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The Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety Adopts 16 Decisions

Tuesday, 23 October 2012
The Sixth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (COP/MOP 6) to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was organized by the CBD Secretariat and took place in Hyderabad, India, from 1 to 5 of October 2012. Some 1500 delegates from more than 100 countries attended the five-day meeting which concluded with an agreement to advance discussions to clarify socioeconomic issues associated with living modified organism (LMOs).

Delegates realized that the first step towards addressing socio-economic considerations in a meaningful way is to develop clarity on what constitutes socio-economic considerations under Article 26 of the Protocol. Specifically, the Conference adopted 16 decisions, including a decision on socio-economic considerations which, for the first time, initiates activities aiming to provide a basis for future substantive work on considerations with regard to socio-economic impacts of living modified organisms.

The other 15 decisions are focused on the following issues: compliance; the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress; subsidiary bodies; cooperation with other organizations, conventions and initiatives; the Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH); capacity-building; the roster of experts; monitoring and reporting; assessment and review; notification requirements; handling, transport, packaging and identification (HTPI) of living modified organisms (LMOs); unintentional transboundary movements of LMOs; financial mechanism and resources; risk assessment and risk management; and the budget.

The negotiations themselves, however, were a perfect display of the trend that the influence of importers of LMOs is waning as many formerly importing countries become exporters and LMOs have become more prevalent and more accepted around the globe. As more and more countries become LMO exporters, their decisions regarding transboundary movements of LMOs are inherently more complex, requiring the design of national biosafety frameworks that balance importer and exporter interests. With regard to imports, countries seek to protect the environment against risks associated with LMO-shipments, whereas, with regard to exports, their interest is to create the least disruption to international trade.

The Cartagena Protocol has already 164 parties but the Global Environmental Fund (GEF) reported that only 7% of funds nominally devoted to biosafety implementation are actually being used by countries. This could indicate that for many GEF-eligible countries biosafety implementation is not as high a priority as other biodiversity related activities such as protected areas or species conservation programmes.

COP/MOP 6 also made it clear that there is a need to refocus on implementation. As both the technology of LMOs and the Protocol mature, the wait-and-see approach is no longer appropriate, since it could invite problems that the Protocol is trying to avoid. The objective of the precautionary approach and the Protocol is precisely to avoid forthcoming environmental dangers from materializing by putting into place procedures and regulatory frameworks. The challenge for the COP/MOP will be to overcome the complacency inherent in the wait-and-see approach and motivate countries to implement preventive measures before problems occur.

Source: CBD, IISD Reporting Services
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