. 114/115, Feb/Mar 00)

  • The 'Cartagena/Vienna setting': Towards more transparent and democratic global negotiations (Chee Yoke Ling/TWN)
    While it was public pressure that finally pushed the negotiations in Montreal to a successful conclusion, the process was greatly facilitated by the innovative and transparent procedures initiated by the active but impartial chairman of the meeting, Minister Juan Mayr Maldonado of Colombia. Dubbed 'the Cartagena/Vienna setting' (since these procedures were first adopted in the Vienna preparatory meeting that followed the collapse of the negotiations in Cartagena), they provide a democratic alternative to the secretive negotiating processes that have characterised the WTO, and a healthy precedent for future global meetings. (Third World Resurgence No. 114/115, Feb/Mar 00)

  • The CaMV promoter story (M.W.Ho)
    The Biosafety Protocol concluded in Montreal reaffirms the precautionary principle but the problem is one of ensuring that the principle is implemented, as illustrated by the case of the CaMV promoter. The CaMV promoter is a gene-switch from the cauliflower mosaic virus which is incorporated into practically all current GM crops. Recent scientific findings reveal it may be highly unsafe. But many of the scientists themselves are refusing to read the implications of the findings or to draw the right conclusions in accordance with the precautionary principle. (Third World Resurgence No. 114/115, Feb/Mar 00)

  • The 'Golden Rice' - a big illusion?
    A new variety of rice genetically engineered to incorporate provitamin A is being held out as the panacea for the widespread problem of vitamin-A deficiency. Florianne Koechlin challenges this claim and suggests that there are more practical and viable methods to tackle this deficiency. (Third World Resurgence No. 114/115, Feb/Mar 00)

  • Farmers say 'No' to genetic engineering
    Increasingly, farmers around the world are viewing genetic engineering as a threat to their livelihood. As delegates met to negotiate a Biosafety Protocol in Montreal, Greenpeace and the Third World Network held a joint press conference to allow the voices of small and independent farmers from Brazil, Mexico, the US, Canada and France to be heard in the negotiations. The following account of the press conference provides profiles of these farmers and summarises some of the main concerns raised by them. (Third World Resurgence No. 114/115, Feb/Mar 00)

  • Trouble in the garden (P. Montague)
    By the end of 1999, agricultural-biotechnology companies worldwide found themselves in deep trouble as investors lost confidence in them and drove stock prices down. A principal reason for this debacle was the forced disclosure by the US Food and Drug Administration that its own scientists had expressed grave doubts about the safety of genetically modified crops. (Third World Resurgence No. 114/115, Feb/Mar 00)