Thu, 30 Mar 2000

Delay signing protocol on biosafety: NGO

JAKARTA (JP): Several non governmental organizations urged the government on Wednesday to delay the signing of the international protocol on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Speaking at a discussion organized by Indonesian Biodeversity Foundation, representatives of the NGOs said that Indonesia's regulation was still too weak to accommodate the consequences of the agreement.

"We should evaluate the protocol and disseminate information about the consequences of the agreement to the public", said Hira Jhamtani, member of National Consortium for Nature and Forest Conservation in Indonesia (Konphalindo).

The global treaty on biosafety called Cartegena Protocol is an international regulation focusing on precautionary approaches to ensure an adequate level of protection in the field of safe transfer, handling and use of GMOs resulting from biotechnology.

After five years of talks, ministers and senior officials from over 130 governments, including Indonesia, finalized an agreement in January in Montreal.

The agreement is scheduled for signing in Nairobi, Kenya in May, this year.

Under the treaty, shipments of commodities that are produced through GMO technology should be clearly labeled. Exporters must also provide detailed information to each importing country in advance of the first shipment, and the importer must then authorize the shipment.

If Indonesia signs the agreement, it should adopt the treaty into its regulations and be ready to accept imports of farm products that include GMOs.

"We should establish stronger regulations before we ratify the treaty. Our interests should be protected", said Mas Achmad Santosa, director of Indonesian Center for Environmental Law.

The government recently issued guidelines on the biosafety of farm products to support the global treaty on GMOs.

But NGOs claim such guidelines, which were issued to protect certain farm products, were still too weak to protect the country from the influx of imported GMOs in the future.

GMOs include various food crops that have been genetically modified for greater productivity of nutritional value, or for resistance to pests or diseases. Common examples are tomatoes, corn and soybeans. (07)