"GMOs: Historic agreement but a small step for liability"Preparatory talks started last Wednesday, Oct. 6, in Nagoya, on an international accord on compensation for damage caused by GMO (genetically modified) crops to biodiversity and human health.
After over 6 years of negotiations, the international community finally agreed last night in Japan to put in place a liability and redress regime in case of contamination caused by genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This agreement that will be known as the ‘Nagoya Kuala Lumpur Supplemental Protocol on Liability and redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety’ is not a strict international liability instrument with a backup fund as Greenpeace advocated.
However, this agreement will enable countries to adopt and implement their own liability provisions and redress legislation and financial security while offering them some protection against WTO legal challenges about obstacles to trade.
The agreement will apply to damages causes directly by GMOs like genetic contamination. However, by keeping open the causality chain link between the damage and the GMO in question, it also includes products of GMOs which is a good element for an effective and meaningful liability regime.
During the negotiation, Greenpeace has consistently been pushing for a supplementary fund, paid for by a levy on GE imports in case of damages not covered by standard liability and redress. Although this option had been rejected at a previous meeting, the agreement actually keeps open possible future measures to be considered by the Protocol.
The talks preceded the fifth meeting of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in Nagoya from Oct. 11 to 15, which will seek to adopt the accord as a supplement to the protocol under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The accord aims to enable states to order operators who bring in damage-causing genetically modified living organisms to take necessary restorative measures.
While countries have agreed on an overall framework of the accord, crucial issues remain unresolved as Darier points out: i.e., a compensation fund that would put some teeth into the agreement.