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Press Release

London 24/01/00

UK Protest against the Gene Dictators in Montreal

As talks for the Biosafety Protocol opened today in Montreal, Canada, demonstrations outside Canada House in Trafalgar Square, London, in conjunction with demonstrations around the globe, are sending a clear message to the negotiators that the world is watching.

Banners bearing the slogan 'Gene dictators? the world is watching...' were dropped from the roof of Canada House on the south side of Trafalgar Square, as the entrance was symbolically sealed with biohazard tape by protesters wearing decontamination suits. A huge caricature of an evil Uncle Sam holding puppet figures of the other 5 national leaders from the so called Miami Group above a blue and green planet filled the doorway, while 'transgenic' cows invaded the building.

'This shows that around the world people want to see their views being represented in international meetings and will not put up with the blatant bullying of a handful of countries who want to protect their trade interests instead of the environment. Those seeking a strong protocol ensuring basic safety regulations for the import and export of genetically modified organisms in Montreal not only represent the vast majority of nations taking part, but the vast majority of the world's population.' said a spokesperson

'The Biosafety Protocol is not about whether genetic engineering is a good thing or a bad thing. It is to set out in international law rules on such fundamental issues as a country's right to know what it is importing and it's right to refuse to import any GMO that it views as a threat, either to the environment, to public health or it's social infrastructure. It also needs to set clear procedures for liability, should anything go wrong.'

'These are not outrageous demands, just plain common sense. Many of the crops and products that will come onto the market over the next few years have not even been thought of yet. To agree a weak protocol now in a blind rush for profit would be tantamount to global suicide'

The protest embraced a broad range of interests from charities and NGO's. Representatives attended from groups in the UK and across Europe. The protest focused on the Miami Group of GMO-exporting countries (the USA, Canada, Australia, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay) who are blocking progress to strong regulation for the international movement of all LMOs (Living Modified Organisms). This has earned them the dubious nickname of the 'MIAMI VICE'. Later in the day, protesters delivered calling cards and letters to the respective embassies in English and Spanish.

The Biosafety Protocol will determine the regulation of the global trade in GMOs and in effect the fate of the planet's biodiversity. A wide gulf exists between the main groups on opposite sides of the negotiating table. The overwhelming majority of nations support a strong environmental focus, while the 6 nations of the Miami Group want to base the Protocol on trade.

Notes for the Editor

1.This tiny group of nations is led by the USA, who cannot officially take part in the proceedings as it has still refused to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity, and so under Article 32 of the Convention, only has observer status. The 'Miami Group' argue that there should be no regulation of commodity crops intended for food, feed, and processing, which would account for the majority of transgenic organisms, even though these are often transported as viable seed. They also want to see a 'savings' clause which would allow trade agreements to overrule the protocol and are opposed to the inclusion of the precautionary principle and the fundamental right of countries to refuse import of LMO's on environmental or socio-economic grounds. The 'Like Minded Group', which includes over 100 nations from the G77 group and China, want to see the Protocol cover the transboundary movement of all LMO's, and to enshrine the Precautionary Principle and the equality in status of the Protocol among other international agreements. Prior information before importation and the right of nations to refuse entry to given LMO's on environmental, health and socio-economic grounds are also considered basic to a strong agreement.

2.On Saturday, there were simultaneous demonstrations in major Canadian cities. The one in Montreal itself was the biggest mass protest against GMO's in North America to date.

Photos - contact the GEN office on or Nick Cobbing on Mini DV - contact Zoe Broughton, freelance journalist on For interviews contact Helena Paul, Gaia Foundation on (English and Spanish) Luke Anderson Or GEN , pager no. for latest news and info.

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