Human Rights, Trade, Patents, Health and the Environment
Chapter 6: GMOs, crops and precaution: biotechnology and international protection of the environment
GMOs and other achievements of agricultural research have raised significant concerns among the population of many States. The precautionary principle has made it possible for States to adopt measures aimed at safeguarding the environment against potentially harmful products or activities, where available scientific information does not yet provide conclusive proof of risk. International instruments have addressed the complex relationship between environmental protection and biotechnology. Examples are provided by the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which contain specific provisions on GMOs. Another important element of the system is the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress, which addresses damages related to the transboundary movement of LMOs. The coexistence of organic, conventional and GM agriculture has given rise to regulatory responses, such as the attempt of EU member States to create ‘GMO free zones’ or the possible prohibition to cultivate GM crops in certain areas despite their approval by competent authorities.
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