Cartagena Protocol: Still no liability regime

[img_assist|nid=216|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=43]The Fourth Meeting of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety took place on 12-16 May in Bonn, Germany. The Cartagena Protocol sets rules for the international trade with living modified organisms (LMOs). Finalizing a Liability and Redress system was on the agenda for this meeting, after negotiations on this topic had been going on for several years.

In the last days before the meeting, CropLife International, the global organisation of biotechnology companies, presented a proposal titled Compact. Suddenly a number of countries were willing to take these ideas over. CropLife proposed that liability should only be organized through voluntary agreements between states and companies; in addition the proposal had so many loopholes that in the end there wouldn't be any case left in which companies could be hold liable for damage to biodiversity.

In the end, the industry proposal was off the table, but the negotiations got seriously delayed and the additional meetings off the group to discuss this topic took time and attention away from other topics. Especially Japan played a big role in the delays. For days it looked like the negotiations on liability and redress would fail, and with it a key stone of the Carthagena Protocol. Only at the last day, the last countries could be convinced to at least agree to discuss the option of a legally binding liability system. The final decision has now been postponed until the next meeting in 2010 in Japan.

Until then, there is no liability system that countries can use if their biodiversity is damaged by LMOs. This is less of a problem for industrialized countries that have legislation in place for the approval of LMOs and/or for (environmental) liability, but it is a problem for many developing countries that form the driving force for a strong Carthagena Protocol in general and for a legally binding liability and redress system in particular.

originally posted on