ARCHIVE: International genetic modification (GM) issues
We deal with the negotiation and implementation of international legislation and treaties relating to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), such as the Cartagena Protocol and the EU proposal on the transboundary movement of GMOs.
We also deal with other international initiatives concerned with GMOs, including for example work undertaken by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on biotechnology and work on biosafety undertaken by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is an international agreement on the transboundary movement of GMOs which seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by genetically modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology. The protocol established two main procedures to control the movements of GMOs from one country to another.
A specific notification procedure requires notification to, and the agreement of, the importing country before the export of a GMO (such as a seed) intended for deliberate introduction into the environment may proceed. The European Union introduced a regulation (PDF) on the transboundary movement of GMOs to implement in the EU those aspects of the Cartagena Protocol not covered by existing legislation. The enforcement of this regulation has been implemented in England by way of the Genetically Modified Organisms (Transboundary Movements) (England) Regulations 2004. (Similar Regulations have been implemented in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales).
A separate procedure for GMOs for food, feed or processing enables an importing country to declare via an information exchange mechanism (the Biosafety Clearing House) that it wishes to take a decision based on risk assessment information before agreeing to accept an import.
Copies of these Regulations are available from Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO) (www.hmso.gov.uk).
The conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) decided, in 2000 that there should be a precautionary approach in field testing and commercial development of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTS) while research into possible socio-economic impacts of these technologies was carried out. This decision was reaffirmed at the Conference of the Parties held in March 2006. This Decision is clear that products incorporating GURTS should not be approved for field testing until appropriate scientific data can justify such testing and for commercial use until appropriate scientific assessments with regard to ecological and socio-economic impacts have been carried out and the conditions for their safe and beneficial use validated.
The full text of the 2000 CBD decisions can be found in Section III of decision V/5 on the CBD website.
The 2006 CBD decision can be found in Section C of decision VIII/23 on the CBD website.
An agreement to extend the public's legal right to participate in decision-making on the release and placing on the market of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was reached on Wednesday 25th May 2005 by the Parties to the UNECE Aarhus Convention (including the UK) holding their second meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Parties agreed on the text of an amendment to the Convention aimed at extending the role of the public in decisions involving GMOs. The UK, along with its EU partners, already has arrangements in place which are fully in line with the requirements of this amendment.
The World Trade Organisation’s dispute panel which was set up at the request of the US, Canada and Argentina to examine the EU’s regime for the marketing and approval of GM products published its final report on 29 September 2006. The panel identified shortcomings in the past handling of GM applications and in the EU and with the national bans of GMOs by certain Member States. The WTO verdict did not call into question the current EU regulatory regime.
Page published 3 October
Page last modified 25 July 2008;