The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (BSP) is an international treaty under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The BSP is an international environmental agreement that regulates the transboundary movements of living modified organisms (LMOs). LMOs are viable products of agricultural biotechnology, such as seed, which increases the yield of and provides protection for crops, like corn and soybeans, and other staples for food, feed, fiber and fuel, and grain.

The BSP came into force on 11 September 2003. At present, 170 countries are Parties to the BSP, including Mexico, European Union countries and most African, Asian, Latin American, and Caribbean countries. Other Latin American and Central American Parties include: Belize, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Many of the BSP Parties – which have voluntarily undertaken the legal obligations of the Protocol – are still working toward complete implementation of the BSP into national law over 10 years after it entered into force. Argentina, Australia, Canada, Russia, and the United States –major agricultural exporting countries – have not joined the Protocol.

The BSP has the potential to encourage innovation, development, technology transfer and capacity-building for agricultural biotechnology, while supporting global conservation and sustainable agriculture goals. The BSP:

  • Establishes rules and procedures for the international trade of agricultural biotechnology products – referred to as LMOs – including products such as agricultural commodities, seeds, and research materials, in order to protect the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
  • Requires that exporters of LMOs seek governmental “advanced informed agreement” before shipping LMOs for intentional introduction into the environment of importing countries;
  • Requires government decision-making on imports to be based on sound, scientific risk assessments and for results of such assessments to be made available through a Biosafety Clearing House;
  • Requires LMOs shipped to countries that are Parties to the BSP (made it a law in their own countries), for contained use, intentional introduction into the environment, or for direct use for food, feed, or processing, to be identified in accompanying documentation as specified in the Protocol.
  • Provides guidance on environmental risk assessment of LMOs.

What is COP/MOP-8?

Every two years, the Parties meet to discuss implementation of the BSP’s provisions. These meetings are called Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (COP/MOP). The Parties also work in between COP/MOPs to prepare for the discussions and decisions on upcoming meeting agenda items. The eighth meeting of the Parties (COP/MOP-8) will take place 4-17 December 2016 in Cancun, Mexico.

What issues will be discussed at COP/MOP-8?

There are several topics with the potential to impact the trade of LMOs, which are of interest to the plant science industry:

  • Risk assessment and risk management (Articles 15 and 16)
  • Unintentional transboundary movements and emergency measures (Article 17)
  • Transit and contained use of LMOs (Article 6)
  • Review of the implementation and effectiveness of the Protocol, including monitoring and reporting (Article 33)
  • Socio-economic considerations (Article 26)
  • Public awareness, education and participation (Article 23)

The plant science industry participates in the BSP negotiations and implementation discussions through the Global Industry Coalition (GIC), which is a global coalition representing trade associations and companies engaged in a variety of industrial sectors – such as plant science, seeds, agricultural biotechnology, food production, animal agriculture, human and animal health care and the environment. CropLife International serves as the Secretariat for the GIC.