Genetically Modified Crops
7. Are GMOs regulated by international agreements?
- 7.1 How is international agricultural trade regulated?
- 7.2 Do international conventions address environmental effects of GMOs?
7.1 How is international agricultural trade regulated?
Opportunities for agricultural trade have increased dramatically over the past several years as a result of reforms of the World Trade Organization (WTO) which have mainly centred on reducing tariffs and subsidies in various sectors. The WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), adopted in 1994, establishes that countries retain their right to ensure that the food, animal, and plant products they import are safe. At the same time it states that countries should not use unnecessarily stringent measures as disguised barriers to trade.
The agreement states that countries should use internationally agreed standards and identifies three international standard-setting bodies: the Codex Alimentarius Commission for food safety, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) for plant health. More...
7.2 Do international conventions address environmental effects of GMOs?
Several international agreements relate to the environmental aspects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These include the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (2003), and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). More...
7.2.1 The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is mainly concerned with the conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems but also addresses environmental effects of GMOs.
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted by the CBD and came into force in 2003. The protocol sets out an Advance Informed Agreement procedure for the intentional introduction of species that may have adverse environmental effects. In the case of genetically modified plants, it particularly regulates trans-boundary movement. Such movement requires an advance notification by the exporting party and a notice of receipt by the importing party.
The Protocol details specific requirements for the handling, labelling, packaging, and transportation of genetically modified plants. It also requires registration of all relevant information with the Biosafety Clearing House, an international mechanism established under the Protocol. More...
7.2.2 The chief purpose of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is to secure common international action to prevent the spread of pests affecting plants and plant products, but it also plays a role in the conservation of plant diversity and the protection of natural resources. Regarding GMOs, the IPPC has identified potential pest risks that may need to be considered, including:
- new genetic characteristics that may cause invasiveness (drought resistance, herbicide tolerance, pest resistance),
- gene flow (transfer of genes to wild relatives or other compatible species), and
- effects on non-target organisms (beneficial insects or birds).