The seventh meeting of the CBD Conference of the Parties serving as Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP/MOP7) convened at the Alpensia Convention Centre in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, Republic of Korea.
The Cartagena Protocol on is an international agreement which aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health. It was adopted on 29 January 2000 and entered into force on 11 September 2003. Malaysia signed the Protocol in 2002 was ratified as a Party in 2003.
Socioeconomic considerations and risk assessment and risk management took the centre stage in this year’s meeting. There was a change in the air with Parties such as Kenya, Ghana, Paraguay, Philippines, Honduras, Iran, Brazil, and others were stronger than before in emphasizing the need for a balanced and science based approach.
As more countries have realised the impact of GM crops to their economy and farmers, the number of Parties in support of GM crops is in the increase. Brazil who was a strong opponent of GM crops eight years ago has emerged as a gigantic supporter with strong intervention towards science-based provisions. Paraguay was another Party with pro-GM interventions.
One could also sense the change in wind at side events organised by environmental activists where the majority of their audience were pro-GM who questioned the speakers on the validity of their facts and science.
However, there are still Parties who are still trying to keep away from GM crops such as Liberia, Austria and Bolivia.
The guidance document developed by the Ad-Hoc Technical Expert Group was rejected by Parties who requested for a revision. The reasons given were that the document was not entirely useful and comprehendible to novice risk assessors. Parties also requested the secretariat to add more experts with working experience to the AHTEG.
There was also improvement to the socioeconomic consideration (SEC) document prepared at the previous MOP where Parties wanted a clear indication to spell out that “impact” of GM crops includes both the positive and negative impact. A majority of Parties also wanted the SEC AHTEG to develop the conceptual clarity of SEC before they proceed to develop the guidelines.
The delegates in the contact group which discussed the SEC went “wild’ when the Mauritanian delegate said the word “impact” only meant negative effects. The entire room objected with an astounding and unanimous “NO”.
Both the negotiations on SEC and Risk Assessment and Management showed the upper hand of Parties who are in support of GM crops. Some observers indicated that future MOPs will see more Parties supporting GM crops as the number of countries adopting the crops increase.
By Dr Mahaletchumy Arujanan