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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 07:24 GMT 08:24 UK
GM talks seek to protect environment
Greenpeace protestors attack a field of genetically modified crops
Environmentalists want a moratorium on GM crops
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By Geraldine Coughlan
BBC correspondent in The Hague
line

Scientists and environmental experts from nearly 200 countries are gathering in The Hague, Netherlands, for a week of talks on how to prevent genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from damaging the environment.


Environmentalists say there has not been enough assessment of the risks of accidental releases of GMOs into the environment

There is public concern about the potential risks posed by GMOs, with some concern that they could adversely affect other species, disrupt entire eco-systems and cause risks to human health.

Multi-million dollar biotechnology industries for foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals are growing at a dramatic pace.

The Cartagena protocol on biosafety drawn up in Colombia in 1999 aims to ensure that genetically engineered organisms and products are transported and used safely.

Moratorium calls

Environmentalists say there has not been enough assessment of the risks of accidental releases of GMOs into the environment.

At this conference they will be calling for a moratorium on the planting of GM crops close to native species, where they might cross with original strains of crops.

The Cartagena protocol has been signed by over a 100 countries, which feel an international regime is needed now while the biotechnology industry is still young and major errors have not yet occurred.

The protocol will come into effect when it has been ratified by 50 countries.

The final ratifications are expected at the world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September.

The talks on biosafety are an extension of a two-week conference on biodiversity that ended last Friday with an agreement on the first set of guidelines on protecting the world's plants and animals.

See also:

19 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
Greens slam biodiversity 'shambles'
17 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
UN moves to curb bio-piracy
03 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
Forest survey shows big holes
20 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
UN call to save key forests
11 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
GM monkey first
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