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  Apr 24, 2014 | 8:55 pm
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International GMO liability treaty: agreement after six years


(24 September 2010) After six years of intense negotiations, parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety finally agreed on a new international treaty in Nagoya, Japan. According to the treaty, countries that import genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and plant them will now have a legal claim to redress in case of damage to their biodiversity.

The new treaty on liability and redress – named after Kuala Lumpur and Nagoya, the two cities where the final rounds of negotiation were held – is an important addition to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which was passed in the year 2000. For the first time the treaty establishes legally binding international rules for transboundary movements of living genetically modified organisms.

In a number of unsuccessful attempts the signatory parties, representing over 160 countries, had not been able to reach an agreement on common liability rules. The last attempt that failed was the 4th conference of signatories to the Cartagena Protocol in October 2008 in Bonn, Germany. Since then a group of government representatives that was established in Bonn was able to resolve the remaining controversies and to propose a draft treaty. The draft was widely approved and was adopted at the last day of the 5th conference of signatories to the Cartagena Protocol in Nagoya (11.-15.10.2010).

The Kuala Lumpur-Nagoya Supplementary Protocol establishes an internationally binding claim for countries importing GMOs to make the responsible producer in the exporting country liable for any possible damage caused by the imported GMOs. Especially for developing countries the treaty offers better legal compliance.

In the case that it is proven that the cultivation of imported genetically modified plants has had negative consequences for the biodiversity of a country and limits the economic exploitability, the affected country is entitled to demand redress payments or reparation of the damage. The affected importing country is responsible for proving that its biodiversity was in fact harmed and that the damage was caused by a specific imported GMO. In order to produce this evidence the country may draw upon the relevant information that producers and public authorities are obliged to supply according to the Cartagena Protocol.

The Supplementary Protocol will only reach international legal binding force when at least 40 states have ratified it. From March 2011 it will be open for signature at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

 

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