Mulvany on Strategy Unit/Can India benefit from Cartagena Protocol? (15/7/2003)

from Patrick Mulvany, Chair, UK Food Group

The UK Food Group welcomes the acknowledgement in the new report from the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit that the claims of benefit made by the biotech industry and other proponents of GM crops are 'not proven' in practice.

See Press Release "Benefits of GM crops 'not proven'" on  <
www.ukabc.org/gmcropsrelease.htm >.

The UK Food Group's latest Briefing on  GM Crops <
www.ukabc.org/gmcropsbriefing.htm > "GM Crops are irrelevant to hunger eradication" says:

"Claims that GMOs are necessary for the food security of poor people in developing countries should not be used to promote public acceptance of GM by the UK public. We believe such claims are misleading and fail to acknowledge the complexities of poverty reduction and household food security in developing countries." Directors of the British Overseas Aid Group - BOAG - organisations, all members of the UK Food Group include Action Aid, CAFOD, Christian Aid, OXFAM GB and Save the Children UK.

The direct experience of our members shows that in most developing countries, whose small-scale, labour-intensive agriculture is dramatically different from the UK, GM crops are at best irrelevant and at worst can threaten local food production. We believe that there is no scientific, economic or ethical justification for asserting that GM crops are necessary for eradicating hunger in the developing world.

The briefing then expresses our concerns, conclusions and solutions.

It ends: "The trade war between the USA and Europe over GM foods, the dumping of GM food aid by the USA on unwilling but hungry recipients and the headlong rush into biotechnology by rich countries threatens the livelihoods of the poor, the eradication of hunger and the sustainability of the environment. For the sake of the hungry, now is the time for precaution and the seeking of solutions through sustainable agriculture, not GM crops."

UK government's Science study is expected soon and will almost certainly claim multiple benefits and almost no risks.

LINKS: UK government report "Field Work: Weighing up the Costs and Benefits of GM crops"  < http://www.number10.gov.uk/files/pdf/GMreport.pdf >

Extensive press coverage (see Google News) calls on the Blair government to drop its imposition of GM crops on the UK.

Patrick Mulvany
[Chair, UK Food Group]

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Tel: +44 1926 634469;  Fax: +44 870 127 5420
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Can India Benefit From The Cagtagena Protocol?
Ashok B Sharma

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety comes into effect from September 11,  this year. The island state of Palau became the 50th country to ratify the protocol on June 13, 2003 and this finally paves the way for its  implementation 90 days later as per agreed principles.

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is a protocol under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The protocol aims to control transboundary  movements of living modified organisms (LMOs) with a view to migitate the  adverse effects of their release into the environment might on countries'  ecosystems and human health. Parties to the protocol have agreed to exchange informations and implementation issues through a biosafety clearing house.

As the protocol aims at restricting the transboundary movements of LMOs,  trade issues are likely to be involved. The European Union has already  ratified the protocal and, therefore, responsible for its implementation.  The US has not yet ratified the CBD nor the protocol. India and many  developing countries have already ratified the protocol. It is time to see how much India is prepared to benefit from the protocol as far as agri trade and development of risk assessment and management system is concerned.

The protocol will be coming into force at a time when the US is pressurising the EU to lift its moratorium on genetically modified (GM) food and crops and allow its imports. The European Parliament has decided to implement labelling of all GM foods in a move that could lead the EU to lift the moratorium on GM crops. The European Parliament decided food made from highly refined or processed GMOs and animal feed containing GMOs of more than 0.9 per cent have to be labelled. They have also set the accidental or technically unavoidable presence of non-approved GMOs in food and feed at 0.5 per cent. Meat has been put on traceability. However, this draft proposal of the European Parliament is yet to be approved by the EU member countries.

But this move of the European Parliament has not pleased the US. US is  adament on continuing its trade suit filed against the EU on the issue of  lifting the moratorium.

The World Health Orgainisation (WHO) is thinking of stepping in to pacify  the issue of GM food. It has planned to undertake a `evidence-based study' to advise national governments of both hazards and benefits of specific GM foods.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in an  attempt to wean away the developing countries, has launched a $ 14.8 million program for biosafety systems (PBS). The PBS would assist the developing countries to enhance biosafety policy, research and capacity building. PBS will be run by a consortium of professionals and institutions and will begin work initially in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and east and west Africa.

As the Cartagena Protocol comes into force and the European Union going  forward in implementing labelling and traceability norms, India needs to  strengthen its capacity building and risk assessment systems. As India and other developing countries has not yet put in place a perfect system of risk assessment and capacity building as compared to the developed world, Cartagena Protocol can be an effective instrument. The precautionary principles of the protocol says "lack of scientific certainty due to insufficient knowledge regarding the extent of the potential adverse effects of a LMO on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in the party of import, taking also into account risks to human health, shall not prevent that party from taking a decision, as appropriate, with regard to the import of the LMOs in question."

As per Article 10 of the protocol requires the importer to ensure that risk assessments are carried out and may require the exporter to carry out risk assessment and the cost shall be borne by the notifier if the party of import so requires. Article 10 calls for countries to apply precautionary principles before allowing imports of LMOs for release into environment. Article 11 suggests application of precautionary principles to the introduction of LMOs for direct use as food, feed or processing. Article 26 suggests countries to take socio-economic considerations before deciding to import LMOs. Thus there are ample safeguards for India and other developing countries to apply before deciding on imports. But at the same time we need to strengthen our risk assessment system.

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