Decision on capacity building to handle GMOs tops biosafety meet agenda

Countries have reported they lack appropriate legal, institutional and technical capacity for decision making on genetically modified organisms

By M Suchitra
Published: Friday 05 October 2012

One of the major decisions of the sixth meeting of the parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CoP-MoP 6), on in Hyderabad since October 1, will be on capacity building, said Charles Gbedemah, head of biosafety, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). He was speaking at a press conference on the morning of October 5, the last day of CoP-MoP 6. About 1,500 delegates are reviewing implementation of the protocol and deliberating on further decisions to ensure the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms (LMOs). Out of the 164 member countries to the protocol, about 120 are taking part in the meet

The delegates have discussed, among other things, capacity building, risk assessment and socio-economic considerations concerning LMOs and financial requirements for implementing the protocol. The meeting has underlined the need for capacity building among member countries.  

“The most slow moving agenda are risk assessment and socio-economic considerations related to GMOs,” said Gbedemah at the press conference at the international convention centre.

Out of the 143 countries that submitted their national reports, about 80 per cent have reported that they lacked capacity in various aspects.

Status of implementation of Cartagena Protocol

A review of the status of implementation of the protocol, prepared by the CBD secretariat, noted that in their second national reports many countries, in particular developing countries, have reported that they have no practical experience as yet and lack appropriate legal, institutional and technical capacity for decision making on GMOs for intentional introduction into environment or for direct use as food or feed or for processing.  

According to the review report, many countries don't have in place a mechanism for handling requests, have no procedures for decision making, and have limited capacity to review applications, including capacity to review assessments prior to making a decision. Only 63 countries out of 143 countries which have submitted their second national reports on the progress of implementation of the protocol, have reported that they have acquired necessary capacity for conducting risk assessment.

Many developing countries, the report says, have noted a lack of legal frameworks and technical capacity to prevent, detect, and appropriately respond to illegal and unintentional transboundary movements of GMOs. Further, 42 parties reported that they have no capacity to enforce the requirements of identification and documentation of GMOs and 63 parties said that they have such capacities only to some extent.  

Quoting a few studies, like the Expert review of the Effectiveness of various Approaches to Biosafety Capacity Building, prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and CBD, the review report says that in a number of countries biosafety capacity building activities are implemented in a fragmented manner and are not mainstreamed into broader national plans, policies and programmes.

The budget committee will start discussions on the funds needed for next two years to implement the protocol after finishing all other agenda.


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