The Straight Goods
Sunday, February 06, 2000

Montreal agreement puts brakes on "frankenfoods"
Canadian government lets down its own consumers but fails in attempt to
derail treaty on GMOs By: Ish Theilheimer
A landmark treaty on international trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was finalized at 5:00 AM, Saturday January 29 after an all-night session in Montreal.
The treaty recognizes the right of a country to assess the risks posed by GMOs before they enter its territory. It is intended to reduce risks that GMOs or their constituent genes will disrupt ecosystems and biodiversity.  This marks the first time that environmental concerns have been given equal status to free trade in an international agreement.
Canada, opposed by nearly all other countries, persisted until the last minute in its attempts to insert language in the agreement that would have recognized the supremacy of the World Trade Organization in these matters.  Canadian agribusiness already produces large quantities of genetically modified corn, soybeans, canola, and other crops, despite concerns that there has been no assessment of health risks of consuming these crops.  Canadian negotiators also failed in attempts to have these commodities excluded from the treaty. Their argument that genetically modified seeds intended for human consumption wouldn't end up in the environment was rejected by other nations, as it ignored the fact that up to 10% of seeds imported for food are planted by farmers.
Environmental groups rallied outside in bitterly cold weather throughout the week-long negotations. They were peaceful, well-organized, well-informed, and highly entertaining. They deserve much credit for presenting a clear and simple message to the media: don't let corporate interests block a strong agreement protecting the public from harmful effects of GMOs.
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For complete information on the GMO conference in Montreal, please see the remarkable website

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