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Forest and Bird call to ratify GE Protocol

Forest and Bird call to ratify GE Protocol

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society is calling on the government to ratify the Cartagena Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The protocol was signed by the New Zealand government in 2000 but never ratified. It comes into force on 11 September 2003 having been ratified by over 55 countries, including France, South Africa and the European Community.

“The Cartagena Protocol is a key component of the CBD. Given New Zealand’s commitment in the Biodiversity Strategy to protect our unique plants and animals, the Society was surprised to find that the government had not ratified it,” said Acting President Dr Peter Maddison.

The Cartagena Protocol aims to ensure the safe transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms through international trade that may adversely affect the protection of biological diversity. The Protocol puts a strong emphasis on a precautionary approach.

“It’s an international form of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act and as New Zealand claims to be at the fore front of GE regulation and biodiversity protection, it behoves the government to ratify the Protocol,” Dr Maddison said.

“Forest and Bird is committed to the principle of a GMO free conservation estate and supports a precautionary approach to biosecurity. The Cartagena Protocol is an important protection,” he said.

“Will the government ratify the Cartagena Protocol in time for the first meeting of the Parties to the Protocol in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 23 - 27 February 2004 or will we be left behind?” he asked.


The Cartagena Protocol is the first Protocol to the Convention on Biodiversity. Its overall objective is to "contribute to ensuring an adequate level of protection in the field of the safe transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health, and specifically focussing on transboundary movements".

The Protocol establishes two procedures to control the movement of GMOs between countries. Countries are required to notify, and gain the agreement of, the importing country prior to the export of a GMO (such as a seed) intended for deliberate introduction into the environment. A separate procedure for GMOs for food, feed, or for processing enables an importing country to declare via the Biosafety Clearing House that it wishes to take a decision based on risk assessment information before agreeing to accept an import. The Protocol will particular benefit developing countries that lack legislation on GMOs since it gives them the necessary information and means to decide, before accepting GMO imports, whether there may be adverse effects on the protection and sustainable use of their particular habitats and wildlife.

For more information on the Cartagena Protocol, visit the website of the Secretariat to the CBD at: http://www.biodiv.org/biosafety/default.aspx

Cartagena is named after the City in Colombia where the Protocol was agreed.

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