Governments called to defend the global commons
At a time when the spread of GM crops is accelerating, threatening the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and the pollution of agricultural landscapes, the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD/COP 6) convenes in The Hague between 7th and 19th April 2002.
To reduce these threats, the CBD needs to agree an international moratorium on the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), patents on life and a ban on Terminator Technologies and genetic use restriction technlogies (GURTs). ITDGPractical Action is also calling on the CBD to put the following at the heart of its agenda:
- the sustainable use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity
- the ratification of the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
- international recognition of Farmers’ Rights
- a binding liability - in the form of the Biosafety Protocol - that would penalise pollution of agricultural landscapes by GMOs, especially in Centres of Diversity and genebanks, and unregulated exports of GMOs/LMOs
According to Patrick Mulvany, ITDGPractical Action’s Food Security Policy Advisor, "The CBD is the UN watchdog on these issues and its members in this COP should vigorously resist the spread of GMOs, the pressures for the privatisation of genetic resources for food and agriculture and ban GURTs, that are threatening to pollute the genetic resources - part of "the global commons" - developed and managed by farmers over millenia."
Based on its work with farmers and farming communities, ITDGPractical Action is aware that farmers have the knowledge and skills they need to secure their livelihoods and protect the environment through the sustainable use of natural resources - and the CBD has the mandate to support them in defence of the global commons and global food security. As the ITDGPractical Action seminar Genetic Futures in Food and Farming held last month in London concluded, the COP should reinforce the importance of diversity, take a tough line on the spread of GM crops, patenting, pollution and GURTs and reassert the Precautionary Principle with respect to the development and use of genetic engineering technologies.
The 6th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity should therefore resolve to:
- enforce international recognition of Farmers’ Rights, to their resources, knowledge, technology choices and production systems
- keep genetic resources for food and agriculture in the public domain
- support the ratification of the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
- protect Centres of Diversity, genebanks and the agricultural landscape from contamination by genetically engineered crops and others organisms
- ban the development and use of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) and Terminator Technologies
- redirect agricultural research and development towards agroecological production
- protect local markets that support agriculturally diverse local production
- ensure corporate accountability and liability for biosafety
A summary of the Genetic Futures in Food and Farming seminar is available online.
Patrick Mulvany can be contacted at the COP in The Hague on +44 (0) 7949 575711 or firstname.lastname@example.org
To arrange comment/interview or to receive copies of ITDGPractical Action's policy briefing
on Sustaining Lives and Livelihoods,
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