Meacher says deal on GM trade requires agreement on ‘consent’

Before flying to Montreal to attend negotiations on the international trade of genetically-modified organisms, the UK's environment minister reiterated that the US must agree to a system that involves 'consent' by countries receiving GMO shipments.


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Speaking with edie, Michael Meacher reaffirmed the UK’s position that agreement on a Biosafety Protocol will only take place if a system of notification by the exporting country and consent by the importing country is established.
“We mustn’t have governments allow to refuse to respond for years, but consent must be established,” Meacher told edie. He said that countries should be given a certain number of weeks or months – he mentioned 3 or 6 months – to respond to notification of first delivery of a shipment containing GMOs. If a country fails to respond within the agreed period then the exporting country should assume that silence means consent.
Meacher disagrees with US trade negotiators’ assertions that the EU is trying to tackle food safety issues via the Biosafety Protocol. The Protocol is charged with protecting biodiversity from potential threats from GMOs, but not charged with protecting food safety. “I would vehemently dispute that we are trying to address food safety issues,” said Meacher, who argues that the EU’s has genuine concerns regarding GMOs’ potential impact on the environment. “The environmental uncertainties are great and until research is complete we will not know their extent,” he said.
Asked whether his trip to Montreal represents an attempt to ‘watch over’ the EU’s trade negotiator Pascal Lamy – Lamy’s negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting drew fire when he appeared to trade away GM protection – Meacher denied this was the case. He did acknowledge, however, that the WTO debacle was potentially serious. “I was very angry about it,” said Meacher. He believes it was an accidental situation created when a middle-ranking EU negotiator went beyond his authority and Lamy either didn’t realise what had happened or didn’t act on it.
Meacher also reiterated the EU’s stance that an agreement reached on the Biosafety Protocol must not be threatened by or be subservient to WTO rules on free trade.
Please see the World section in this edition of edie news for an update on the state of the Biosafety Protocol negotiations in Montreal.

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