Press Release For Immediate Release: Contacts: January 20, 2000 Larry Bohlen : 202-783-7400 x 251 Sarah Newport: 514-866-8861(hotel) 514-239-4276 (cell phone) or FAILED WTO NEGOTIATIONS ON GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS SHIFT TO MONTREAL BIOSAFETY MEETING KEY MEETINGS OFFER CHANCE TO ADDRESS VITAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES RAISED IN SEATTLE U.S. opposition to comprehensive safety rules and enforcement on genetically engineered foods could kill in an international biosafety agreement supported by much of the rest of the world. A core controversy is the Clinton Administration's preference to resolve trade disputes over genetic engineering at the World Trade Organization (WTO) rather than in the Biosafety Protocol being negotiated next week in Montreal. The U.S. delegation may attempt to include a "savings clause" in the Protocol text that would allow them to bring trade disputes over genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) before the WTO rather than the Protocol"s dispute settlement mechanism. Protesters in Seattle had opposed the narrow "economics-only" dispute resolution that the WTO has typically provided. According to Sarah Newport, Coordinator of FoE's Safer Food, Safer Farms campaign, "Environment and human health concerns must come first and trade concerns second. The American public cares deeply about protection of the environment and the US delegation should reflect those sentiments." The Montreal meeting taking place Jan. 24-28 could be the last opportunity for delegated from around the world to hammer out an agreement on international rules governing the global import and export of genetically engineered organisms. Technically, the US is not a party to the Biosafety Protocol. Nevertheless, the U.S. has obstructed finalization of the treaty, blocking its final passage in Cartagena, Colombia last year. Biosafety refers to rules and regulations that govern the use, transfer and handling of genetically engineered organisms. Although such rules exist on a domestic level in many industrialized countries, there are no such rules at the international level. A strong biosafety protocol is considered essential by developing countries, many of whom lack the technical and regulatory capacity to adequately protect human health and the environment from the possible risks of GEOs. The Protocol will address such issues as whether or not a country exporting GEOs should have to first consult with and obtain the approval of the importing country " a so-called "Advance Informed Agreement." Key to this issue as well as to the talks in general will be the scope of GEOs covered under the Protocol. While the U.S. and a few other large grain and GEO exporters collectively known as the "Miami Group" are pushing for a limited scope that would include only those GEOs intended for direct release into the environment (e.g. seeds and fish), the majority of Parties to the talks are pressing for coverage of GEOs that include food, feed and commodities, and in some cases products derived from GEOs such as food containing soy or corn ingredients. Larry Bohlen, Health and Environment Programs Director added, "The Protocol must cover all GEOs, including commodities. No loopholes or exemptions should be allowed." - end - FoE staff from the U.S. and other nations are in Montreal and available to take calls from the press. A news conference is planned in Montreal on Wednesday, January 26 and a statement summarizing the proceedings will be released on Sat., Jan. 29. For a detailed background paper on Biosafety proceedings, see



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