New treaty on GMO trade set to come into force/Philippine Senate to hold another public hearing on GMOs (28/5/2003)

* New treaty on GMO trade set to come into force
* Philippine Senate to hold another public hearing on GMOs
New treaty on GMO trade set to come into force
Source - Reuters Commodities News (Eng)
Tuesday, May 27, 2003  19:11
By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON, May 27 (Reuters) - A treaty regulating trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is expected to come into force later this year, giving importers greater powers to reject shipments of such crops.

The Cartagena Protocol needs just one more country to ratify and then three months' breathing space before it comes into force.

"Most probably in the next weeks we will come to the point when 50 or more countries have ratified. Ninety days later it enters into force," United Nations Environment Programme chief Klaus Toepfer told reporters on Tuesday.

"This gives power to the importers. With this protocol we have a very, very clear basis for open, transparent discussions on the shipping of GMOs," he added.

The United States is a fervent advocate of GMOs but many developing countries are worried that they have not been fully tested for environmental or health effects.

The European Union cannot make its mind up on the subject, although the European Commission -- which does not count as a country -- has approved the Cartagena Protocol and several member states have already ratified it.

Under the protocol -- named after the Colombian city where discussions first started -- countries intending to trade in GMOs must inform a database in the Canadian city of Montreal where the treaty was finally agreed.

Notification includes individual cargoes which must be clearly marked.

Any country considering importing material from that country can access the Montreal Clearing House database for information on the cargo in question -- including the background -- and decide whether or not to take it.

 "Such a protocol, once in force, will give a huge change in handling these topics," Toepfer said.

 Toepfer, in London to present a lecture on environmental law, said decisions to reject had to be made on a demonstrable scientific basis but accepted there could be some conflict with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

 "There might well be a clash with the WTO at some stage," he said, accepting that much detail -- specifically on the issue of liability -- still had to be thrashed out.

 The United States announced plans this month to sue the European Union unless it quickly opened its market to millions of dollars of genetically modified products.

 Canada, Argentina and Egypt joined the United States in asking the World Trade Organization to get involved in a five-year-old trade dispute that U.S. farmers say costs them about $300 million a year in lost sales, mostly corn, to Europe.

 In a separate development, European lawmakers voted on May 22 to toughen draft legislation on labelling genetically modified food, a move the biotechnology industry fears may further delay opening the European Union market to hi-tech crops.
Philippine Senate to hold another public hearing on GMOs
Date Posted: 5/27/2003
Philippine Daily Inquirer via NewsEdge Corporation :

 BAGUIO CITY - The Senate is willing to give critics of Bt corn another chance to rebut Malacanang's decision to commercialize genetically modified (GM) crops, Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. said here on Thursday.

 Magsaysay, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture, scheduled another public hearing next week to accommodate new materials that a group of hunger strikers said would prove that the Bureau of Plant Industry had failed to examine the negative impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Philippine Greens secretary general Roberto Verzola ended his 22-day starvation on Wednesday to protest the entry of Bt corn in the country. American Peace Corp volunteer Andrew Haralam ended a parallel hunger strike here on Monday.

But the government, Magsaysay said, is already focused on reinforcing agricultural productivity using new technology to cushion the impact of globalization.

By 2004, most countries are obliged to lift all trade tariffs under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.  In fact, he said, scientists at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos have been genetically modifying Philippine peanuts to accelerate the commodity's protein content.  Magsaysay said senators have suggested a strengthening of government financing, infrastructure and resources to build a parallel organics market.

Verzola had urged the Senate to legislate new laws obliging manufacturers to identify the GM components of food products.

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