April 2002


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Sam Anderson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 30 Apr 2002 07:31:53 -0700
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NOTE: The rate at which huge global capitalist biotech-centered
corporations are impacting on what we eat and our environment
is growing exponentially. This alarming rate now has a direct
impact on each and everyone of us everytime we breathe... everytime
we eat. We are not yet at the stage of irreversibility. But,
that is less than a generation away! As you will see below, there
are people the world over organizing and fighting this eco- and

We need to stay informed and find ways to actively link our various
struggles to this battle against the Earth's ecological system.
We especially need to resist all attempts to transform us into
Living Modified Corporate Organisms whose only allegiance is
to the production, consumption of and submission to corporate

S. E. Anderson

-----Original Message-----
>From: Wytze de Lange [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
>Sent: Monday, April 29, 2002 07:37
>Subject: [IndusFarming] Statements at Biosafety Protocol meeting
in The Hague
>The past three weeks the meeting of the parties to the Convention
of Biological Diversity and the Intergovernmental Committee on
the Cartegena Protocol (ICCP 3) of the Biosafety Protocol took
place in The Hague (Netherlands).

NOTE: Basic Information on Biotechnology:

What is biotechnology?

For millennia, humans have artificially altered the genetic makeup
of plants and animals through breeding selection and cross-fertilization.
Since the early 1970s, however, modern biotechnology has enabled
scientists to transfer genetic material (DNA - the biochemical
instructions governing the development of cells and organisms)
through biochemical means and to radically alter the intricate
genetic structure of individual living cells. They can now introduce
a great diversity of genes into plants, animals, and micro-organisms
almost instantly. For the first time, humanity has the power
to transfer genes from one type of organism to another- for example,
to insert genes from a bacterium into a tomato to create a transgenic
plant. Modern biotechnology means the application of:

a. In vitro nucleic acid techniques, including recombinant deoxyribonucleic
acid (DNA) and direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or
organelles, or

b. Fusion of cells beyond the taxonomic family, that overcome
natural physiological reproductive or recombination barriers
and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and

What are Living Modified Organisms (LMOs)?

LMOs are any living organism that possesses a novel combination
of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology;
they include a variety of food crops that have been genetically
modified for greater productivity or for resistance to pests
or diseases. Common examples include tomatoes, grains, cassava
(a starchy root grown in Sub-Saharan Africa and other tropical
areas), corn, and soybeans. Seeds for growing new crops are particularly
important because they are used intentionally to propagate LMOs.
Living organism means any biological entity capable of transferring
or replicating genetic material, including sterile organisms,
viruses and viroids.

What are LMO products?

LMOs form the basis of a range of products and agricultural commodities.
Citing the precautionary principle, some experts cite the risk
that pieces of DNA remaining in these non-living products could
possibly replicate under certain conditions; others consider
this to be extremely unlikely. Processed products containing
dead modified organisms or non-living LMO components include
certain vaccines; drugs; food additives; and many processed,
canned, and preserved foods. Depending on the precise definition,
they can also include corn and soybean derivatives used in many
foods and nonfoods, cornstarch used for cardboard and adhesives,
fuel ethanol for gasoline, vitamins, vaccines and pharmaceuticals,
and yeast-based foods such as beer and bread.

What are the potential risks?

Biotechnology is a very new field, and much about the interaction
of LMOs with various ecosystems is not yet known. The introduction
of genetically modified organisms should not proceed faster than
advances in scientific understanding. Some of the concerns about
the new technologies include unintended changes in the competitiveness,
virulence, or other characteristics of the target species; the
possibility of adverse impacts on non-target species (such as
beneficial insects) and ecosystems; the potential for weediness
in genetically modified crops (a plant becomes too resistant
and invasive, perhaps by transferring its genes to wild relatives);
and the stability of inserted genes (the possibilities that a
gene will lose its effectiveness or will be re-transferred to
another host). A specific example that has recently been cited
involves the insertion of protease inhibitor genes (PIs) into
plants; these small proteins interfere with enzymes in the intestinal
tracts of insects and can disrupt development and destroy larvae
in both pests and beneficial insects. Similarly, Bt-toxins engineered
into a wide range of transgenic plants may build up in the soil
and harm pollinators and other beneficial insects.

What is biosafety?

Biosafety is a new term used to describe efforts to reduce and
eliminate the potential risks resulting from biotechnology and
its products. It is based on the precautionary principle, which
states that the lack of full scientific certainty should not
be used as an excuse to postpone action when there is a threat
of serious or irreversible damage. While developed countries
that are at the center of the global biotechnology industry have
established domestic biosafety regimes, many developing countries
are only now starting to establish their own national systems.

Why is biotechnology also a trade issue?

The commercialization of biotechnology has spawned
multi-billion-dollar industries for foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals
that continue to grow at a dramatic pace. Under World Trade Organization
(WTO) regulations, the regulation of trade must be based on "sound
scientific knowledge". Under environmental regimes, the agreed
standard of proof is the precautionary principle. The WTO also
does not accept socio-economic concerns, such as the risk that
exports of genetically engineered crops may replace traditional
ones and undermine local cultures and traditions in importing
countries. The subsidiary agreements of the WTO, including the
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS), Technical Barriers
to Trade Agreement (TBT), and the Agreement on Trade-Related
Intellectual Property (TRIPs), also contain specific provisions
that apply to the biosafety issue.

Why is an international Biosafety agreement needed?

The objectives of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity
are "the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable
use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the
benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources."
There is growing public concern about the potential risks posed
by living modified organisms. A particular concern is that many
developing countries lack the technical, financial, and institutional
means to address biosafety. They need greater capacity for assessing
and managing risks, establishing adequate information systems,
and developing expert human resources in biotechnology. While
many countries with modern biotechnology industries do have domestic
legislation, there are no binding international agreements covering
LMOs that cross national borders because of trade or accidental
releases. An international regime is needed now while the biotechnology
industry is still young and major errors have not yet been committed.

>1. NGO Statement
>2. African Draft Resolution On Genetic Contamination Of Centers
>of Origin And Diversity
>NGO Statement
>Final Plenary
>Third Intergovernmental Conference on the Cartagena Protocol
>The Hague - April 26, 2002
>The NGO Caucus appreciates the constant efforts of
>many delegates to address the important issues to
>prepare for when the Cartagena Protocol comes into
>force. However, we regret that no substantial progress
>was made this week. We continue to urge countries to
>speedily ratify the Protocol so that a MOP in the near
>future will be able to finalize these points.
>The NGO Caucus, on behalf of civil society, wants to
>emphasize the following issues:
>1) We reiterate our call for and immediate moratorium
>on all releases of LMOs until a rigorous biosafety
>regime is in place. In addition, we call for a ban on
>LMO imports and releases, especially in or near
>centers of origin and centers of diversity. The need
>for such measures is clearly shown, for exampl, by the
>recent cases of the contamination of maize in Mexico,
>by the Starlink scandal in the United States and by
>the economic damages suffured by the Canadian canola
>and organic farmers. Self-congratulatory statements
>will not mitigate the widespread contamination of
>cultivars and centers of biodiversity.
>2) Furthermore, these tragic cases powerfully
>illustrate the urgent need for an international regime
>of strict liability and redress. We deeply regret that
>the delegations of ICCP3 did not agree on terms of
>reference for the establishment of an Open Ended Ad
>Hoc Working Group for identifying elements of such a
>liability and redress regime. In the meantime, an
>adequate retroactive compensation fund should be
>established and maintained by the exporters and
>3) The coming into force of the Protocol is crucial to
>protect countries currently being pressured by
>exporters to accept LMOs without adequate risk
>assessment or regulatory oversight. These pressures
>again illustrate the need for the Precautionary
>Principle as an internationally recognized right of
>decision makers of countries to refuse imports until
>they have developed their capacity and to decide for
>themselves, on a case by case assessment, how to
>4) We strongly support a system of meaningful unique
>identifiers for all LMOs based on reliable and precise
>detection methods for event specific molecular
>characterization data such as PCR. Such an inclusive
>identification system must be tied to the information
>bases in the Biosafety Clearing House.
>5) We call for the transformation of the current
>Biosafety Clearing House demonstration model into an
>equitable, reliable, transparent and user-friendly
>system, which is critical for implementation fo an
>effective Protocol and for public participation.
>6) While we appreciate the financial efforts of some
>industrialized countries to help developing countries
>to participate in the Biosafety process, these efforts
>have not been sufficient and we urge far greater
>support so that full representation is possible.
>7) The Convention and Protocol are international
>environmental agreements and not international trade
>treaties. We emphasize that economic costs should not
>be used by LMO exporting countries as an excuse for
>inadequate biosafety measures.
>The NGO Caucus is appalled by the obstructionist
>tactics of a few delegations this week, although we do
>appreciate the flexibility that other delegations have
>shown in seeking to achieve an agreement. We call on
>these delegates to continue to use all their political
>space and flexibility to further ratification and
>strict implementation of the Protocol. The recent
>contamination scandals make it perfectly clear that
>the Protocol must come into force as soon as
>2. African Draft Resolution On Genetic Contamination
>Of Centers of Origin And Diversity
>Third Intergovernmental Conference on the Cartagena Protocol
>The Hague - April 26, 2002
>Recognizing that the objective of the protocol is to
>ensure the protection of biological diversity and
>human health in the field of transfer of LMOs focusing
>on their transboundary movement;
>Taking not of the information received during the
>ICCP3 on the unintended transboundary movement of LMOs
>and the genetic contamination of centers of origin and
>of diversity of important crops;
>- Invites Parties and other Governments,
>Intergovernmental and Non-Governmental Organizations
>to provide information to the Executive Secretary on
>reports of the transboundary movement of LMOs, the
>unintended genetic contamination of centers of origin,
>or genetic diversity and the distribution fo
>transgenes into farmers' varieties through
>cross-pollination and to report to COP/MOP
>- Requests the Executive Secretary to compile a report
>of the transboundary movement of LMOs, the unintended
>genetic contamination of centers of origin, genetic
>diversity and the distribution of transgenes into
>farmers' varieties through cross-pollination and to
>report to COP/MOP.
>"The first duty of a revolutionary is to be educated." —José
>The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory