HA NOI — A two-day regional meeting on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety began yesterday in Ha Noi.
The meeting was organised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications and the Programme for Biosafety Systems.
The international agreement aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity or human health – not only by accident but also bioterrorism (the deliberate release of naturally-occurring or human-modified bacteria, viruses, toxins or other biological agents).
Experts from the Philippines, India, Cambodia, the Chinese mainland, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, and Viet Nam are discussing the specific objectives of the Protocol and preparations for the fifth Meeting of the Parties (MOP 5).
Specific objectives being discussed include expanding awareness of the Protocol's key objectives and the potential economic and trade consequences of complying with the agreement.
The Protocol, the first legally binding instrument to regulate the transboundary movement of living modified organisms, came into force on September 11, 2003. It was specifically designed to regulate trade in genetically modified organisms, including crops such as maize, tomatoes, rice or soybeans.
"[The workshop] is evidence of international efforts to protect human health and the environment from potential risks caused by modern biotechnology," said Bui Cach Tuyen, director general of the Viet Nam Environment Administration.
Many countries are concerned about the economic consequences of implementing the Protocol. Negotiations on the issues of biosafety have been continuing, Tuyen said.
Viet Nam signed the Protocol in 2004.
"We are aware of potential risks caused by modern technology. The Government considers biosafety extremely important, and is promoting international and regional co-operation on the issues raised," Tuyen said.
Each day concludes with a plenary discussion of the issues covered that day, with an eye towards identifying commonly held viewpoints.
As with earlier MOPs, MOP5 will discuss standing issues, such as the report of the Compliance Committee, and substantive issues such as handling, transport, packaging and identification, rights and/or obligations of those involved in the transit of living modified organisms, liability and redress, risk assessment and risk management and public awareness. — VNS