From Bio Journal - May 2012

Closeup: Where is the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol going?

Japanese government signs the Supplementary Protocol

The Japanese government made the decision to sign the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol (NKLSP) in a cabinet meeting On March 2, 2012. (See BJ December 2010 for more information on the Supplementary Protocol) NKLSP stipulates how to redress losses incurred or how to restore a natural environment following an accident or disaster caused by GMOs. It is a supplementary protocol to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and was agreed upon in Nagoya in October 2010 at the Fifth Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (MOP5), held just prior to the Tenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10). Following the cabinet meeting on March 2, NKLSP was signed by Japan at the UN on the same date.

Since the deadline for signing NKLSP was March 7, 2012, the Japanese government signed just before the deadline. Currently, 51 countries, including Japan have signed NKLSP, and two countries, Latvia and the Czech Republic have ratified the protocol. The protocol will come into force when 40 countries have ratified it, which is now only a matter of time.

The focus now is on domestic laws

To enforce NKLSP, it is necessary to enact domestic laws that reflect the spirit of the protocol in their legal text. However, since that has not yet been carried out in the current gCartagena Laws,h the focus will now shift to the problem of amending these domestic laws.

The GM canola (rapeseed) volunteers case (see BJ December 2011) is one that is relevant to NKLSP in Japan. At the time of MOP5, the suspension of in-house seed production of nabana (Brassica campestris (oleifera group)) in Mie Prefecture was reported as one of the impacts of the spread of canola volunteers to indicate that economic losses are actually occurring. Following that, unapproved GM papaya seeds were found to be mixed with papaya seeds imported from Taiwan and an Okinawan papaya farmer was forced to cut down all papaya trees grown from the GM seeds, incurring a loss of 70 million yen.

NKLSP demands redress in the case of such damage or losses. However, with NKLSP still to come into force and domestic laws not yet amended, since such cases will be handled within the existing legal structure, the liability of the seed companies who develop these products is not questioned. Tsunao Watanabe, Director of the Nature Conservation Bureau of the Ministry of the Environment, in a dialog with a citizensf organization on March 8, mentioned the necessity of amending domestic laws.

Among a section of the bureaucracy, however, there is a movement to not take any action to change the law and for cases to be handled by civil law under the current legal structure. This would mean that the spirit of NKLSP would not find expression in reality. The domestic Cartagena laws are the only laws in Japan which regulate adverse impacts of GMOs on the environment, and biodiversity cannot be protected unless clearly formulated mechanisms for liability, restoration and redress are enshrined within them.

Only when the domestic laws are amended and NKLSP is ratified by the Diet will it be possible to enforce mechanisms for restoration and redress when damage or losses are caused by GMOs. At the same time, NKLSP itself is not a completed entity. Since there are numerous parts which are still being contended, discussions on these will begin at the first meeting of the parties (MOP1) after the protocol comes into force.

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