Monday, 8 October 2012 9:43 AM

Fiji Calls for More Support at Biosafety Meeting

6 October 2012, CBD COP 11, Hyderabd, India - The Pacific region has engaged in the course of international meetings to help save World biodiversity with the curtain raiser event in Hyderabad, India.

The Pacific region has engaged in the course of international meetings to help save World biodiversity with the curtain raiser event in Hyderabad, India; the sixth Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity which serves as the Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biodiversity.

The first days of discussion focused on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which was adopted in January 2000 and entered into force in 2003, to address the safe transfer, handling and use of Living Modified Organisms that may have adverse effects on biodiversity taking into account human health, with a special focus on transboundary movements.

For Fiji, the key concerns raised at this meeting are; building the capacity of the Pacific to strengthen their work in bio-security and; additional financing opportunities outside of the Global Environment Facility.

"For us it is about knowing more and learning about the latest happenings in the area of biotechnology as it can have its benefits, especially in the agricultural output,' said Mrs. Taina Tagicakibau, the Permanent Secretary for the Fiji Ministry of Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment.

"We need to manage how we proceed with this phase as there will need to be careful monitoring so any living modified organisms that enter Fiji does not pose a threat to the health of our Fiji community, or to our environment. For this we need to build our capacity, it is a new subject for us."

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety includes an advance informed agreement procedure for the imports of living modified organisms for intentional introduction into the environment. It also incorporates the precautionary approach and mechanisms for risk assessment and risk management.

The Protocal established the Biosafety Clearing House to help facilitate the exchange of information and contains provisions on capacity building and financial resources, with special attention to developing countries and those without national regulatory systems.

The MoP-6 adopted 18 key decisions unanimously and called for giving utmost importance to the concerns and wishes of the indigenous and local people before a country decides on new genetically modified crops.

According to the Asian Age, all parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety accepted the need to conduct research on the socioeconomic impact of living modified organisms to fill the knowledge gaps and identify specific socioeconomic issues, including those with positive impacts.

"We hope the funds will come forward to help with building national capacity and would like the Global Environment Facility to consider allocating specific funds for Bio-security and Bio-safety alone, as they do for the Climate Change issue," said Mrs. Tagicakibau.

"If managed properly and with responsible progress, this could have a positive impact on food production and poverty. We should not fear this, if properly tested and if it undergoes proper regimes, this could help avoid world starvation and poverty, but it needs to be conducted properly, and for that we need funds, resources and support to build our capacity, both nationally and for that of our regional organisations which help support our work."

Budgetary provisions to support member countries to implement the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety were a key issue. It was estimated that a core budget of $5,102 million is needed, apart from voluntary contributions and trust funds.

The conference agreed to appoint an ad hoc technical group that will go into the issues related to socioeconomic considerations of different countries and regions. The group consists of eight members from each of the five regions within the Meeting of the Parties.

There are 164 parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, for which nine are Pacific Island Countries - Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga are Pacific parties to the Protocol.

India and Thailand have been endorsed as the members on the Compliance to Biosafety Committee by the Asia Pacific region, on the understanding that they will serve a one term of two years, whereby they will step down at the next Meeting of the Parties in two years time; and Fiji and Korea will then be considered for this committee.

The Sixth Meeting of the Parties was held from 1 to 5 October.