Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Opinions clash over biosafety protocol

A protocol on biosafety is in danger of being crippled by the demands of interested parties with widely diverging opinions, according to a statement from the European Commission (EC).

The EC is in the process of trying to get Member States to agree to the protocol, which woul...
A protocol on biosafety is in danger of being crippled by the demands of interested parties with widely diverging opinions, according to a statement from the European Commission (EC).

The EC is in the process of trying to get Member States to agree to the protocol, which would balance environmental and trade concerns while erring on the side of caution in controversial areas of the biological sciences.

But the conclusion of negotiations is being delayed by extreme positions taken by the main exporters of genetically modified foods, who want to limit the restrictions set by the protocol, and by a number of developing countries who want to see the protocol address objectives in areas the Commission views as peripheral to the main issue.

The protocol is particularly intended to address increasing international concern over the release of living modified organisms (LMOs) into the environment. The EU hopes that, by reaching agreement on the biosafety protocol, countries importing LMOs will have some level of protection and the possibility of taking "reasoned and scientifically based decisions prior to the import of LMOs", according to the EC.

However, the crop-exporting countries want all commercial mass movements of agricultural commodities excluded from the protocol, as well as all obligations under the protocol to be put on the party of import - usually developing countries. The Commission believes such a move would "void the protocol of any substance". In turn, the developing countries are pursuing positions the Commission says will be difficult to resolve.

The protocol must be agreed by 170 participating countries to be enacted - something that, at this stage, the Commission fears is looking unlikely. And the next few days will be critical in determining the protocol for future international biosafety, as the concluding negotiations take place in Columbia between 14 and 23 February 1999.

Related information

Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top