GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 17th  June 2005

Developing Nations Slam NZ for 'May Contain GM' stance

New Zealand is being condemned by developing nations for blocking an agreement that would require proper labelling of shipments of GM organisms, and effectively forcing each country to develop a patchwork of local laws.
A report by The South North Development Monitor says by blocking consensus at the Meeting of Parties to the Cartegna Protocol Brazil and New Zealand were successful in derailing the talks so no decision was adopted on Article 18.2(a) governing movements of GMO's internationally.

The move may force countries to develop their own laws creating more complex rules for industry to deal with. New Zealand farmers would be harmed unless new laws are also developed here, and the government's agenda is causing alarm throughout the many groups in New Zealand wanting a precautionary approach to GE.
New Zealand's position is highly contradictory and confusing. Our government is now promoting "may contain GM" as an adequate label when this term was previously rejected as 'unhelpful' and inadequate for labelling consumer goods.
The Chair of the Africa Group at the meeting warned that this would allow "global genetic pollution to escape unnoticed and unscathed".

This stand will also undermine international trade as countries are forced to act unilaterally to block GM contamination.
'The New Zealand government has been quietly changing its policy while the public are not looking, and are now effectively promoting GM contamination thresholds internationally," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment"

In closing statements at the conference delegates advised developing countries to design through their national legislation strict requirements for the documentation accompanying shipments of living GMO-FFPs.
GE Free NZ in food and environment believe New Zealand also needs new legislation to protect our farmers and the integrity of the agricultural system.
Without these rules the New Zealand government will be betraying not only the people of the developing world, but our own farming communities, and the public interest.

Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681

Additional Resources
Documents of MOP-2:
(including the draft Decision on LMO-FFPs, UNEP/CBD/BS/COP-MOP/2/2)
Daily coverage by IISD Linkages:
Brazil, New Zealand block decision on documentation of GMOs
The South North Development Monitor (SUNS), 7 June 2005, issue #5815
Montreal, 4 June 2005 (Lim Li Ching and Lim Li Lin) ­
Negotiations under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety collapsed on the issue of
documentationrequirements for bulk shipments of genetically engineered commodities,
afterfive days of intense and controversial talks. Two countries ­ Brazil and
New Zealand ­ held the talks hostage as they repeatedly blocked consensus.
The Second Meeting of the Parties (MOP2) to the Cartagena Protocol was held
in Montreal on 30 May-3 June. The meeting was supposed to take a final
decision on the detailed requirements for how to identify and document
shipments of genetically engineered commodities. This issue was the main
work of this meeting.
These commodities are known in the Biosafety Protocol as "living modified
organisms that are intended for direct use as food or feed, or for
processing" (LMO-FFPs). Because of the intransigence of Brazil and New
Zealand, no decision on the issue was adopted at the meeting.
The Cartagena Protocol is an international law that regulates the
transboundary movement of genetically engineered organisms. It entered into
force on 11 September 2003.
Article 18.2(a) of the Protocol deals with the detailed requirements in the
documentation that should accompany shipments of LMO-FFPs. This same topic
had been among the most contentious issues during negotiations for
establishing the Cartagena Protocol and was in fact the final issue to be
decided at the meeting that adopted the Protocol in Montreal in 2000.
The disagreements on it had then almost caused the negotiations to break down
when major exporter countries tried to exclude these commodities altogether.
These countries and their allies ­ the US, Canada, Australia, Argentina,
Uruguay and Chile ­ called themselves the Miami Group.
As a compromise, in order to obtain agreement on the whole Protocol text, the
other countries were forced to accept that documentation accompanying
LMO-FFPs must clearly identify that the shipment "may contain" LMOs and are
not intended for intentional introduction into the environment.
MOP 2 should have taken a decision on the detailed requirements for this
purpose, as Article 18.2(a) had a mandate to do so no later than two years
after the Protocol's entry into force (i. e. by September 2005) and this was
the last MOP that could have adopted such a decision. Already, the meeting
of the Open-Ended Technical Expert Group that had met in March had ended
without agreement, and the draft decision that was forwarded to MOP 2 was in
fact a controversial revised Chair's text on which there was no consensus.
The fact that no decision was adopted leaves open the question as to whether
the mandate of Article 18.2(a) to take a final decision will expire. No
meeting will be held before September 2005, when the mandate lapses.
However, Brazil, which would be the next host of the third meeting of the
parties (MOP3) in March 2006, clearly indicated that it was willing to
continue discussions on this issue at the MOP3. Other countries also made
similar references to continuing negotiations on this issue at MOP 3.
The lack of adoption of a decision also leaves open the question as to which
version of the draft text would be the basis of the negotiations at MOP 3.
In total, eleven versions of the draft decision were discussed. Usually, in
such situations, the basis for negotiations reverts back to the last agreed
text by all Parties.
The delegate from Ethiopia, in his closing statement, invited all delegates
from developing countries in the meantime to design through their national
legislation strict requirements for the documentation accompanying shipments
of LMO-FFPs, instead of waiting till MOP 3 for a further decision to be
taken on the issue.
The majority of Parties had wanted the MOP to require that documentation
accompanying shipments of LMO-FFPs clearly state that they contain LMOs and
to also provide further details of their identity. In addition, they were
keen to ensure that only LMOs approved in the importing countries are
shipped to them.
Brazil and New Zealand, on the other hand, merely wanted the "may contain"
language to remain, and were unwilling to compromise on this issue. This
position means that shipments of commodity grains need not be segregated nor
tested before leaving the country of export. Shipments of commodity grains
can consist of mixtures of non-LMOs, approved LMOs and even unapproved LMOs,
because of contamination by experimental LMOs. This allows "global genetic
pollution to escape unnoticed and unscathed", as Ethiopia, which was the
Chair of the Africa Group, explained.
The recent discovery of an unapproved and experimental genetically engineered
maize, Bt 10, which had been inadvertently grown and exported commercially
from the US, is a case in point. In response to this, the European Union
took emergency measures to prevent its entry, by requiring a certificate
accompanying shipments of corn gluten and brewers’ yeast that expressly
states that those shipments do not contain Bt 10. This in effect requires
the testing of shipments before export.
Because Parties were keen to secure agreement on this very important issue,
most were willing to compromise and accepted that in some specific cases,
the "may contain" language could remain, provided that some detailed
information, such as the identity of the LMOs that are or might be in the
shipment, were also given. Negotiations had already begun to proceed in a
Contact Group on this basis in late night and early morning sessions over
the week.
However, from the start, Brazil and New Zealand seemed intent on merely
blocking and delaying the negotiations. Over three late night negotiating
sessions, various versions of a draft decision were discussed and at each
turn, rejected by the two countries. At times, Peru and Mexico also actively
supported and advanced the Brazilian and New Zealand positions.
By the last Contact Group session which went on till three in the morning of
3 June 2005, even intense negotiations within the "Friends of the Chair"
(Malaysia, Ethiopia, Brazil, New Zealand and the EU) failed to yield any
results, despite the majority of countries being prepared to compromise
beyond their respective bottom lines.
Many delegates were perplexed by New Zealand’s stance as it does not
commercially produce or export GMOs. This led them to question New Zealand's
ideological free trade stance, apparently without due regard for
environmental or human health concerns, and to ask whose interest this
position benefited. The two main negotiators from New Zealand were officials
from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Brazil was "once upon a time… a member of the Like-Minded Group of
Developing Countries" during the Protocol negotiations, the Ethiopian
delegate nostalgically recalled. However, domestic developments including
the approval of commercialized plantings of genetically engineered soya,
have clearly led it to break ranks with the Group, which had fought so hard
to protect the environment, health and socio-economic interests of
developing countries in the face of intense pressure from industry and the
main exporters and producers of genetically engineered organisms.
The Ethiopian delegate asked if this was "a rift that we have to take into
future consideration when we deal with Brazil" and whether better protection
for developing countries will continue to be "undermined by Brazil".
Because the Contact Group was unable to come to any consensus on the draft
decision, the last text was sent to the larger Working Group on the last day
of the meeting, with many square brackets.
NGOs attending the meeting, outraged by the behaviour of Brazil and New
Zealand in stalling the negotiations, carried out a silent protest outside
the Working Group meeting room, holding up placards with the words "Shame
New Zealand, Shame Brazil", reflecting the mood of most of the delegates. A
Brazilian NGO representative, in a closing statement, stressed that "the
Brazilian delegation here does not represent the position of most
During the Working Group discussion, the Swiss delegation introduced a
non-paper which was a text that sought to balance the competing interests.
The Swiss proposed that the non-paper should be adopted in its entirety
without any amendments. Despite reservations from Brazil and New Zealand,
this was eventually taken up by the Chair of the Working Group and forwarded
to the Plenary as a Chair’s text.
During the final Plenary, Brazil and New Zealand again rejected the Chai'’s
text outright. Many other Parties and regional groupings, including the
Africa Group and the EU, were willing to accept the compromise as a decision
to be adopted by MOP 2 even though it was well below what they had hoped to
achieve in this meeting.
To break this deadlock, the Asia and Pacific Group suggested that the MOP
revert back to an earlier draft of the decision which better reflected their
interests. That particular text would have required exporters to provide a
clear statement that the LMOs have been approved in the Party of import, and
to specify what LMOs have been used to constitute the mixture.
Because decisions at the MOP are usually taken by consensus, Brazil and New
Zealand were successful in derailing the talks, and thus, no decision was
adopted on Article 18.2(a). The issue of decision-making also came up during
discussions on the rules and procedures for the meetings of the Compliance
Committee set up under the Protocol. The Committee, in its earlier meeting
in March, had proposed that decisions could be taken by a two-thirds
majority, provided that all efforts to reach consensus have been exhausted
However, New Zealand objected to this proposal, and the decision on the rules
of procedure for the meetings of the Compliance Committee was adopted by MOP
2 with the paragraph on voting remaining in square brackets. This unresolved
issue is also reflected in the rules of procedure for the adoption of
decisions by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological
Diversity, the parent convention of the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, which
remains in square brackets.
But, in actual fact, decisions by a simple majority vote can be taken by
subsidiary bodies to the Convention, and the Compliance Committee can be
considered to be such a subsidiary body.
Other decisions were adopted by MOP 2, including on notification; other
scientific and technical issues; documentation requirements for LMOs for
contained use, intentional introduction into the environment, and for any
other LMOs within the Protocol’s scope; capacity-building; risk assessment
and risk management; and socio-economic considerations.
MOP 2 also noted the report of the first meeting of the Open-ended Ad Hoc
Working Group on Liability and Redress and its conclusions. The Working
Group had met for three days prior to MOP 2, from 25-27 May 2005.
At the first Meeting of the Parties (MOP 1) in Kuala Lumpur in 2004, a clear
process to develop an international liability and redress regime for GMOs
was adopted. The decision from MOP 1 stipulates that five working group
meetings will be held over three years, in order to enable the MOP to
fulfill the requirements of Article 27 of the Biosafety Protocol, including
completing its mandate by 2008.
At the Working Group meeting in Montreal, the options for the elements of a
liability regime were further elaborated. Importantly, inter-sessional work
will be carried out between now and the Working Group’s next meeting in
February 2006. Countries and other stakeholders were invited to submit draft
text to the Secretariat three months before the next meeting. The co-chairs
of the Working Group, from the Netherlands and Colombia, will meet before
then to develop a draft text on liability and redress, based on the
submissions received.
The biosafety talks were also overshadowed by the Canadian Government's
refusal or delay in issuing visas to a number of delegates from developing
countries who had intended to participate in the meetings, including some
government representatives from Ethiopia (the chair of the Africa Group) and
Iran, and civil society representatives from India and Togo. The Canadian
delegation and officials from capital met with some delegates from Africa to
discuss the issue, and gave their promise that such incidences would not
happen again.

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