India ratifies Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

Wednesday, 26 February 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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India has ratified an international regulatory framework to prevent damage to its biodiversity from import of genetically modified products.

NEW DELHI: Forty-three countries have ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. It will come into force after seven more countries agree to support it.

The Cartagena Protocol is a sequel to the convention on biodiversity enacted in 1992 at the Rio Summit, and was adopted in January 2000.

The protocol seeks to protect biological diversity of a country from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology or genetic engineering.

Once it comes into force, the protocol will establish an advance informed agreement (AIA) procedure for ensuring countries are provided information necessary to decide whether it is safe to import a genetically modified product without adverse impact to the environment or human beings.

"India has become a party to the first international regulatory framework in respect of living modified organisms (LMOs) by submitting the instruments of ratification of Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the U.N. headquarters," the environment and forests ministry stated Tuesday.

By ratifying the protocol, India and other developing countries would be able to put in place safeguards "to ensure safe transfer, handling and use of LMOs and protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by LMOs," according to the ministry.

"The protocol places an obligation on exporting countries to come out with relevant information about the composition of the genetically modified material or product to enable the importing countries make informed decisions. With increasing trade in transgenic materials and products, the protocol would provide for exchange of information to protect the biodiversity of importing countries," a ministry official said.

In December, India had rejected a consignment of soya-corn meal imported from the U.S. by two global NGOs as they did not provide relevant information about produce, believed to contain a banned genetically modified substance.

The ministry of environment is holding an inter-ministerial meeting Wednesday as a step towards formulating a national policy on genetically modified food and a comprehensive food policy in respect of food crops, food products, commercial crops and animal feed.

"The meeting will address the adequacy of existing regulations in respect of GM imports, adequacy of risk assessment and management, relative responsibility of various ministries and agencies, issues of labelling, mechanism for certification of products both for export and import, marketing of transgenic seeds and mechanism to enhance public consultation and consumer awareness," the ministry stated.
Source: IANS

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