The Cartagena Protocol and Biological Diversity: Biosafe or Bio-Sorry?
Posted: 8 Aug 2000
Date Written: Undated
In January 2000, delegates from over 100 nations completed negotiations on an international treaty for the regulation of biotechnology, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The stated purpose of this protocol is to enhance the protection of biological diversity. Despite its good intentions, there is a mismatch between the protocol's substantive provisions and present threats to biological diversity. The protocol endorses "precautionary" regulation of transboundary shipments of genetically engineered organisms, including crops, so as to reduce the environmental risks that such organisms may pose. The greatest threat to biological diversity is habitat loss, largely driven by the conversion of land for agricultural uses. Genetically engineered crops could alleviate pressures to clear habitat by increasing per-acre agricultural productivity. Therefore, insofar as the biosafety protocol discourages the use of genetically engineered crops, it could do more harm than good.
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