The players and their game
The Miami Group
The US, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, and Uruguay. Coalition of agricultural commodity-exporting countries interested in protecting free trade in biotech products. While the US, Argentina, and Canada are the three leading genetically modified organism (GMO)-exporting countries in the world, Chile and Uruguay have been supportive of US interests in the hope of being allowed to join North American Free Trade Agreement. The US has not yet ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), but along with its allies, continues to be the most disruptive delegation at the protocol (and convention) negotiations.
Core concerns of the group during biosafety negotiations have been to ensure that the protocol is:
- "consistent with World Trade Organisation rules' (that is, favour free, minimum-regulation trade);
- based on "sound science' (that is, excludes the precautionary principle);
- limited only to certain categories of GMOs;
- does not call for strict labelling rules;
- does not include socioeconomic considerations; and
- does not include liability.
European Union (EU)
In autumn 1997, the US sent its first shipment of GM soybeans to the EU, causing wide public outcry because there had been no prior discussion in public forums before the governments allowed the GM crop on EU territory. EU governments have been forced to be attentive to this public opinion, which views GM products as "Frankenstein foods'.
In December 1999, Italy temporarily suspended seven varieties of GM corn. France and Greece banned GM rapeseed oil (canola) effective as of 2000. Austria, Luxembourg and Portugal have banned Novartis and Monsanto corn for the 2000 growing season. "These countries will certainly not be taken to court for these moratoria have been enacted in the name of the precautionary principle,' EU commissioner for the environment, Margot Wallstroem said in January 2000.
Most developing countries (excluding those in the Miami Group) and China. This group's overriding concern is to protect countries without adequate regulatory or institutional capacity to handle GMO imports. They demanded:
- inclusion of the precautionary principle;
- the right to take into account potential socioeconomic impacts of GMOs; and
- effective liability and redress mechanisms.
The group is also concerned about issues of capacity building, arguing that they need assistance and time to implement any protocol.
japan, mexico, norway, south korea and switzerland: This group attempts to bridge gaps between the other negotiating blocs by elaborating compromise stances. central and eastern european countries (CEE): "Most of the time, people here have the impression that this fight is a Western fight. Only some small-holder farmers and bee-keepers are anxious,' says Leva Zalite, from the Latvian non-governmental organisation Green Library, on public awareness in the region.
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