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Treaty on trade in genetically modified organisms to enter into force - UN

Treaty on trade in genetically modified organisms to enter into force - UN

A treaty that sets out the first comprehensive regulatory system for ensuring the safe transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is on a 90-day countdown to becoming international law, after Palau become the fiftieth country to ratify the protocol, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

"This new regime promises to make the international trade in GMOs more transparent while introducing important safety measures that will meet the needs of consumers, industry and the environment for many decades to come," UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said, referring to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which becomes international law in September.

Adopted in January 2000 by States parties to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, the Protocol features one set of procedures that deals primarily with GMOs intentionally introduced into the environment - such as seeds, trees or fish - and another with genetically modified farm commodities such as corn and grain used for food, animal feed or processing.

Proponents argue that biotechnology will boost food security for the world's growing population by raising sustainable food production and also benefit the environment by reducing the need for more farmland, irrigation and pesticides, UNEP said. For others, however, this rapidly advancing science is still new, and much is unknown about how the products may evolve or interact with other species.

"The Cartagena Protocol recognizes that biotechnology has an immense potential for improving human welfare, but that it could also pose potential risks to biodiversity and human health," Mr. Toepfer.

The Protocol provides countries with necessary information to make informed decisions about whether or not to accept GMO imports. Governments will have to adopt measures for managing any risks identified by risk assessments and continue to monitor and control any risks that may emerge in the future. This applies to traded as well as domestically produced GMOs.