The second meeting of the Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety (BSWG-2) met from 12-16 May 1997 in Montreal and continued its discussions on the elaboration of a protocol on safety in biotechnology. Working from aide-memoires tabled by Chair Veit Koester (Denmark), delegates discussed a range of issues, including: objectives; procedures for transfer of living modified organisms; competent authorities, information sharing and a clearinghouse mechanism; capacity-building; and risk assessment and management. BSWG-2 also convened contact groups to consider the proposals on definitions of key terms and studies to be completed by the Secretariat in preparation for BSWG-3.
Koester opened BSWG-2 by urging delegates concentrate on core issues and identify the elements of a biosafety protocol for their next session. Under his guidance, delegates displayed a cooperative spirit and agreed to a structure for discussions and the programme of work for this meeting as well as future meetings. After previous meetings characterized by some as talk shops, many BSWG-2 delegates left Montreal satisfied they had at last begun to move from generalities to specifics and taken substantial steps toward a protocol. Despite this progress, some fundamental disparities of opinion, particularly on the scope of the protocol, remain, which threaten to derail the process when negotiations get underway.