The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty governing the movements of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology from one country to another. It was adopted in 2000 as a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity and entered into force in 2003.
What are Living modified organisms (LMOs)?
The protocol defines a 'living modified organism' as any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology, and 'living organism' means any biological entity capable of transferring or replicating genetic material, including sterile organisms, viruses and viroids.
is defined in the Protocol to mean the application of in vitro nucleic acid techniques, or fusion of cells beyond the taxonomic family, that overcome natural physiological reproductive or recombination barriers and are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection.
'Living modified organism (LMO) Products':
are defined as processed material that are of living modified organism origin, containing detectable novel combinations of replicable genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology (for instance, flour from GM maize).
'Living modified organism intended for direct use as food or feed, or for processing (LMO-FFP)':
are agricultural commodities from GM crops. Overall the term 'living modified organisms' is equivalent to genetically modified organism – the Protocol did not make any distinction between these terms and did not use the term 'genetically modified organism.'
The Protocol applies to the transboundary movement, transit, handling and use of all living modified organisms that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health.
Relationship with the WTO
A number of agreements under the World Trade Organization (WTO), such as the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement), and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), contain provisions that are relevant to the Protocol.
- The Protocol promotes biosafety by establishing rules and procedures for the safe transfer, handling, and use of LMOs, with specific focus on transboundary movements of LMOs.
- It features a set of procedures including one for LMOs that are to be intentionally introduced into the environment called the advance informed agreement procedure, and one for LMOs that are intended to be used directly as food or feed or for processing.
- Furthermore, the shipment of LMOs subject to transboundary movement must be accompanied by appropriate documentation specifying, among other things, identity of LMOs and contact point for further information.