Updates about GMOs from the Convention of Biological Diversity
It is not always easy to follow the details of the discussions and negotiations of international agreements… Media pays scant attention or ignores important concerns. Governments provide a massive amount of information but it is not easy to find or digest. Fortunately, NGOs are usually present both in the conference hall and in the corridors. For the current round of negotiations in Hyderabad, India, groups like CBD Alliance publish a newsletter called ECO with easy-to-understand updates.
Here are some highlights:
For the initial meeting, MOP6, many worried that the so-called Roadmap about genetically modified organisms would not be endorsed. This Roadmap deals with risk assessment, to make sure that countries know what they are getting into if they import certain GMOs that may disturb or pose a threat to their local biological diversity. Without proper risk assessment, countries will not have the tools necessary to take into account recent developments in risk research.
There was anger that the United States (not a Party to the Convention of Biological Diversity) has voiced its opposition to work regarding the consideration of socio-economic consequences of genetically modified organisms. Philip L Bereano, Washington Biotechnology Action Council, notes that the US has sponsored literally thousands of socio-economic assessments as part of government policy to aid decision-making. Why not for GMOs?
During the main meeting of the COP11, there was also great concern that the negotiators would suddenly “rewrite history” by editing out an earlier text that many NGOs and governments feel strongly about, regarding so-called “Terminator” crops. These are genetically modified to not be able to produce new fertile seeds, thus undermining the ancient right of farmers to save their own seed from their harvest. Such GMOs, dubbed “Terminator” back in the late 1990s, would give biotech companies like Monsanto (that holds the patents to the Terminator technology) immense power over global food production. Activists in Hyderabad were indignant that instead of deleting old decisions, countries should implement what they agree on at the CBD meetings! Finally, it was agreed to retain the text, after swift action from six countries.
Regarding genetically modified organisms, ECO published the following list of countries in the Asia Pacific region and how they deal with genetically modified organisms (GMO) by 2012:
Read our proposals to the Japanese government before the Hyderabad conference:
Protect Biodiversity From GMOs: Hyderabad MOP6 Meeting