Merits of Ratifying and Implementing the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

Glass, Jonathan A. | January 1, 2001

In a meeting in Cartagena, Colombia in February 1999, parties to the CBD, known as the Conference of the Parties (“COP”), could not agree on the proposed biosafety protocol drafted in prior meetings.3 However, in January 2000, in a meeting in Montreal, the parties to the CBD finally adopted the draft protocol, naming it the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (“Cartagena Protocol or Protocol”). 4 When the Cartagena Protocol opened for signature at the CBD’s COP meeting in Nairobi in May 2000, sixty-four governments and the European Union signed the Protocol . Presently, eighty-one parties have signed the Protocol, while only two have ratified it.6 However, the Protocol will only enter into legal force after fifty parties have ratified it. 7 This comment argues that each party to the COP should ratify and implement the Protocol as soon as possible. This comment also critiques the provisions of the Protocol and alternatives to the Protocol, namely the voluntary regulation of GMOs. Part II begins with a discussion of the background of GMOs. Next, Part III discusses the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (“SPS Agreement”) and its agricultural safety provisions. Part IV continues with a description of the CBD, the history of the development of the Cartagena Protocol, and a discussion of important Protocol language. Part V analyzes the merits of the Protocol and why it should be ratified and implemented. Finally, this comment concludes with a discussion of alternatives to the Protocol, with an emphasis on voluntary regulations.