Hyderabad, Oct. 1: The Union environment and forests minister Jayanthi Natarajan today called for science-based regulations on living modified organisms (LMOs) to address concerns about their long-term impact on the ecosystem.
Inaugurating a UN megaconference on biodiversity, Natarajan said some countries hold reservations about the potential long-term impacts of LMOs on human health, biodiversity, and socio-economics.
Some 8,000 delegates from 192 countries are expected to attend the Convention on Biodiversity that opened at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre this morning.
In her speech, Natarajan said the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) recognises that countries may take into account their international obligations. “Let us strive to allay all apprehensions over the health and other impacts of LMOs and reach a consensus,” she said.
“India is a megahub of strong and vibrant biotechnology-based industry and therefore is fully committed to the implementation of the CPB in a balanced manner,” she said. The 19-day conference will discuss, among other things, safe handling and transfer of LMOs.
At the conference India will take a lead to push its plea against punitive action on countries that have failed to implement the Cartagena Protocol on bio-safety norms, until they frame domestic laws for the purpose.
Though India already has laws in place it has decided to take this stand as many countries are yet to pass such laws and develop safe handling mechanisms of genetically modified life forms or LMOs.
The Union environment secretary T. Chatterjee said India has accepted all provisions of the Cartagena Protocol on bio-safety. However, some of the countries are yet to come up with laws and mechanisms. “So we will support ‘no punitive action’ until all nations frame them.”
Charles Gbedemah, head of biosafety with the convention of biodiversity told reporters after the inaugural event that the Hyderabad conference will throw light on the huge investment needed for training manpower and promoting the supporting legal systems before making biodiversity global laws mandatory in such countries.
He lamented that the process was slow and that member partners need a lot of capacity building to implement the norms. “Even though 164 countries had signed the Cartagena Protocol only three have so far ratified the protocol.”
Elaborating on the issue of handling, packaging and identification of LMOs, he said the conference would try to establish a process for mid-term evaluation on the basis of expert suggestions. Canola, maize, soybean and cotton are among GM crops adopted in the world, although many others are under assessment.
Charles said the meet at Hyderabad would also seek the help of international bodies such as the World Trade Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in setting standards for the transboundary movement of LMOs.