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Conservation Biology, Genetically Modified Organisms, and the Biosafety Protocol

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Concerns have been raised regarding the potential adverse effects on biological diversity of the use of living modified organisms (LMOs, which are commonly known by similar terms such as genetically modified organisms). At the international level these concerns are addressed in part by an agreement known as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and include potential toxic effects of insect-resistant crops on nontarget organisms and potential ecological effects of gene flow from modified crops, fish, microorganisms, or insects to wild species or counterparts. We reviewed the protocol's main provisions, including those dealing with risk assessment and risk management, decision making on imports, documentation accompanying shipments, and liability resulting from damages caused by LMOs. A medium-term program of work has been adopted by the parties, which includes the potential contribution of conservation biologists to delivering capacity building, developing risk assessment guidance, evaluating mechanisms of potential ecological damages from LMOs, and other issues. Conservation biologists and other experts have opportunities to influence the negotiations and implementation of the protocol by providing inputs at meetings, offering expertise to governments and organizations, and participating in or developing relevant projects and initiatives. Involvement of conservation biologists in the implementation and further development of the protocol would contribute to its effectiveness.
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Keywords: Cartagena Protocol; Convención sobre Diversidad Biológica; Convention on Biological Diversity; Protocolo de Cartagena; genetically engineered organisms; living modified organisms; organismos manipulados genéticamente; organismos transgénicos; organismos vivos modificados; transgenic organisms

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Secretariat of the Convention Biological Diversity, 413 St. Jacques Street, Suite 800, Montreal, Quebec H2Y1N9 Canada

Publication date: 2006-12-01

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