Negotiators to seek resumption of GMO trade protocol talks

The world's governments are holding informal talks from 15 to 19 September, in Vienna, in an effort to build political momentum for the conclusion of a legally-binding agreement on reducing any potential risks resulting from the transboundary movement of living modified organisms (LMOs).


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The informal talks follow failure to reach agreement on a draft text for a biosafety protocol at a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity held last February in Cartagena, Colombia.

The first two days were devoted to consultations within the negotiating groups that emerged from the Cartagena meeting, namely, the Miami Group (Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Uruguay, and the US), the European Union, the Central and Eastern European Countries, the Compromise Group, and the Like-Minded Group of Countries (which includes most of the developing countries).

The third day will be set aside for informal exchanges between the above-mentioned Groups. The last two days will consist of informal consultations involving all Groups.

The talks have stalled over a number of issues. In particular, governments disagree over the proposed scope of the treaty’s regulatory powers. Some want to restrict the scope of the Protocol to LMOs intended for introduction into the environment, such as seeds. Others argue for a broader scope that would include agricultural commodities and processed products containing dead modified organisms or non-living LMO components.

Another contentious issue is liability: if LMOs enter the environment and cause damage, who pays?
Also unresolved is how to minimise the potential socio-economic impacts, such as the competitive decline of traditional crops faced with LMO imports. Another unresolved question relates to the Protocol’s relationship to other international agreements, particularly those under the World Trade Organization.

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