Australia shuns the Biosafety Protocol

Posted by Josette Dunn on 18th October 2010

Australia is one of a few countries to shun the UN Protocol on Biosafety that most countries will adopt in Nagoya, Japan, next week. The protocol is a global quarantine and customs treaty to protect the environment and human health from genetically manipulated organisms (GMOs).

Soy products

The treaty tries to minimize risks of international transfer, handling and use of GMOs and is the first & only protocol negotiated by parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“As a party to the CBD, Australia ought to join the protocol and cooperate with the 160 other countries that are already members,” says Gene Ethics Director, Bob Phelps.

“Australia should repudiate the US government and GM industry stance that seeks to undermine the protocol. The USA is not even a party to the Biodiversity Convention.

“The Australian government claims the protocol may be used as a non-tariff barrier to trade but most other countries now see this key protocol as no threat to free trade. Of 18 members of the Cairns Group of agricultural exporting countries (led by Australia) that tried to scuttle the protocol, 13 have now ratified or acceded to the Protocol.

“The only Cairns Group countries still outside the protocol are Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile and Uruguay.

“Australian governments must only back the production and export of GM crops if it is done safely for all countries.”

Gene Ethics has asked Trade Minister Craig Emerson to strongly advocate for the Australian Government, in this term of office, to:

* sign, ratify and enforce the Biosafety Protocol;
* support the liability and redress provisions of the Protocol;
* support global bans on Gene Use Restriction (Terminator sterile seed) Technologies, synthetic biology and geo-engineering (See:;
* integrate biosafety issues into Australia’s National Biodiversity Strategy 2010-2020;
* amend the Commonwealth Environmental and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) and Gene Technology Acts to fully protect biodiversity and human health from GMOs;
* fund a Centre of Excellence for Biosafety, to research the negative impacts of GMOs;
* review and redress the shortcomings in the OGTR and FSANZ regulators.