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OPENING COUNTRY STATEMENTS

On Monday afternoon, 22 July, the Chair called on countries to make formal opening statements.

MALAYSIA called for a global protocol based on the precautionary principle and for the establishment of minimum standards for national legislation. He supported a database on the release of LMOs and noted that risk assessment must include characteristics of organisms and interaction with the site of release. He called for a broad interpretation to include socioeconomic, liability and funding issues.

IRELAND, on behalf of the EU, expressed its continued support for a two-track process that consists of the development of a protocol while promoting the application of UNEP’s Guidelines. He underscored several key points for a protocol, including: scientific risk assessment and management based on the precautionary principle; flexibility and non- duplication; a focused scope and clear definitions; provisions for AIA proportionate to the risks involved; and consistency with the WTO. The EU later expressed hope that BSWG- 1 would arrive at the structure of a protocol comprised of two sections. The first section would cover the objective, scope and definition of a protocol, while the second would comprise operational elements such as AIA notification procedures and national focal points. He also called for guidance on future proceedings.

SOUTH AFRICA highlighted existing biotechnology contributions in the areas of agriculture and health and noted that international trade in LMOs should not be unjustifiably restricted. Nonetheless, he stated that LMOs always represent a risk, especially to those countries and communities that depend on biodiversity for their livelihood. He called for minimum standards in national legislation, as well as definition of terms and categorization of LMOs so as to avoid undue polarity.

Referring to the “Spirit of Aarhus”, the US stated that debate on procedure should not divert delegates from important issues of substance. He proposed that the meeting first consider the three priority items identified in the terms of reference to facilitate later elaboration of a protocol. He supported widespread information sharing and relevant risk assessments for countries lacking indigenous capacity, and called for agreement on a process for the future work of the BSWG.

JAPAN proposed a study on the transboundary movement of LMOs and noted that a scientifically sound protocol should start with an analysis of existing national and regional agreements so as to avoid both duplication and overriding. He noted that any protocol should be designed so that as many countries as possible could ratify it.

NORWAY underscored the importance of fulfilling the meeting’s mandate in terms of both the substance and timing of negotiations. He noted that COP-2 Decision II/5 already stated that no existing international instrument adequately addressed transboundary movement of LMOs and called for a global biosafety protocol to be concluded by 1998.

COSTA RICA, on behalf of the G-77/CHINA, highlighted critical issues in the report of the Open-ended Ad Hoc Group of Experts (UNEP/CBD/COP.2/7). However, while it is important to consider the items agreed to in Madrid, additional items that some delegations consider to be important, such as socioeconomic considerations, liability and compensation, and financial issues, should be discussed here and at future meetings. He also highlighted training and capacity building.

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