Biosafety Protocol: An asymmetric fusion of a plenty of politics and a bit of science

- Kazuo N. Watanabe, Ph.D.
Dept. Biotechnological Science, Kinki University,
Wakayama Prefecture, Japan
Adjunct Associate Professor, Dept. Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University
Email: watanabe@bio.waka.kindai.ac.jp
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 9 (1999), 105.


The final negotiation session, Open-ended Biosafety Working Group Meeting (BSWG6) was held at Cartagena, Colombia from February 14 to 19, 1999, followed by an extraordinary COP (Convention of Parties) for Its ratification on February 22 and 23, 1999.

The original aim of the Biosafety Protocol was to make a straight forward document for the transboundary movement of Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) that shall have an adverse effect on the environment. However, it seemed that the sessions of the negotiation processes could have been mis-oriented.

The scope of the Biosafety Protocol shall be pin-focused on the newly-developed transgenic organisms by the modern genetic engineering, which could have an adverse effect on the environment due to its novelty. However, incorrect orientations were driven by the political issues.

Non scientific definition in the Protocol was admitted by many scientific experts from delegations except a few representatives from opinion-leading parties of the G77 countries. For example, the concept of the cell fusion was victimized based on the pre-occupational non-scientific basis without strong scientific facts. It was very unfortunate that concrete scientific evidence with a strong precautionary approach and top-notch quality were really disregarded at the sessions (2).

Trade issues such as labeling and handling of commodities involving transgenic crops shall be refereed to other existing treaty/convention/ negotiation such as WTO and Codex FAO Alimentarius, Otherwise it is really redundancy of documents and wasting previous international efforts in addition to unfruitful non-scientific contents of the Protocol. Human health concerns should also be handled at WHO which has far better experienced on various aspects and could deal with scientifically sound ways.

It was heard that concerns on the liability and redress were shared by the scientific attache of many delegations from G77 countries and China. The main speakers at the sessions, who are diplomats from the G77 countries and China, did not consider that their home countries concerns on the liability and redress were shared by the scientific attache of many delegations from G77 countries and China. The main speakers at the sessions, who are diplomats from the G77 countries and China, did not consider that their home countries are potential net-exporters rather than net-importers in trade balance on LMOs such as fresh fruit and vegetables, which could be replaced by transgenic crops at any time.

Overall, the Protocol shall have an adverse effect to deterring R and D on biotechnology unnecessary and preoccupationally (3), not precautionally. Especially, international academic interactions on exchanging the research materials could be seriously restricted in vain, which would be inverse orientation in considering global liberizations of many aspects.

References
1. http://www.biodiv.org/biosafe/biosafe6.html
2. Japanese delegation paper BSWG6
3. Green Bio Industry web and mails.


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