Crop Biotech Update

Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety Tackle Three Key Topics

October 17, 2012

Parties to Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) meet every two years to discuss issues relevant to the implementation of the CPB. The 6th Meeting of the Parties was held from 1 – 5 October 2012, in Hyderabad, India. The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) participated in MOP6 in close collaboration with the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI), the African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) of the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency , the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)/ Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS), and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

Key topics on the agenda of MOP6 were: socio economic considerations; risk assessment; and assessment of the CPB.

Socio Economic Considerations. Article 26 of the CPB Protocol states that in decision making Parties may take into account, consistent with their international obligations, certain socio-economic considerations. PRRI, representing public sector researchers from all over the world, and one of the biggest delegations at MOP6, reminded delegates that socio-economic impacts include benefits, and that Article 26 does not imply adding regulatory hurdles.

 MOP6 decided to establish an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) to exchange information on and experiences with Socioeconomic Considerations (SEC). Deliberation were rife with budget constraints to support the operation of an AHTEG and also Parties were divided on the need for an AHTEG for SEC.

Guidance for Risk Assessment and Risk Management. On the agenda were guidance documents that were developed to assist novel risks assessors in implementing the general principles and methods of risk assessment under the CPB. PRRI recommended that at this juncture the current guidance be tested for its usefulness in practice, before new guidance documents are developed. PRRI also pointed out that on the basis of experience accumulated over the years, PRRI has produced a list of LMOs and traits that are unlikely to have adverse effects, and which can consequently be exempted from the AIA procedures as specified in article 7.4 of the CPB.

MOP6 decided to test the guidance documents. It saw  the need to develop a sound methodological approach to contribute to an effective second assessment and review of the Protocol, and draft criteria or indicators that could apply in the evaluation of the effectiveness of the Protocol.

Assessment of the CPB. Article 35 of the CPB calls for assessment and review of the effectiveness of the functioning of the CPB. PRRI expressed concerns that:

  •  the Protocol is hardly being used for what it was primarily set out to do, i.e. giving countries a tool for informed decisions, so that they can share in the benefits of modern biotechnology;
  • some countries go beyond what the Protocol requires, thereby creating unnecessary barriers for public research institutions to conduct research and collaborate internationally;
  • regulators sometimes do not seem to take into consideration the potential and established significant benefits to farmers and the environment, and that there have been no verifiable reports of adverse effects of LMOs on human health or biodiversity.

MOP6 decided that the guidance documents require further scientific reviewing and testing to establish its overall utility and applicability to LMO of different taxa introduced into different environments.

 Email Mahaletchumy Arujanan of the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Center for more information at maha@bic.org.my.