Working Group I did not get to the issue of biosafety until the last day of the session. The US stated that although it supports the safe use of biotechnology nationally and internationally, it does not believe that a protocol on biosafety is warranted. The US also emphasized the need for capacity-building as well as mutual and regional cooperation on the matter. Chad highlighted the difficulties for developing countries in accessing the funds and research necessary for ensuring biosafety and called for technology transfer that is easily accessible and adaptable to the local environment and by local users. Chad also supported international legislation to control the production, marketing and use of biotechnology, taking into account the FAO's Code of Conduct on this matter.
The Republic of Korea cautioned against the possibility that biosafety might be used to serve the interests of certain groups who are trying to prevent or restrict access to biotechnology. Japan stated that a protocol on biosafety would require further discussion and clarification and he encouraged the COP to consider the findings of other international fora dealing with biosafety. Malawi expressed strong support for a protocol, citing the precautionary approach emphasized in the Rio Declaration. Switzerland suggested that the Secretariat undertake a study regarding the quick implementation of an interim international instrument on biosafety while allowing sufficient time for the development of a protocol.
UNIDO emphasized the need for both a biosafety database and training in the area of biosafety and risk assessment. Greenpeace International expressed an urgent need for a legally-binding international instrument, citing concern about genetic engineering, which "interferes with the heart of life." Sweden stated that biotechnology is an industry with huge potential, but also high risk and, therefore, the precautionary approach must be adopted. Thailand stated that biosafety guidelines be established without discouraging biotechnology research and development. Denmark, co-Chair of Expert Panel Four, stated that the Panel's report provides an excellent point of departure on biosafety and recommended that the Panel's conclusions be included in the next ICCBD documents.
Tanzania agreed with the proposal for a protocol but, citing the delicate nature of the biotechnology issue, suggested postponing further substantive discussion until the next session of the ICCBD. India, Tunisia and Syria also supported a protocol. Brazil suggested the Secretariat collect more data on related international instruments. The Philippines underscored the urgent need for a protocol and suggested several priority areas: clarification of modalities; assistance to establish and strengthen the monitoring of the movement of genetically-manipulated organisms; EIA approval of research applications; and mitigating measures in case of accidents.
The Chair then ventured to propose several key areas of consensus based on the discussion to date: enhancing the capacity of developing countries in risk assessment, risk management and regulatory oversight; creating a programme to assist these countries in establishing guidelines for research and developing in biotechnology; and setting up an international focal point for information exchange to accelerate the process of estimating risk. The US, supported by Japan and Sweden, objected to the Chair's list of areas of consensus, saying that there is no need to reach conclusions at this time. The Chair declared that the issue would be left until the next session of the ICCBD.
[Return to start of article]