International safety laws agreed at MOP3 (18/3/2006)

3 items below - look out for the video clips

QUOTE: "trade interests and the biotech industry stopped a better agreement from being made. Countries have the right to know what is being imported into their country and the right to say no to GM crops." - NNIMMO BASSEY

Biotech Foods: International Safety Laws Agreed
by Friends of the Earth International March 18, 2006

CURITIBA (BRAZIL), 17 March 2006 - United Nations talks on the global trade in genetically modified (GM) foods and crops ended here today with an agreement on the labelling of GM grains traded worldwide.

Friends of the Earth welcomed the agreement as a "small step forward" but attacked the biotech industry and the trade interests of a few countries for blocking progress towards better protection for developing countries and the environment.

The biotech industry consistently opposed clear identification and labelling requirements for GM crops. Without clear labelling many countries, especially developing countries with their limited resources, are unable to protect their food supply and environment from GM contamination.

Nnimmo Bassey, International Coordinator of the Friends of the Earth GM Campaign said:

"Protection of the environment and the public from genetically modified crops has taken a small step forward today. However it is clear that trade interests and the biotech industry stopped a better agreement from being made. Countries have the right to know what is being imported into their country and the right to say no to GM crops."

The UN Biosafety Protocol, which was originally agreed in January 2000, provides basic international rules that allow mainly developing countries to regulate the safety of GM foods, crops and seeds. It has been ratified by 132 countries but the three main countries that grow GM crops - the United States, Argentina and Canada - have refused to support it.

Ten years after the first significant planting of GM crops, no plants with benefits to consumers or the environment have materialized and GM crops have failed to deliver the promises of the biotech industry. More than 80% of the area cultivated with biotech crops is still concentrated in only three countries: the US, Argentina and Canada.

Friends of the Earth International recently published a report that concluded:

* GM crops are not green. Monsanto's GM soybeans, the most extensively grown GM crop today, has led to an increase in herbicide use. The intensive cultivation of soybeans in South America is fostering deforestation, and has been associated with a decline in soil fertility and soil erosion.

* GM crops do not tackle hunger or poverty. Most GM crops commercialized so far are destined for animal feed, not for food, and none have been introduced to address hunger and poverty issues. In Argentina, the second biggest producer of GM crops in the world, only 2% of the soya stays in the country. Other developing countries, such as Indonesia and India, have experienced substantial problems with Monsanto’s GM crops, often leaving farmers heavily indebted.

* The biotech industry has failed to introduce the promised new generation’ of GM crops with consumer benefits. After 30 years of research, only two modifications have made it to the marketplace on any scale: insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.


In Curitiba, Brazil
Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth International / Friends of the Earth Nigeria Tel: +44 7785334200 (UK mobile) or email
[email protected]
Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe Tel +49 1609 490 1163 (German mobile) or email [email protected]

In Europe
Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International Tel +34 6259 805 820 (Spanish mobile)

For more information: Background on biosafety:


Videos from the conference

interview: The environment minister of Ethiopia March, 16. 2006, Curitiba - Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, representative from Ethiopia tells about the position of the African group at the MOP3 negotiations. The African states present a common position in the negotiations: They are in favour of a detailed documentation of LMOs in international trade.



Mexico and Paraguay Block Agreement on Biosafety
Roberto Villar Belmonte

CURITIBA, Brazil, Mar 17 (IPS) - Mexico and Paraguay waited until Friday, the last day of the Third Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (MOP3), to present new proposals to modify the text that has been under negotiation since Monday, thus prolonging the five-day gathering.

During the MOP3, which ran through Friday in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba, Mexico put up the strongest resistance, with its delegates stating that the country does not want mandatory labeling for cross-border shipments containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The negotiators had discussed a proposal set forth by Brazil late Thursday night, and renewed the process of informal contacts at around 10:00 AM local time.

Shortly after noon, Norwegian delegate Birthe Ivars, chairwoman of the working group in charge of the talks on labeling, the most controversial issue in the negotiations, presented the proposal that the working group had reached agreement on.

But Mexican delegate Marco Antonio Meraz Ríos unexpectedly suggested placing brackets around the clause making it compulsory for signatories of the Cartagena Protocol to clearly label shipments containing GMOs, thus leaving the issue open to future negotiations.

"Is this a serious way to deal with matters, reinserting brackets that had already been removed?" protested Brazilian Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, co-chair of a contact group involved in the negotiations on labeling.

"We are dismayed. We thought Mexico was negotiating in good faith this week, but it decided not to express its position until the very last day," complained the Ethiopian delegate, to applause from the majority of the participating diplomats.

There are no conclusive studies showing that transgenic products are harmless to the environment and human health. The Protocol, in effect since September 2003, is aimed at protecting biodiversity from the risks that may be posed by living organisms modified by means of biotechnology.

Venezuela, the European Union (EU) and Japan expressed themselves in favour of the proposal that would give countries six years to adjust to the rule on mandatory labeling of GMOs in international transport, two years longer than Brazil had originally suggested.

Peru initially opposed the wording "contains GMOs" during the negotiations, and the Peruvian delegate was also applauded when he finally announced his government's support for the agreed-on text.

The clause that was still being discussed Friday night states that national labeling of transgenic products will be assessed at the MOP5, to be held in four years, since from now on, the conference will take place every two years.

The goal is to consider a decision during the sixth meeting, to ensure that the documentation that accompanies GMOs destined for direct use as food for human beings or animals, or for processing, clearly indicates that the shipment contains transgenics and includes the necessary detailed information.

The chairwoman of the working group called on the Mexican delegates to re-evaluate their stance and passed them the floor. The ensuing silence further raised expectations. This prompted Ivars to urge, "Mexico, please press the button," which elicited widespread laughter, amplified by the faulty sound system.

Once he finally got the microphone to work properly, the Mexican ambassador said that there should be no surprise regarding his country's proposal, since Mexico has consistently questioned the obligation to identify cross-border shipments.

The Paraguayan delegation then voiced its support for Mexico and called for the resumption of negotiations.

An hour and a half later, once a new version of the document - free of square brackets û had been presented by Ivars, Mexico once again conditioned its approval on changes to another part of the text, which calls on governments to adopt measures to guarantee the documentation accompanying products containing GMOs.

The EU protested the changes, describing them as a step backwards. For his part, Rubens Nodari from the Brazilian Environment Ministry remarked, "In practice, the Mexican proposals are aimed at eliminating the obligatory nature of labeling."

As of late Friday evening, the negotiations resumed behind closed doors had not resulted in an agreement. The executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Algerian Ahmed Djoghlaf, attributed the difficulties in reaching a consensus to the wide range of interests at stake, but said he was confident that an agreement would ultimately be reached.

Greenpeace, however, blamed the lack of agreement on pressures exerted by agribusiness corporations and the countries that export the largest quantities of transgenics, like the United States and Argentina, which are not parties to the Cartagena Protocol.

Given the fact that an "absolute consensus" is needed to adopt a decision, it is easy to co-opt one or a few countries and prevent the will of the large majority from prevailing, argued Sergio Leitao, Greenpeace director of public policy.

His fear is that the meeting will fail to produce any advances, or will end with a timid text that does not establish a secure system for identifying transgenics. "Only a telephone call from Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to Mexican President Vicente Fox could save COP-MOP 3 from total failure," he remarked.

According to Djoghlaf, Brazil's proposal contributed significantly to the attempt to overcome the obstacles faced by the Cartagena Protocol, and he praised Lula's decision to endorse the adoption of a clearly worded "contains GMOs" labeling system, with a four-year deadline for implementation.

The 22 decisions adopted this week will make it possible to begin implementing the Protocol, said Djoghlaf, who stressed that over the next two weeks, in Curitiba itself, the world's largest meeting ever on biological diversity will take place.

A total of 2,669 participants have registered for the Eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP8), including 96 government ministers. COP7 was attended by 2,300 delegates and 16 ministers.

So far, 2,086 official meetings have been held on the Convention, and the 192 decisions adopted are gathered in a volume that is 1,039 pages long. Now it is time for implementation, stressed Djoghlaf. (END/2006)


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