Key provisions of the U.N.-sponsored Biosafety Protocol approved by representatives
of more than 130 countries in Montreal:
- Preamble recognizes risks/benefits of biotechnology and the need to protect
- Preamble emphasizes protocol "shall not be interpreted" as changing
the rights and obligations of countries under other international pacts, such as
the World Trade Organization.
- Preamble asserts trade and environmental accords should be mutually supportive
and the protocol is not subordinate to other international pacts.
- Establishes a Biosafety Clearinghouse to share information about genetically
modified organisms (GMOs). Countries must inform the body within 15 days of the approval
of any crop varieties that could be used in food, animal feed and processing.
- Exporters must obtain an importing country‚s approval, through a procedure known
as advance informed agreement (AIA), for initial shipments of GMOs, such as seeds
and trees, intended for release into the environment.
- GMOs intended for food, feed and processing -- in other words, commodities --
are exempt from the AIA. But they must be labeled "may contain" GMOs and
countries can decide whether or not to import them based on a scientific risk assessment.
. Countries also may consider "socioeconomic factors," such as the impact
on local farmers, consistent with their other international obligations when making
- Negotiations on more detailed labeling requirements will proceed, with the requirement
they be completed no later than two years after the protocol takes effect.
- New talks will be held on the issue of liability for any damage resulting >from
the crossborder movements of GMOs. The goal is to finish in four years.
- If illegal shipments occur, the affected party can request the shipper to retrieve
or destroy the GMO at its own expense.
- The protocol will go into effect after ratification by the 50th country or regional
economic integration organization that is a party to the 1992 U.N. Convention on
Biological Diversity. It will be subject to review at least every five years.