Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety


September 11, 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The Cartagena Protocol, as part of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, is an international policy instrument to ensure the safe handling, transfer and use genetically modified organisms (referred to as living modified organisms, or LMOs in the Cartagena Protocol). The main aim of the protocol is to provide minimum standards for national biosafety frameworks in order to safeguard from potential adverse effects on biological diversity and sustainable development, including human health.

The protocol, to which there are more than165 countries signatory countries (Parties), comprises a range of provisions including handling, notification and transport, risk assessment, capacity building, public awareness, and socioeconomic considerations. In addition, a supplementary protocol, the Nagoya – Kuala Lumpur Protocol on Liability and Redress, was completed in 2010 and is under ratification. This Protocol is designed outline response measures to be taken in cases where potential damages from LMOs resulting from their trans-boundary movement occur.

Norway, as a Party, has made a number of significant contributions over these 10 years. First, Norway through its national focal point at the Norwegian Environment Agency has been a key participant in the negotiations of the text of both Cartagena Protocol and the supplementary Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur. Norwegian national represented have served on various administrative and technical committees and have made particularly important contributions to technical guidance documents, especially on risk assessment and capacity building over the years.

While significant progress has been made in the practical operationalizing it’s many provisions, there is still much work to be done. A number of issues are still lacking conceptual clarity. Particularly, socio economic considerations are one of those. Given the requirements for socioeconomic considerations under the  Norwegian Gene Technology Act, Norway has been a visible leader in facilitating the ongoing process of clarifying the operalization of socioeconomic considerations in decision-making and at the forefront support the establishment of an Ad-Hoc Technical Expert group on Socioeconomic considerations under the protocol. See video here.

Capacity-building activities are also a critical component of the Cartagena Protocol, in order to assists developing countries to develop their own technical and knowledge support on issues related to Biosafety under the Cartagena Protocol, in order for informed decisions to be taken within their own national context.

GenØk – Centre for Biosafety (in cooperation with the Third World Network and the Centre for Integrated Biosafety) has actively contributed capacity building with regional and international biosafety training conferences, thanks to the financial support of NORAD. These courses include both theoretical and practical training to help capacitate work in biosafety in their home countries and institutions. To date, over 630 participants from 115 different lands have participated in one of GenØk’s workshops.

The issue of the use of GMO for food production remains a contentious issue, globally, and effort to safeguard biodiversity, sustainable development, and health is of vital importance. This 10th anniversary of the Protocol is an important milestone to celebrate in its achievements in this aim.

You can learn more about the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety through these short films.