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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Developing countries and the right to informed decision-making : failures of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety Keenan, Kelly Patricia

Abstract

The international community has recently responded to the need'for an instrument that regulates the rapidly evolving world of agricultural biotechnology. After four difficult years of negotiation, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted in January 2000. This agreement regulates the transboundary transfer of genetically modified organisms intended for human consumption, animal feed, processing and introduction into the environment. The Protocol entered into force on September 11, 2003 and now has 125 state Parties. The Protocol was an initiative of developing countries. Yet this thesis argues that the Protocol does not adequately address developing country concerns because the mechanism of informed decision-making upon which it is based is flawed. The Protocol adopts a narrow conception of developing country interests and, as a consequence, provides inadequate information and insufficient decision-making powers to decisionmakers in importing (primarily developing) states. This thesis elaborates upon developing country interests and outlines some of the cultural, social, economic and historical grounds upon which they are based. Primarily, this involves a consideration of developed country policies that have impacted food security in the developing world and have played a role in shaping developing country attitudes toward agricultural biotechnology. Developing country concerns and interests are also outlined in a detailed negotiating history of the Protocol. This history focuses on the divergent attitudes of developed and developing countries and the significant conflicts that arose between these two groups of states. The manner in which these conflicts are reflected in the final text is also investigated. Finally, this thesis provides a critique of the Protocol with a particular focus on the role of informed decision-making within the agreement. Although informed decisionmaking should serve as the foundation of the Protocol, this principle was significantly eroded in the final text of the agreement. Importing (primarily developing) states are provided with inadequate information and insufficient decision-making powers. Informed decision-making is constrained to such an extent as to make it ineffective as a legal regulatory mechanism.

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