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As first international biosafety treaty goes into force, Annan urges full compliance

As first international biosafety treaty goes into force, Annan urges full compliance

The first legally binding international treaty aimed at curbing potential harm to human health and biological diversity from biotechnology went into force today, with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling on the entire international community to fully implement its terms.

Adopted in January 2000 by States parties to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety establishes comprehensive rules for the safe transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by providing countries with relevant information to make informed decisions on importing living modified organisms (LMOs).

“The entry into force of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is a landmark for sustainable development, and another milestone in the global effort to reconcile environmental conservation and development,” Mr. Annan said in a message.

He noted that biotechnology can contribute significantly to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals but warned that it must be developed judiciously and used with adequate and transparent safety measures.

“The Protocol’s entry into force is a welcome step in the right direction,” he declared. “I call on other states to ratify it and I urge the entire international community to work together to fully implement its provisions.”

So far 57 countries and the European Community have ratified the convention; 103 countries signed it by the closing date for signature on 4 June 2001.

Under the terms of the Protocol, States parties must ensure that risk assessments are carried out for decisions taken under the advance informed agreement (AIA) procedure and must adopt measures to manage any risks identified by risk assessments. They must also monitor and control any new risks that may emerge in the future.

Under AIA, any party shipping LMOs for intentional introduction into the environment for the first time must provide the importing country with sufficient prior information to enable it to make an informed decision. If a party approves for domestic use and marketing LMOs intended for direct use as food, feed or processing and these may be exported, that party must communicate its decision and details about the LMOs to the world community via the Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH).