1.'Public Researchers' say keep the public out!
2.'Public Researchers' on the application of the Aarhus Convention to GMOs
EXCERPT: ...these "public researchers", who are saying they need a far bigger voice in national and international decision-making on GMOs, want the public firmly excluded from any say or control over the development and release of GMOs. In other words, they want a much bigger say for themselves over these issues, and no say at all for the public who pay their salaries and fund their research activities. (item 1)
For more on the private interests behind the Public Research and Regulation Initiative, see our new profile: http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=316
1.'Public Researchers' say keep the public out!
Starting today, and going on to the 27 May, is the second Meeting of the Parties to an important United Nations Treaty on environmental rights - the Aarhus Convention.
The Aarhus Convention is widely viewed as the world's most far-reaching treaty on environmental rights. It covers Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. It has been ratified by 34 countries from Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as the European Community.
The current meeting is aimed at strengthening environmental democracy through effective implementation of the Convention. Among the key topics on the agenda is the issue of GMOs where the Parties will consider specific proposals to amend the Convention so as to extend the rights of the public to participate in decision-making on GMOs.
However, the biotechnology industry is adamantly opposed to any amendment to the Convention that would give the public any greater rights. And so too is the new pro-industry grouping - The Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI), which believes that there is no need for any changes or amendments to the Aarhus Convention with regard to GMOs.
If, however, the negotiating Parties do decide to amend the Aarhus Convention in relation to GMOs, PRRI urges the negotiating Parties to exclude research and development activities.
You get the picture - these "public researchers", who are saying they need a far bigger voice in national and international decision-making on GMOs, want the public firmly excluded from any say or control over the development and release of GMOs. In other words, they want a much bigger say for themselves over these issues, and no say at all for the public who pay their salaries and fund their research activities.
Perhaps if they were as directly dependent on the public for the public monies that are directed to them as they are on industry for sponsorship, they might change their tune.
But that is not the case. These days public monies almost invariably come via industry-friendly bureaucrats. For instance, the head of the public funding body for the bio-sciences in the UK (the BBSRC) was until recently a director of Syngenta (the same firm that put tens of millions of pounds into the institute of the head of the PRRI, Phil Dale). And his replacement as head of the BBSRC is the wife of the head of discovery research at biotech/pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.
We will never get genuine public good research in agriculture and the bio-sciences until there is genuine public involvement and scrutiny. Until then it will continue to be an industrially-aligned gravy train that the self-interested anxiously defend with the support of industry.
2.Draft Statement on the application of the Aarhus Convention to GMOs
Governments and international organisations all over the world invest considerable amounts of resources in public research aimed at gaining fundamental knowledge on living organisms and on developing biotechnological applications that contribute to sustainable production of food, feed and fibre, addressing water shortage, improve health care and environmental protection. This public research sector includes over a hundred thousand researchers in thousands of governmental, academic and international research institutions in developing and developed countries.
The Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI) was established to involve the public research sector in discussions of regulations and international agreements that are relevant for the modern biotechnology. With regard to the ongoing discussions under the Aarhus Convention, in particular whether or not to amend its provisions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the PRRI puts forward the following recommendations:
Public information and public participation are important components of Governmental policies for modern biotechnology to ensure that the public is well informed about both the potential benefits and the potential risks of GMOs. However, the PRRI is also aware that disproportionate procedures for public information and public participation can seriously hamper, and in some cases even stop, public research in areas of sustainable food production, health care and environmental protection.
Public information and public participation typically have their place in systems for decision making whereby potential benefits and potential risks are weighed, such as biosafety systems, and are therefore best embedded in national systems for decision making, which are fine tuned on the basis of national traditions, needs and priorities.
With regard to the application of the Aarhus Convention, the PRRI is of the view that it is neither logical nor scientifically valid to treat GMOs in the same way as building airports or hydro-electrical dams, which are activities that by their very nature have known adverse impacts on the environment and /or human health. Whether or not a GMO may have an adverse impact on human health or the environment depends on the characteristics of the GMO and the environment in which it is applied. The current approach of the Aarhus Convention reflects that adequately by stating
"Each Party shall, within the framework of its national law, apply, to the extent feasible and appropriate, provisions of this article to decisions on whether to permit the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment
..". The PRRI is therefore of the view that there is no need for any changes or amendments to the Aarhus Convention with regard to GMOs.
If, however, the negotiating Parties do decide to amend the Aarhus Convention, the PRRI urges the negotiating Parties to:
1.exclude Research and Development activities, as is the case for other activities covered by the Aarhus Convention;
2.to keep the procedures for public information and participation proportional with the risks of the proposed GMO activities involved, and
3.before adopting any amendments, to thoroughly analyse the impacts on public research activities.