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59 -
Biosafety : GMO, health, environment, channeling, labeling, liability, protocol...
editorial by Hélène Ilbert, Solagral.

t is time for the environmental agreements to emerge from the obscurity of the United Nations trade related organizations. The Biosafety Protocol sets a restrictive frame to transboundary movements of living organisms ensuing from biotechnologies. The countries that have ratified the Protocol will be empowered to refuse imports on their territories of any genetically modified living organism they consider as potentially hazardous for the environment or human health. The precautionary principle, advance informed agreement and liability regime will provide with an international appeal the developing countries generally lacking efficient rules on biosafety matters.

As the first meeting on the implementation of the Protocol is going to take place in Montpellier (December 2000), important disputes exist between the various negotiating groups. The United States leading the Miami Group remain the major opponents to the agreement. Many arrangements minimizing the extend of the precautionary principle were made under their pressure, in particular the social and economical effects of introducing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not much taken into account anymore. Meanwhile the European Union has made common cause with the developing countries by supporting compromise proposals.

Biosafety’s founding principles, to which the civil society is still attached, should remain the guideline of these negotiations: safety must not be subordinated to trade, this should be reasserted according to the precautionary principle. Uncertainty must be sufficient to justify a decision of market withdrawal. It is also necessary to clearly define liabilities. The assessment mechanisms and legal frames (positive European law and American jurisprudential standards) that will be chosen will determine the cost-sharing mechanisms. Finally, careful attention should be paid to the "details" of the implementation that will be discussed during the next two years. Even though non-governmental organizations are not directly involved in the negotiation process, it is important that they take action upstream and thus exert their influence on the regulation setting.

Clear identification of marketed products is certainly one major stake. The right for countries or individuals to choose in full awareness relies on full knowledge and monitoring at every stage of the channel in order to be able to withdraw the products from the market and avoid any long-term possible impact on the environment. Labeling, traceability, and prior information are necessary to establish liabilities. For a whole cargo, a simple mention such as "may contain GMOs" is far from being sufficient.

While 45 million hectares of GMOs are now being cropped over the world (they were less than 3 millions three years ago), and while the United States alone produce 72 % of the total amount, the choices concerning the world’s trade regulation should be openly debated. This special issue of the Courrier de la Planète is aiming to afford the essential elements of discussion by appraising the practical possibilities of ruling upon technologies that may have negative side-effects on health and the environment.

Biosafety agreement

Who wins?
Stéphane Guéneau Solagral

Montreal 2000.
An Amazing Compromise
Christophe Bail, European Commission.

The Implementing Wizards
Eric Schoonejeans French
Ministère de l'Aménagement du territoire et de l'Environ-nement

A Good Start
Arnaud Apoteker Greenpeace, France.

Trade or Precaution ?
A Political Principle
O livier Godard
Centre national
de la recherche scientifique.

Compromise germ
interview with Christine Noiville, University
of Paris I.

WTO. View upon Environment Stéphane Guéneau Solagral

Standart Struggle
Philippe Martineau
former member of the Codex Alimentarius.

Stand against Bad Faith
protest letter from
the Institut for Agricultural and Trade Policy and Solagral.

the All-Science Approach
an ONG claim.

Universal Value
Sem Taukondjo Shikongo
Namibian National Biodiversity Program.

Who is Liable ?

This isn't my Fault
- So What?

Kate Cook
Matrix Chambers.

Starlink Affair. Who is Going to Pay?
Kristin Dawkins Institut for Agricultural and Trade Policy.

Unsure Insurance
the Swiss Reinsurance Compagny.

Guilty though not Reponsible? the Courrier de la Planète.

Biotech and Seed Producers. A Need for Consistency Gurdial
Singh Nijar
Third World Network.

The Label Question
Long Live Diversity!
Julie A. Caswell, University of Massachusetts.

The Master Trump
Egizio Valceschini, Institut national de la recherche agronomique.

Making Way for Choice

Guy Le Fur Confédération paysanne, Economical and Social Concil.

GMO Detection. Harmonizing the Methods Catherine Guissé

GMO-Free. The Unobtainable Channel François Quénéhervé, Feed Alliance.

Transgenesis Applications.

Agriculture: GMO Related Risks and Identification.

The Regulation Manoeuvres.

International Laws Facing GMOs.

AIDA - Le Courrier de la planète -Domaine de Lavalette - 1037 rue Jean-François Breton - 34090 Montpellier cedex- France- cdp@courrierdelaplanete.org
Dernière mise à jour Tuesday 22 November, 2005