GM Foods Are Dangerous to You and Your Children
|April 17, 2002||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
GM Foods Are Dangerous to You and Your Children
“Biosafety” Supported by Some, Opposed by Others
Here is an NGO Position Statement released to the Biosafety Protocol Negotiations that are now taking place in Montreal, Canada. Basically, the international meeting is trying to figure out what to do about genetically modified foods. Scientists, free market supporters, pro-democracy groups and citizens concerned for safety want GM foods to be labeled and tested; however, many lobbyists and politicians oppose safeguards.
Extraordinary Conference of the Parties:
Biosafety Protocol Negotiations
25 January 2000
We, members of civil society from around the world, have high expectations for this meeting. We seek the adoption of a strong precautionary Biosafety Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity, as do millions of other world citizens. We are increasingly concerned about genetically modified organisms put in our food and being grown in our countries without anyone fully understanding the effects of these organisms on our ecosystems and food chains.
For these reasons, we expect governments to reach a final agreement on a Biosafety Protocol and ensure that the Protocol reaffirms and reinforces the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity by establishing rules to protect biodiversity. It would be irresponsible of our governments, our formal representatives, to ignore the obligations to protect our biological heritage and global food security undertaken when they ratified the Convention.
A minority of countries, only interested in protecting their industries commercial investments in GMOs, stalled the Biosafety Protocol in Cartagena last year. These countries must not be allowed to obstruct our work again this week. Unfortunately, we do not see any change in their intentions.
1. After years of dismissing the potential hazards of genetically modified organisms, these countries still attempt to render the Protocol meaningless by reducing its scope. We appeal to all governments to recognize that adverse impacts on biodiversity and human health may arise from any activities involving GMOs including transboundary movements, handling, or use, especially centers of origin and biological diversity. Scientifically, all GMOs pose the same kinds of risks to biodiversity and human health, whether they are from transgenic crops, vaccines, artificial vectors, or other amplified nucleic acid sequences. Thus, there should be no exclusions to the Protocols scope all activities involving GMOs should be included in a single process for assessment and advanced informed agreement.
2. We are extremely concerned that several negotiating groups are promoting an unworkable distinction between GMOs transferred for planting and GMOs transferred for direct use as food, feed, or processing. A maize kernel will not respect its legal status, nor will it respect political boundaries: once sown, it will grow intentionally or unintentionally, with or without approval. The intention behind a transfer is irrelevant; a Protocol must create a precautionary process to assure that the consequences of a transfer are acceptable. It is reasonable to expect that, at minimum, the Biosafety Protocol will set out three essential obligations for countries wishing to export GMOs: notably, to provide advance notification, to disclose full information, and to require explicit consent from the receiving country before any transboundary movement occurs. Without such a precautionary process, developing countries are likely to become the dumping ground for GMOs and products which cannot be sold anywhere else.
3. We are disappointed that certain delegations continue to undermine the need for the Precautionary Principle, a principle which rightly seeks to prevent harm to the environment or human health from GMOs. The Precautionary Principle is consistent with sound science since it promotes rational and prudent decision-making in the absence of conclusive scientific knowledge. The lack of scientific consensus over genetic engineerings potential environmental and health impacts necessitates placing the burden of proof on those who want to introduce these organisms.
Past experience with the overly hasty release of toxic chemicals and ozone depleting gases demonstrates the enormous effort and expense involved in cleaning up after ill-considered actions. Living organisms represent even greater risks; once released, GMOs cannot be recalled if they damage the environment — they multiply, migrate, and mutate.
4. For ensuring biosafety, traceability is critical for governments serious about pursuing the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. There are no credible reasons to refuse to label and segregate these products. Labelling and segregation of GMOs in food and agriculture has already become the market reality in many industrialized countries. We must enable national authorities, farmers, and food buyers to identify GMOs at any stage of distribution.
5. Despite being a non-party to the Convention, the United States government acts to subordinate this Protocol to international trade rules, such as those of the World Trade Organization. We offer our support to the vast majority of countries which, by ratifying the Convention, are committed to upholding environmental values. Even a member of the U.S. Congress recently observed that when the health and safety of consumers and the environment is the price, free trade is just too expensive. These negotiations are not primarily about trade; they concern biodiversity and the life support systems for the worlds people. Protection of biological diversity is an imperative, not a luxury or an afterthought.
6. There is increasing evidence that introducing GMOs has significant socio-economic impacts. Without a strong liability regime, those suffering serious impacts particularly indigenous and farming communities — would be subsidizing the biotech industry. The Protocol must include mechanisms for all affected peoples to obtain fair compensation.
We welcome the delegates determination to leave Montreal with a Protocol signed by the end of this week. We share their commitment to place the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity at the heart of this Protocol. Failure to establish a strong precautionary Protocol would betray the needs and expectations of citizens world-wide. We urge our representatives to adopt a strong precautionary Protocol mindful of the wisdom attributed to Chief Seattle:
- We do not inherit the Earth from our parents; we borrow it from our children.
German NGO Forum on Environment and Development
World Development Movement (U.K.)
Grupo de Reflexion Rural (Argentina)
Red Alerta Sobre Transgenicos (Argentina)
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (S.Africa)
RAFI — Rural Advancement Foundation International(Uruguay, Canada)
Council for Responsible Genetics (USA)
Tinker Institute on International Law and Organizations
Washington Biotechnology Action Council (USA)
Institute for Applied Ecology (Germany)
Institute of Science in Society (U.K.)
Friends of the Earth International
Third World Network
Biotech Action Montreal
Womens Environmental Network (U.K.)
Genetics Forum (U.K.)
Australian GeneEthics Network
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (USA)
Council of Canadians
The Edmonds Institute (USA)
Biowatch (S. Africa)
For more information, visit http://www.thecampaign.org
What is your opinion? Tell your opinion to The Progress Report!