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Australia shuns the Biosafety Protocol

17 October 2010

Australia shuns the UN Protocol on Biosafety that most countries will adopt in Nagoya, Japan, next week. The protocol is a global quarantine and customs treaty to protect the environment and human health from genetically manipulated organisms (GMOs).

The treaty tries to minimize risks of international transfer, handling and use of GMOs and is the first & only protocol negotiated by parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

"As a party to the CBD, Australia ought to join the protocol and cooperate with the 160 other countries that are already members," says Gene Ethics Director, Bob Phelps.

"Australia should repudiate the US government and GM industry stance that seeks to undermine the protocol. The USA is not even a party to the Biodiversity Convention.

"The Australian government claims the protocol may be used as a non-tariff barrier to trade but most other countries now see this key protocol as no threat to free trade. Of 18 members of the Cairns Group of agricultural exporting countries (led by Australia) that tried to scuttle the protocol, 13 have now ratified or acceded to the Protocol. (See: www.cbd.int).

"The only Cairns Group countries still outside the protocol are Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile and Uruguay. While North and South American states may be forced to align themselves with the USA, Australia would benefit much more from co-operating with the GM-free states in our region to avoid the public health and environmental predations of GMOs.

"Australian governments must only back the production and export of GM crops if it is done safely for all countries. Gene Ethics has asked Trade Minister Craig Emerson to strongly advocate for the Australian Government, in this term of office, to:

"Protecting everyone from genetically manipulated organisms in our food and environment must be a higher priority than trade," Mr Phelps concludes.

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