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NGO statement from Cartagena Protocol in the Hague

(April 30, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- This is the reprint of a statement from NGOs last week at the Hague during the third annual conference regarding the Cartagena Protocol.

The NGO Caucus appreciates the constant efforts of many delegates to address the important issues to prepare for when the Cartagena Protocol comes into force. However, we regret that no substantial progress was made this week. We continue to urge countries to speedily ratify the Protocol so that a MOP in the near future will be able to finalize these points.

The NGO Caucus, on behalf of civil society, wants to emphasize the following issues:

  • We reiterate our call for and immediate moratorium on all releases of LMOs until a rigorous biosafety regime is in place. In addition, we call for a ban on LMO imports and releases, especially in or near centers of origin and centers of diversity. The need for such measures is clearly shown, for exampl, by the recent cases of the contamination of maize in Mexico, by the Starlink scandal in the United States and by the economic damages suffured by the Canadian canola and organic farmers. Self-congratulatory statements will not mitigate the widespread contamination of cultivars and centers of biodiversity.
  • Furthermore, these tragic cases powerfully illustrate the urgent need for an international regime of strict liability and redress. We deeply regret that the delegations of ICCP3 did not agree on terms of reference for the establishment of an Open Ended Ad Hoc Working Group for identifying elements of such a liability and redress regime. In the meantime, an adequate retroactive compensation fund should be established and maintained by the exporters and producers.
  • The coming into force of the Protocol is crucial to protect countries currently being pressured by exporters to accept LMOs without adequate risk assessment or regulatory oversight. These pressures again illustrate the need for the Precautionary Principle as an internationally recognized right of decision makers of countries to refuse imports until they have developed their capacity and to decide for themselves, on a case by case assessment, how to proceed.
  • We strongly support a system of meaningful unique identifiers for all LMOs based on reliable and precise detection methods for event specific molecular characterization data such as PCR. Such an inclusive identification system must be tied to the information bases in the Biosafety Clearing House.
  • We call for the transformation of the current Biosafety Clearing House demonstration model into an equitable, reliable, transparent and user-friendly system, which is critical for implementation for an effective Protocol and for public participation.
  • While we appreciate the financial efforts of some industrialized countries to help developing countries to participate in the Biosafety process, these efforts have not been sufficient and we urge far greater support so that full representation is possible.
  • The Convention and Protocol are international environmental agreements and not international trade treaties. We emphasize that economic costs should not be used by LMO exporting countries as an excuse for inadequate biosafety measures.

The NGO Caucus is appalled at the obstructionist tactics of a few delegations this week, although we do appreciate the flexibility that other delegations have shown in seeking to achieve an agreement. We call on these delegates to continue to use all their political space and flexibility to further ratification and strict implementation of the Protocol. The recent contamination scandals make it perfectly clear that the Protocol must come into force as soon as possible.