GM Food Agreement Reached Despite U.S.
|January 9, 2007||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
GM Food Agreement Reached Despite U.S.
Fairly Good International Agreement on Regulating Spread of Genetically Manipulated Organisms
On January 29 the “Biosafety Protocol Negotiations” in Montreal ended. The final agreement was fairly good for citizens, scientists, environmentalists, free market proponents, and children. The lobbyists, corporate welfare parasites, politicians and forces of special privilege received a setback. Here are some details.
“This is a historic step towards protecting the environment and consumers from the dangers of genetic engineering,” Benedikt Haerlin of Greenpeace said in a statement.
“These minimum safety standards must be implemented immediately,” he said. “And until the protocol has come into force all exports of GMOs should be prohibited.”
Friends of the Earth in a separate statement also heralded the agreement.
“For the past week the United States and its cronies have been holding the rest of the world to ransom to protect the vested interests of a few companies,” it said.
“They have not succeeded and now we have a protocol to regulate genetically modified crops and foods.”
Margot Wallstron, the European commissioner for environment, said in a statement, “This is a historical moment and a breakthrough for international agreements on trade and the environment.”
“This agreement will benefit all sides,” she said. “It reflects the common will to protect the world’s environment and confirms the importance of the Convention on Biodiversity. This international framework eases public concern and creates predictability for industry.”
The United Nations-sponsored agreement strikes a delicate balance between the interests of major exporters of genetically modified crops, such as the United States and Canada, and importers in the European Union and developing countries, which have expressed concerns about the health and environmental impact of the new food varieties.
The agreement, which still must be ratified by 50 countries before it goes into effect, establishes an international framework for countries to use when making decisions about genetically modified crops.
It also requires, for the first time under an international agreement, labeling of commodity shipments that “may contain” genetically modified foods. But there is no specific requirement that farmers or the grain industry segregate conventional and modified crops.
The term “genetically modified organisms” refers to plants and animals containing genes transferred from other species to produce certain characteristics, such as resistance to certain pests and herbicides.
To reach an agreement, the United States and Canada had to accept stronger language than they wanted recognising the right of countries to use precautions in making import decisions.
With its language on the “precautionary principle,” the proposed Biosafety Protocol agreement could set the stage for countries to close their markets to genetically modified crops while waiting for conclusive scientific proof of their safety or danger.
At the same time, the agreement also contains a “savings clause,” which emphasises the new pact does not override rights and obligations under other international agreements, including the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
If a dispute arises over a country’s decision to close its market to a food product, the WTO will review the protocol before making a ruling, Wallstrom said.
From the Associated Press:
The new rules are complex, and many may be subject to legal challenges or interpretations. But for now they contain language letting a country ban imports of a genetically modified product if it feels there is not enough scientific evidence showing the product is safe.
It requires exporters to label shipments that contain genetically altered commodities such as corn or cotton. It also tries to dictate how those safety rules will coexist with free trade rules governed by the World Trade Organization.
The United States, where major producers of genetically engineered products are located, had opposed safety labeling. It was forced to make concessions on that and several other points.
The protocol is intended to protect the environment from damage due to genetically modified organisms.
A first attempt to draw up a biosafety protocol ended last February in Cartagena, Colombia, when the United States and five partners blocked a pact that was acceptable to the other 125 countries.
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