When Northern Elephants Fight Over GMOs

Linked with Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher – Ethiopia, with The World Future Council, with How to feed Africa, with Feeding the world and restoring the land.

Two excerpts: As the world’s attention was focused firmly on the Cancun World Trade Organization summit in September 2003, an important international agreement quietly made its entry on the world stage, holding out immense implications for developing countries.

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which aims to regulate trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs), came into force on 11 September after five-year-long negotiations over trade advantages and disadvantages—intractable North-South issues that are set to continue to bedevil the Protocol’s implementation.

This is highlighted most forcefully by the US move to take the European Union to the WTO dispute settlement mechanism over the EU’s insistence that US exporters clearly label all GM food sold to Europe …

… Absurdly, the farmer is assumed to be a process patent infringer. The culprits—the wind and the insects–cannot be summoned to court as witnesses. A South that wants food sovereignty and its farmers to remain innocent of crime can refuse the planting of genetically modified crops in its territories.

Happily, however, at the insistence of the South, there is now a commitment to negotiate a liability and redress regime under the Protocol in case of damages caused by GMOs.

Given these handicaps, is the South going to benefit from genetic engineering? I wonder.

Generally, genetic engineering appeals to the South, which wants to develop fast; the technology promises to put beneficial traits found in living organisms to human use. Conversely, not using this capacity threatens being left even farther behind in development.

The South has no choice but to stay safe. It has to put in place biosafety systems firmly based on the Precautionary Principle and develop the capacity—no matter how expensive—to protect itself. (full text).

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