Science Diliman, Vol 13, No 1 (2001)

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Genetically Modified Organisms

Claro Llaguno

Abstract


Excerpt

Recent reports have brought to public attention concerns about Bt corn and genetically modified organisms (GMO) in general. The timing, it seems, is most appropriate considering two related developments early this year: the final approval of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in Montreal on January 29, 2001, and the OECD Edinburgh Conference on GM food safety last February 28- March 1, 2001.

The protocol makes clear that GMOs include all living modified organisms (LMO) defined as "any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology". This includes seeds, live fish, and other organisms intentionally obtained for release to the environment. It would seem that the common understanding about GMOs as referring to farm-to-table products is perforce expanded to embrace genetically modified farm animals and aquatic resources. Being a trade agreement, the Montreal accord primarily deals with the safety issues related to the transboundary movement of LMOs around the globe.

The OECD conference on the other hand, called for an international body "to address all sides of the GM debate" in response to the public outcry, particularly in Western Europe, regarding the risks the new products pose to human health and the environment. Some points of contention, which remain unresolved, include issues such as whether countries should be allowed to develop their own GM food based on their needs, and whether a global moratorium on GMOs and mandatory labeling should be enforced worldwide.

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