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BRIEFING PAPER No.4

Whose Biosafety Protocol Is It?

At the Biotechnology and Biosafety Meeting of the World Bank in Washington D.C. statements were made by Mr. Desmond Mahaon, a member of staff of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. These statements appear to preempt t


he decision-making power of the Conference of the Parties.

In speaking of a protocol - the negotiations for which are not yet complete - Mr. Mahaon reported the following:

  • The Biosafety Protocol is not a regulatory framework but simply makes requirements on exporting countries to provide minimum information to importing countries adequate to enable them to do risk assessment.

  • The Biosafety Protocol is not intended to cover food safety.

  • On the matter of liability, the importing country should be the responsible party as it is within the sovereign right of the importing country to decide what it may import.

While every added opinion is valued in the discussion on biosafety, we believe that Mr. Mahaon was not accurately reflecting the actual content of the Ad hoc Working Group's discussion so far. There has been every indication that the Conference of the Parties has the will and commitment to have a protocol of wide scope, covering all dimensions of biosafety. Unfortunately, Mr. Mahaon appears to be preempting the decision-making powers of the parties to the Convention.

As members of civil society throughout the world we have expected and continue to hope, the Conference of the Parties will give direction to the Secretariat and not the other way round. Would Mr. Mahaon please clarify the statements he made in Washington D.C. and enhance our understanding about why he appears to make definitive statements about a treaty not yet negotiated.

 


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