Nagoya gathering debates biosafety rules


NAGOYA — A five-day international meeting on biosafety is taking place in Nagoya, with the aim to reach an agreement on a new set of rules to assign responsibility and help determine compensation when an ecosystem is damaged by the introduction of legally modified organisms.

The 160 nations that are signatories to the United Nations Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety are in Japan to discuss issues related to the transport of genetically modified organisms and the damage that can result to biodiversity from such organisms.

The Nagoya gathering, which kicked off Monday, is the fifth meeting of the members of the parties to the MOP5 protocol. It takes place just before the 10th meeting of the parties of the Convention of Biological Diversity, or COP10, being held in Nagoya from Oct. 18 to 29.

In his opening address Monday, agriculture minister Michihiko Kano spoke of the alarming rate of biodiversity loss in recent years and the challenges the world faces to protect biodiversity and promote its sustainable use.

“Biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate. Our mission is to ensure it is preserved for future generations,” he told the delegates.

Next week’s COP10 conference of 193 nations is expected to conclude with an international agreement on access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources, as well as a strategic plan for conserving certain percentages of the Earth’s land and sea areas for biodiversity preservation.

Senior ministers and heads of state will be present for the last three days of the parley.

As MOP5 began Monday morning, officials announced that agreement had been reached by an expert group on a supplementary protocol to the Cartagena Protocol, known as the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. This protocol is expected to be formally approved during the conference.

“A new protocol has been born at this Nagoya conference. A new partnership is needed to do business with Mother Nature to live in harmony with nature,” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is administered by the CBD. Its purpose is to contribute to ensuring the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms that may have adverse effects on conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, while also taking into account risks to human health. The protocol entered force in September 2003 and has 160 parties.

The Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur supplementary protocol agreed to Monday strengthens procedures in the field of liability and redress related to legally modified organisms, or LMOs. It includes rules that will allow importing countries to call upon operators who brought in damage-causing genetically modified organisms to take necessary restorative measures.

The new protocol will be open for signatures starting in March and is the result of six years of negotiations. It applies to damage from LMOs that are intended for direct use as food or feed, or for processing; are designated for contained use (such as in a laboratory); or are intended for intentional introduction into the environment (such as seeds).

“The adverse effects of trading LMOs haven’t really been dealt with by past treaties even as the science has advanced, with things like genetically modified salmon or genetically modified viruses and enzymes. So the supplementary protocol, while limited in scope and disappointing to Greenpeace, is important in a practical sense,” said Duncan Currie, a legal adviser to Greenpeace International.