International biosafety trade protocol effective Sept. 11
An international convention to help ensure the safe and secure shipping of genetically engineered plants, animals and microbes enters into force on Sept. 11.
More than 130 countries adopted the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety on Jan. 29, 2000.
Although the United States participated in developing the protocol, it is not a party to it. The State Department said the United States will participate as an observer at the first meeting parties to the biosafety protocol, scheduled for February in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
U.S. shippers of genetically modified organisms must abide by the protocol when shipping their products to countries that have ratified the protocol.
The protocol essentially provides countries the opportunity to receive information about these products prior to importation. The protocol also establishes an Internet-based “Biosafety Clearing-House” to help countries exchange scientific, technical, environmental and legal information about genetically modified organisms.
“It requires shipments of LMO (living modified organism) commodities, such as maize and soybeans that are intended for direct use as food, feed and for processing, to be accompanied by documentation stating that such shipments ‘may contain’ living modified organisms and are ‘not intended for intentional introduction into the environment,’ ” the State Department said. “The protocol establishes a process for considering more detailed identification and documentation of LMO commodities in international trade.”
Handling requirements and contact points for these commodities must also be provided to importers.
It establishes an “advance informed agreement procedure” that requires exporters to seek approval from an importing country before the first shipment of an LMO, such as seeds and fish, may be introduced into the country’s environment.
Non-living products derived from genetically engineered plants and animals are not covered under the protocol, the State Department said.