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INFORMATION SHARING AND THE CLEARINGHOUSE MECHANISM

The Chair introduced an aide-memoire on Information Sharing/Capacity- Building/Public Awareness/Participation (UNEP/CBD/BSWG/2/CRP.3). The aide- memoire posed a number of questions related to information sharing between Parties, such as: should there be a provision for sharing of information on actions taken under the transfer procedures; if so, should the provision apply only to Parties; and what information on actions should be shared. On publicly available information, the aide- memoire asked: should the protocol contain a provision for information sharing through the CBD clearinghouse mechanism (CHM); what information should be provided to through the CHM; and who should provide information to the CHM.

On information sharing between Parties, NORWAY, supported by INDIA, mentioned that the CBD already obliges Parties to provide all the information they have. Numerous countries, including the US, CANADA, MALAYSIA, COLOMBIA, SOUTH AFRICA, MALAYSIA, INDONESIA and MAURITIUS, however, distinguished between general information and information-sharing through the AIA procedure.

BRAZIL called for as broad a range of data as possible on all LMOs. COLOMBIA noted that information on AIA procedures might be confidential and provided bilaterally. The protocol should have a clause to deal with information the exporting country feels is confidential, in order to give it appropriate treatment. The EU also called for a provision on confidentiality. The Chair noted that confidentiality is related to whether information should be restricted to the Parties. CANADA said a database or clearinghouse mechanism has two roles, increasing public awareness and access and providing information on regulatory notification and actions, the former requiring complete public access and the latter requiring limited access for inputting data for decision-makers.

On the type of information to be supplied, a number of ideas were suggested, including:

JAPAN warned that information on individual transfers is technically difficult and perhaps not needed. MAURITIUS noted that information sharing and LMO movement are part of technology transfer. CAMEROON, supported by the US, stressed inclusion of information from other groups, such as NGOs, and other countries, as contained in the African Group’s submission.

The RUSSIAN FEDERATION differentiated between information sharing and a clearinghouse mechanism. He sought clarification on who should supply information to whom and whether focal points should be the central nodes. JAPAN favored a clearinghouse mechanism but the Secretariat of the protocol may play a role in compiling national regulations and any changes in them. Information from exporters could also be provided to the Secretariat through national competent authorities for further distribution. BRAZIL stated that national competent authorities should be responsible for depositing information on national actions and public data on LMOs that have been reviewed in the country. SOUTH AFRICA felt national focal points should be the suppliers of information to the clearinghouse mechanism, other focal points and national competent authorities and the users of LMOs. CUBA, BRAZIL and the US favored drawing on existing structures for information-sharing.

On whether there should be a common format for information, CANADA called for a standard format or template regarding the naming of LMOs and the treatment of confidential information. The EU requested the Secretariat to submit a draft format for consideration at later meetings. The US noted that relevant information varies according to LMO and there are many complicating factors that must be taken into account. BANGLADESH called for a technical subcommittee to produce a draft format. MALAYSIA called for the provision of information regarding use and biological characteristics of an LMO in the format.

On including a mechanism to revise information and provisions for confidentiality, SOUTH AFRICA, SRI LANKA and ZAMBIA said that confidentiality should not impede information exchange or undermine decision making. CANADA agreed to confidentiality provisions but noted the need to clarify modalities. The US said confidential business information should not be part of general information exchange but can be revealed as appropriate to national focal points. He called for a mechanism for ensuring that information remains confidential.

Regarding publicly available information, the aide-memoire asked: whether the protocol should provide for an article on public awareness; what mechanism should be used to promote public awareness; what action should be addressed; and who is responsible for public awareness. CANADA said that means of communication other than electronic access require further exploration and that no new institutions regarding the CHM should be established. He also said that delegates should have a better understanding of the way in which transfers of LMOs were currently taking place and the volume of those transfers, particularly those involving commodities. Supported by the US, he proposed forming a contact group to develop precise instructions for the Secretariat regarding the preparation of a report on the methods and volume of LMO transfers, particularly regarding commodity transfers.

On 14 May, NEW ZEALAND reported on the contact group on commodities. He noted the group’s recommendation that the Secretariat prepare a study to define the range of LMOs in commodity transactions. Upon being asked to adopt the recommendation, the G-77/CHINA said its approval would hinge on approval for four other studies, on the socio-economic implications of biotechnology and on the impacts of LMOs on animals, fisheries and indigenous farming. Further discussion of the proposed studies was deferred. During the final Plenary, delegates accepted a document on the future work of the BSWG (UNEP/CBD/BSWG/2/L.1/Add.3), which notes inter alia that CANADA modified its proposal and will arrange for an informal roundtable on the subject at or before BSWG-3.

During the final Plenary, delegates also accepted the Chair’s draft element paper on information sharing (UNEP/CBD/BSWG/ 2/CRP.9). The paper contains the options presented by delegates related to information sharing between Parties and includes examples of the type of information that could be shared, such as information on accidental LMO movements, LMOs released on the market and the amount of LMOs exported. The paper also contains options related to the CHM, protection of confidential information and a standardized format for information sharing.

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