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  • Genetically Modified Organisms and Biosafety: A background paper for decision-makers and others to assist in

    consideration of GMO issues1

    IUCN The World Conservation Union

    August 2004

    1 This paper was prepared by the IUCN Environmental Law Centre. The Lead Author was Tomme Young. It reflects contributions from Rachel Asante Owusu, Franoise Burhenne-Guilmin, Martha Chouchena-Rojas, Tom Hammond, Jack A. Heinemann, Geoffrey Howard, William Jackson, Olga Krever, Sue Mainka, Jeffrey A. McNeely, Aroha Mead, John Scanlon and Richard Tapper. It also reflects the verbal comments of members of the Programme and Policy Committee of the IUCN Council, when they considered this document in May and December, 2002, and comments received from the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy and through the biosafety comment process, which began on 11 April 2003. The lead author assumes full responsibility for errors in its content or misunderstandings of particular comments.

  • 2

    Acronyms used in this Briefing

    AIA Advance Informed Agreement

    BCH Biosafety Clearing House

    CBD Convention on Biological Diversity

    COP Conference of the Parties

    EIA Environmental Impact Assessment

    GEF Global Environment Facility

    GMO Genetically Modified Organism

    ICCP Intergovernmental Committee for the Cartagena Protocol

    IGO Inter-governmental Organisation

    IPR Intellectual Property Rights

    IUCN International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (The World Conservation Union)

    FAO Food and Agriculture Organization

    LMO Living Modified Organism

    MOP Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol

    UNDP United Nations Development Programme

    UNEP United Nations Environmental Programme

    WAICENT World Agricultural Information Centre

    WCC-2 Second World Conservation Congress

    WHO World Health Organization

    WTO World Trade Organisation

    WWF World Wide Fund for Nature

  • 3

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    I. INTRODUCTION.............................................................................................................................4 A. THE BREADTH OF THE TOPIC.................................................................................................................4 B. IUCN AND BIOSAFETY.........................................................................................................................5 C. OBJECTIVE OF THIS PAPER....................................................................................................................6

    II. BIOSAFETY AND GMOS TECHNICAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL ISSUES ..................7 A. SCIENTIFIC ASPECTS OF THE CONTROVERSY........................................................................................7

    1. Popular Viewpoints .........................................................................................................................7 2. A More Detailed Summary of the Main Points of Scientific Controversy .......................................8

    a. Background: From selective breeding to genetic modification ................................................................... 8 b. The Scientific Debate.................................................................................................................................. 9

    3. Access to Information and Other Implications for Decision makers .............................................10 B. ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL/INSTITUTIONAL ASPECTS........................................................................11

    1. Risk/benefit Analysis......................................................................................................................12 a. Evaluating Benefits ................................................................................................................................... 13 b. Evaluating Risk......................................................................................................................................... 14 c. Examples................................................................................................................................................... 14

    (i) Uses in Controlled Environments........................................................................................................ 14 (ii) Introduction and Use in the Uncontrolled Environment...................................................................... 15

    d. Research and Sources of Information ....................................................................................................... 19 2. Risk Management ..........................................................................................................................20

    a. Impact Assessment Processes ................................................................................................................... 21 b. Public Awareness/Access to Information.................................................................................................. 22 c. Design of Regulatory Systems for GMO Development and Use .............................................................. 22

    C. SOCIO-CULTURAL IMPACTS ................................................................................................................23 III. CROSSCUTTING PRINCIPLES..................................................................................................27

    A. PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE/APPROACH............................................................................................27 B. DEVELOPMENT...................................................................................................................................28 C. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS, INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE, AND TRADITIONAL

    AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES...............................................................................................................28 D. BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL AID AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMMES .........................29

    IV. IV. INSTITUTIONS AND ADMINISTRATIVE FRAMEWORKS .........................................31 A. INTERNATIONAL INSTRUMENTS AND INSTITUTIONS ...........................................................................31

    1. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety 2000...................................................................................31 2. Other Relevant Instruments and Institutions .................................................................................32

    V. V. RECOMMENDATIONS: RESPONSIBLE DECISION-MAKING REGARDING BIOSAFETY AND GMOS .........................................................................................................................34

    A. PROCEDURAL RESPONSIBILITY...........................................................................................................34 1. Procedures and the Scientific Controversy Accessing Closely-held Scientific Information ............................................................................................................................................34 2. Procedures for Addressing Economic and Socio-cultural Controversies Regarding GMOs ........35

    B. BEYOND BASIC DECISION-MAKING APPLYING CROSSCUTTING PRINCIPLES....................................35 C. CREATION AND USE OF INSTITUTIONAL AND LEGAL FRAMEWORKS ..................................................36 D. INTERNATIONAL, INTERGOVERNMENTAL AND NONGOVERNMENTAL SUPPORT AND ASSISTANCE .....37

    VI. VI. CONCLUSION .........................................................................................................................40

    VII. LIST OF REFERENCES ...............................................................................................................41

    ANNEXE Annex: Excerpt from the Guide to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety not for publication or distribution)

  • 4

    Genetically Modified Organisms and Biosafety:

    A background paper for decision-makers and others to assist in consideration of GMO issues 2

    Over the coming ten years, the union will also play a major role in identifying and defining the emerging issues that affect biodiversity. It is likely that particular attention will be given to the environmental impacts of biotechnology .

    - IUCN Programme, adopted by the 2nd World Conservation Congress, Amman, Jordan, 4-11 October 2000

    -

    I. Introduction

    A. The breadth of the topic Genetic modification and biosafety are concepts that have not been well understood by, or accessible to, the non-geneticists working in the fields of conservation science, law, administration and management, and in the scientific, legal, administrative and management aspects of sustainable use. The biodiversity debate is at the forefront of the larger question of how humanity can, in an integrated, congruent way, address human livelihoods, while at the same time fulfilling its international mandates to conserve and sustainably use the environment. In a world focused on issues such as poverty and food security, as well as species loss and ecosystem destruction, these questions are among the most important and the most difficult on the planet.

    In this connection, we find many claims about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that they can be a basis for increasing food production, without the need to convert more land to cultivation, for example. These claims, however, are countered by the claims that GMOs may have a variety of impacts on people and animals, and especially on ecosystems and lands not under cultivation, and concerns about whether and how the benefits of GMOs are