Last week's first meeting of the intergovernmental committee for the Cartagena protocol (ICCP1) ended with exclamations of satisfaction from all sides, including industry and environmental NGO representatives. Discussions were held on information sharing, GMO traceability, packaging, handling and transport, national capacity building and formation of an expert advisory group.
Fastest progress was made in the area of information sharing. A pilot biosafety clearinghouse that will allow countries to access up-to-date lists of GMOs and details of national policies and regulations is to launch imminently. Decisions on other areas under discussion were postponed until next year's meeting, planned for October in Montreal, Canada.
Delegates frequently expressed the need to assess how countries have thus far dealt with, or failed to deal with, trade in GMOs before decisions on how to proceed can be taken. As a result, inter-sessional efforts will focus on gathering such information to enable further progress next October.
Despite the positive outcome, Earth Negotiations Bulletin reported that as the week wore on, there was "an increasing realisation ...that much work was needed to prepare countries and the secretariat for the protocol's entry into force". Bulgaria and Trinidad & Tobago are the only two countries to have ratified it. Ratification by 50 countries is required for the protocol to enter into force. Several environmental NGOs have called on governments to impose moratoriums on trade in GMOs until the protocol is in force, emphasising in particular the need for a system of traceability.
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