Battle of rhetoric as both EU and US say they want agreement on biosafety protocol

A second round of talks aimed at reaching an international agreement on the safe movement of genetically modified organisms begins in Montreal on Monday. The EU has stressed that it wants the talks to succeed.


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It has been five years since negotiations surrounding the Protocol on Biosafety began. Last year’s failure to reach a final agreement means that pressure to succeed this time around is high.

The EU acknowledges that negotiations with the Miami Group – the main GMO exporting nations that includes the US – have been the sticking point. Developing world countries have rejected proposals for not offering enough protection from possible environmental threats posed by GMOs. The EU has re-stated its commitment to ensuring a role for the precautionary principle in protecting the environment from GMOs, but the US has argued that the precautionary principle represents a potential infringement of World Trade Organisation rules on the free movement of goods.

Chief negotiator for the US, David Sandalow, has said that the EU is introducing food safety issues into the talks, when these are a concern that lies outside the Biosafety Protocol. He says that there are very few environmental concerns surrounding GM corn and soybeans imported for use in food or animal feed processing and that talk of environmental issues with these products is a smokescreen for dealing with food safety.

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