Diplomat calls on UN to move agency from Canada / India to press for liability regime at Cartagena Protocol (26/5/2005)

1.India to press for liability regime at Cartagena Protocol
2.Diplomat calls on UN to move agency from Canada

see also: Visa Denial: ERA Flays Canada
This Day (Lagos, Nigeria)

1.India to press for liability regime at Cartagena Protocol
Financial Express, Thursday, May 26, 2005

NEW DELHI, MAY 25: - India has called for a defined international liability regime to redress the damages resulting from transboundary movements of living modified organisms (LMOs). This liability regime should be incorporated under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which came into effect from September 11 2003.

It has also called for setting up of a global fund on mandatory basis for redressing the damages.

India has already submitted its views, in writing, on the proposed global liability regime to the technical group of experts. Indian team led by Desh Deepak Verma, a senior official in the environment ministry, is expected to press upon the need for a liability regime at the second Meeting of Parties (MOP-2) to the Cartagena Protocol scheduled in Montreal from May 30.

Back home, the Union commerce ministry has set up a panel headed by the additional secretary, GK Pillai to assess the impact of Cartagena Protocol on trade. The panel is scheduled to meet on May 30 and will assess global scenario of acceptance or rejection of genetically modified (GM) crops and food and how to deal with a situation of clandestine imports of GM foods which are not yet approved in the country.

The Article 27 of the Cartagena Protocol calls for setting up of a global liability and redressal mechanism for damages caused on account of transboundary movement of GMOs otherwise called LMOs. This mechanism is scheduled to be put in place by the end of 2007.

India is against limiting liability for damages caused.

2.Diplomat calls on UN to move agency from Canada
Dennis Bueckert
Canadian Press, Wednesday, May 25, 2005

OTTAWA -- A United Nations environmental agency should be moved from Montreal if delegates continue to have problems getting Canadian visas to attend meetings, says a top African diplomat.

Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, official negotiator for the G-77 group of developing countries and China, made his demand in a letter to Klaus Topfer, executive director of the UN Environment Program.

Tewolde appealed for a motion to censure Canada for the difficulty he had in getting a visa and for the continued difficulties he said are being experienced by other delegates to a Montreal conference on biodiversity.

About 800 delegates from around the world are expected to attend negotiations next week on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, whose central purpose is to prevent genetic contamination from genetically modified organisms.

The visa controversy comes amid a global dispute over genetically engineered foods that pits many poor countries against major crop exporters such as Canada and the U.S.

There have been reports that Canadian GE canola has been found growing around eight Japanese ports despite rules on handling that are supposed to prevent such contamination.

One of the biggest concerns about GE crops is that they will mix with indigenous plants, changing the genetic composition of valued species and producing new unwanted varieties, sometimes referred to as superweeds.

Tewolde received a visa to visit Montreal only after protests from many North American groups including the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Council of Canadians.

At least four other would-be participants in the meeting are known to have been refused visas and there are likely others, said Eric Darier, a Greenpeace activist in Montreal.

He said all the delegates who have encountered visa problems are from poor countries and all are critics of Canada's policies promoting the trade in genetically modified foods and crops.

One of the major issues at the Montreal conference will be rules on the labelling of GE products. Many countries are pushing for much tighter regulations, but they are opposed by major exporters, including Canada.

Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadians, charged that Ottawa is deliberately excluding people who oppose Canada's position.

"It just seems to us too much of a coincidence that this happened,'' she said.

"It looks clear to me this is a political decision. Dr. Tewolde is a renowned scientist. There'd be no reason to pick him out, there's no terrorist link, nothing like that.''

Others suggest the exclusion of certain delegates could be due to suspicion that people from poor countries may seek to stay in Canada once they arrive.

"If Canada cannot relax its hypervigilance to allow these talks to occur, then it's obvious the talks cannot occur in Canada,'' said Sarah Dover of the Sierra Club.

Marie-Christine Lilkoff, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs, said she could not comment on any case involving a visa application due to privacy concerns.

In his letter to Topfer, Tewolde proposed that "one refusal or delay by the government of Canada in issuing a visa requested . . . shall become sufficient ground for the closure of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal and its transfer to the territory of another party.''

Darier of Greenpeace said the escape of GE crops in Japan, documented by Japanese environmental groups through laboratory tests, could endanger Canada's access to a major market.

"Through Canadian exports of canola we are now contaminating one of our major trading partners.''

He said Australia, which, like Canada, is a major promoter of biotech crops, has imposed a moratorium of GE canola to prevent contamination of GE crops. He added that it is precisely such contamination that the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is intended to prevent.

The conference on biosafety officially opens next week, but preliminary discussions have already begun.

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