Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

Key issues of the official biosafety negotiations this week - NGO strategies and input

Liability & Redress, Socio-economic impacts of GMOs, Capacity Building of National Governments in the context of Biosafety Protocol

Organiser: Omkar Gopalakrishnan

Christine von Weizsäcker, Ecoropa, Germany
Duncan E.J. Currie, Globelaw, New Zealand
Hartmut Meyer, GTZ, Germany
Lim Li Lin, Third World Network (TWN), Malaysia

Moderation and Chair:
Philip Bereano, Washington Biotechnology Action Council, USA
Doreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace International.

All the speakers and moderators in this workshop are participating in the official Biosafety Protocol negotiations (MOP4) which take place in Bonn from 12-16 May, 2008. This workshop is a unique opportunity to inform yourselves on three important topics, and discuss directly with the experts on the latest developments in the negotiations.

Topic 1: Liability & Redress
A global regime for liability and redress of damage caused by Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is being negotiated at the 4th Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the International Biosafety Protocol next door to Planet Diversity. What are the prospects of these negotiations, what are the strategies of the different players, and what can be done about it during the coming days and over the next years?

Insurance companies reject covering GMO liabilities as the risk appears incalculable. National governments and international entities such as the African Union and the European Union struggles with a legislation on liability. First cases of GMO-contamination have caused billions of Dollars of damage to farmers, processors and retailers, and resulted in first class-action lawsuits in the United States.

This workshop aims to give an overview on the situation and to provide participants with useful background for their national campaign activities as well as for lobby work with respect to the Cartagena Protocol and other international entities.

Topic 2: Socio-economic impacts
Socio-economic and cultural considerations related to the use and release of genetically modified organisms have received less less less attention than the natural, scientific and technological aspects.

In the past, we have seen that by the time social scientists began looking at the socio-economic and cultural phenomena associated with milestone technologies like green revolution, they had already been well entrenched in social institutions and dramatically changed social relations.

GMOs may cause both ecological and socially irreversible changes. While this may be the case for most technological innovations introduced in any society, GMOs have unique characteristics that make their ecological and social impacts even more serious and far-reaching. Even when the technology is withdrawn or people totally discontinue adopting the technology, its socio-economic impacts may persist and leave a permanent imprint in society, its history and its people. This is even more serious in GMOs which may introgress with wild populations or contaminate conventional crops long after farmers decide to stop planting GM crops. This stark reality underlines the critical importance of assessing the potential socio-economic impacts of GMOs before and during their introduction in any societal context.

Topic 3: Capacity Building of National Governments
Developing countries and countries with economies in transition vary widely in their levels of capacity to implement the Biosafety Protocol, and have different needs and priorities.

Countries are constrained by a number of common limitations including: lack of financial resources, shortage of qualified personnel, and inadequate legal and institutional frameworks, poor infrastructure and limited access to relevant information.

As countries seek to build capacities for the implementation of the Protocol, it is important to ensure that capacity-building efforts are clearly linked to the specific needs and priorities of the countries in order to achieve maximum impact. Capacity-building will require efforts from multiple actors and effective co-ordination among them.

No single strategy, measure or approach is sufficient in responding to the challenge. A combination of different principles, strategies and measures would need to be considered, as appropriate, depending on the situation in each country.

The broad capacity-building needs identified by countries are diverse, and include institutional-building, human resource development and training, Risk assessment, Risk management, Awareness, education and public participation, Identification of GMOs, Information exchange, data management and participation in the Biosafety Clearing House (BCH), Technical, scientific and institutional collaboration and Technology transfer.

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Last Contributions

Background Papers and further reading

Henning Strodthoff: Outcome of the Biosafty Meeting:
- Biosafty Meeting agreed to establish legally binding rules on damages caused by GMOs
- no rules before 2010
- polluter pays principle (the farmer), if not possible, producer of the GMO has to pay

Liability & Redress
Greenpeace Position Paper on Liability and Redress, MOP4 & COP9

Gene Campaign Position Paper: A developing country perspective on liability and redress for GM crops, COP-MOP4

Socio-economic impacts of GMOs
Elenita C. Daño: Potential Socio-Economic, Cultural and Ethical Impacts of GMOs: Prospects for Socio-economic Impact Assessment

Doreen Stabinsky: Bringing Social Analysis into a Multilateral Agreement: Social Impact and the Biosafety Protocol

Article 26, Biosafety Protocol - Socio-economic effects of GMOs - Lessons learnt from Mexican Maize contamination

Yoshiki Otsuka: Socio-economic considerations relevant to the sustainable development, use and control of genetically modified foods

Stephen Brush and Michelle Chauvet: Assessment of Social and Cultural Effects Associated with Transgenic Maize Production

Jorge Larson and Michelle Chauvet: Understanding Complex Biology and Community Values: Communication and Participation

Commission for Environmental Cooperation, 2004: Maize & Biodiversity. The Effects of Transgenic Maize in Mexico - Key Findings and Recommendations

Harald Witt, Rajeev Patel & Matthew Schnurr: Understanding Complex Biology and Community Values: Communication and Participation

Capacity Building
Report on the Needs and Priorities of Countries for the Implementation of the Protocol (bscmcb-03-mop-02-inf-07-en)

Key issues of the official biosafety negotiations of this week - NGO strategies and inputEnjeux des Négociations du Protocle de Biosécurité - Responsabilités et Réparations pour les dommages causés par les OGMsHaftung und Schadensersatz bei GVO SchädigungResponsabilidad y compensaciones ante el daño de transgénicos

Local Organising Committee