Governments of more than 180 countries have agreed to hold a special meeting in February 1999 to adopt a global protocol on the safe handling, use and transboundary movement of living genetically modified organisms. The tough schedule is intended to focus effort on the biosafety protocol which governments have been negotiating for nearly two years. Although a draft text of the protocol has been prepared, key issues such as its scope and the need for liability rules remain to be addressed. At the end of a two-week meeting of parties to the UN biodiversity convention in Slovakia, UN Environment Programme chief Klaus Töpfer said the protocol would offer a widely accepted system for minimising the risks from transboundary movements of living modified organisms and would bring benefits to communities and businesses. Governments also launched two new action programmes to protect forests and inland water ecosystems. Agreement on the forestry action plan is seen as something of a coup for the biodiversity convention forum, persuading developing countries to accept the need to protect forests as sources of biodiversity as well as of foreign currency.
UN biodiversity convention, tel: +1 514 288 2220.
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