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STRUCTURE OF A FUTURE PROTOCOL

On Wednesday, 24 July, the Chair introduced the issue of the structure of a future protocol by indicating that this was not a negotiation but a discussion on structure to determine whether all relevant aspects have been addressed.

PROPOSALS: Several delegations tabled proposals on the structure of a protocol, which are summarized below.

Vietnam: Vietnam proposed the following structure: Preamble; Scope; Definitions of key concepts and terms; General obligations; Designation of focal points and competent authorities; Transboundary movement of LMOs between Parties; Transboundary movement from a Party through States which are not Parties; Duty to re- import; Illegal traffic; International cooperation; Bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements; AIA; Consultations on liability and compensation; Arbitration; Financing aspects; Review of implementation by the COP; Amendments and annexes; Verification, ratification, and acceptance, formal confirmation or approval; Dispute settlements; Signature; Accession by non-Parties; Voting rights; Entry into force; Reservations and declarations; Withdrawal; Depository; and Authentic texts. The proposal also provides for the following annexes: Identification of relevant categories of LMOs; Categories of LMOs; Information for notification; Information on the transboundary document; and RAM.

EU: The EU proposed the following structure. Under Objectives: transboundary movement of LMOs (intended and unintended); transboundary movement for the purposes of contained use or deliberate release; and scope, including adverse effects on conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Under Operational Provisions: focal points and competent bodies; RAM; provisions for information exchange, notification and AIA; monitoring and compliance; dispute settlement procedures; and mechanisms for bilateral agreements. Under Other Provisions: review, amendments and adaptation; relationship to multilateral agreements; and final clauses.

US: The US outlined a protocol structure, including the following basic elements: Preamble; Use of terms; Jurisdictional scope; Information sharing; AIA; Considerations for RAM; Capacity building; Institutional framework; Relationship with other international agreements; Dispute resolution; and Final clauses. He stated that countries should have the opportunity to make submissions addressing information sharing, AIA, RAM, capacity building and the institutional framework before the next meeting, and that it is premature to develop the preamble and definitions until the substantive elements have been negotiated.

Norway: Norway outlined the following structure and main elements of a protocol: Preamble; Objectives; Scope; Use of terms; AIA; Notification procedure; Risk assessment; Risk management; Emergency procedures; Minimal national standards on biosafety, suggesting the UNEP Guidelines; Designation of competent authorities and national focal points; Capacity building; Transport and packaging for transfer of LMOs; Technical information clearing-house; Liability; Monitoring and compliance; Financial issues; Relationship to other agreements; Subsidiary bodies under the protocol; Dispute settlement; Review, amendment and adaptation; and Final provisions.

Switzerland: Switzerland submitted a working paper on AIA procedures, which the Chair suggested be taken up at a later point by the Working Group.

Industry Group: The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the Japan Bioindustry Association (JBA), the Green Industry Biotechnology Platform (GIBIP), and the Senior Advisory Group On Biotechnology (SAGB) outlined a combined industry perspective on a protocol. A protocol should be: science-based; directed to the product not the process; sector-based; one that fully integrates mutual recognition of data; and one that accepts the concept of substantial equivalence, meaning that the safety of biotechnology-derived products should be evaluated based on their properties, not on the process that produced them. He outlined the following structure: scope and definition; RAM; AIA; capacity building; mechanism for review; and relationship with other international agreements.

On Thursday, 25 July, COSTA RICA, on behalf of the G-77/China, stated that the Group could not reach consensus during a long morning meeting to attempt to develop a proposal on the structure of a protocol. Two regional groups submitted separate proposals instead.

GRULAC: The Latin America and Caribbean Group tabled the following proposal on the structure of a protocol: Preamble; Objectives/Scope; Definitions and use of terms; Designation of national competent authority and national focal point; Capacity building; Procedures for information, notification and AIA; Mechanisms for risk assessment; Mechanisms for risk management; Handling, transport and transit requirements for LMOs; Public awareness; Technical information network; Monitoring and compliance; Settlement of disputes; Financial mechanism; Relationship with other international agreements; Institutional mechanism; and Final clauses.

Other Developing Countries: A group of 36 delegations comprised mainly of African countries and India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, among others, tabled a proposal on the structure of a protocol that was identical to the GRULAC proposal, with the addition of sections on Socioeconomic considerations and Liability and compensation, placed after the section on Procedures for information, notification and AIA.

CONDENSED WORKING PAPER ON THE STRUCTURE OF A FUTURE PROTOCOL: At the Chair’s suggestion, the Working Group established a small Contact Group comprised of two members of each group of delegations that had submitted proposals on the structure of a protocol. GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL appealed to the Contact Group, which was chaired by Rapporteur Alexander Golikov (Russian Federation), to include the concept of public participation, as an essential element of policy-making, in the structure of a future protocol.

The mandate for the Contact Group was to organize existing elements into a logical order, distinguishing items of consensus from those of contention. Noting that this was not a drafting or negotiating group, delegates agreed there was no need for regional representation. Nonetheless, the Eastern and Central European Group requested and was granted observer status.

The Contact Group met Thursday afternoon and into the evening. The results of the Contact Group, which condensed the six proposals from delegations into one overall working paper, were presented to the Working Group during the Closing Plenary on Friday morning, 26 July. The Working Paper on the structure of a future protocol is comprised of three sections as follows:

Items included in all proposals: Title; Preamble; Use of terms/Definitions; AIA; Information sharing; Relationship with other international agreements; Institutional Framework for the functioning of a Protocol; Settlement of disputes; Amendment; and Final clauses.

Items included in some but not all proposals: Objectives; Scope; Jurisdictional scope; General obligations; Criteria to determine the use of AIA and/or notification procedures; Notification procedure; Considerations for RAM; Mechanisms for risk assessment; Mechanisms for risk management; Emergency procedures; Minimum national standards on biosafety; Designation of competent authority and national focal point; Capacity building; Transport and packaging requirements for the transfer of LMOs; Handling, transport and transit requirements for LMOS; Transboundary movement between Parties; Transboundary movement from a Party through States which are not Parties; Illegal traffic; Duty to re-import; Technical information network; Public awareness; Clearing-house; Mechanisms for bilateral agreements; Liability/Liability and compensation; Consultations on liability; Monitoring and compliance; Financial issues; Socioeconomic considerations; Review and adaptation; Signature; Accession; Right to vote; Entry into force; Reservations and declarations; Withdrawal; Depository; Authentic texts; and Annexes.

Terms proposed for definition: Living modified organisms; Transboundary movement; Transfer; Safe transfer; Competent authority; Familiarity; Adverse effects; Contained use; Intended/deliberate release; Unintended release; Focal point; Risk assessment; Risk management; Modern biotechnology; Advance informed agreement/Prior informed consent; Minimum national standards; Liability; Biosafety; Limited field trial; Handling of LMOs; Use of LMOs; Centres of origin; Centres of genetic diversity; Compensation; Accidental release; Open environment; Open field trial; and Accidental.

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA, on behalf of GRULAC, noted the difficulty of developing the structure of a protocol, and he accepted the Working Paper. MAURITIUS, supported by MOROCCO, underscored the need for clarity and transparency. In response to the suggestion of BELARUS that the original proponents be specified alongside each item and the suggestion of BURKINA FASO for an overall title for the document, the Chair noted that the meeting had already agreed to accept the outcome of the Contact Group’s work and appealed to delegates not to reopen discussion. ETHIOPIA stated that the document was of limited value but was better than nothing. The Working Paper was then formally adopted.

A coalition of NGOs, including ECOROPA, the EDMONDS INSTITUTE, THIRD WORLD NETWORK, INSTITUTE FOR AGRICULTURE AND TRADE POLICY, GERMAN WORKING GROUP ON BIOSAFETY, GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL, US BIOSAFETY WORKING GROUP and the US NATIONAL BIOSAFETY COUNCIL, stated that the Working Paper represented a “move back” from the Madrid meeting’s consensus on key elements and concerns. The NGO coalition also “deplored” the Working Paper’s omission of the precautionary principle and approach, and called for a moratorium on the release and marketing of genetically modified organisms until a strong biosafety protocol was in place. This intervention was later supported by MAURITIUS.

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