UN-backed meeting on biosafety pact opens at The Hague

UN-backed meeting on biosafety pact opens at The Hague

Legal protections concerning biosafety will be discussed in the coming days by experts from across the globe as representatives from over 160 governments and other interested groups – including industry, civil organizations and grass-roots coalitions – gather at The Hague for a meeting organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The weeklong session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Cartagena Protocol aims to facilitate the entry into force of the accord, which is appended to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Protocol aims to ensure the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms that result from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health.

“The Cartagena Protocol recognizes that biotechnology has an immense potential for improving human welfare but that it could also pose risks to biodiversity and human health,” said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. He noted that efforts are under way to minimize these risks by establishing an effective system for managing the transboundary movement of living modified organisms.

Currently, just over a dozen countries are party to the Protocol, which has 103 signatures but requires 50 ratifications to enter into force. The Intergovernmental Committee meeting at The Hague was constituted to pave the way for the first conferences of the parties once the pact receives the requisite number of ratifications.

“Information sharing and capacity building, especially for developing countries, are some of the critical priority requirements for the successful implementation of the Protocol,” said Ambassador Philemon Yang of Cameroon, who is chairing the session. “We need to empower countries to make informed decisions.”