THE world’s major biotechnology companies have set up a complaints process for countries with concerns over the impact of GM crops.
The six companies – BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta – have formed “The Compact”, which they claim is a “clearly defined, efficient, and fair” process for countries to file and process claims related to damage to biological diversity caused by genetically modified organisms.
Peak group CropLife International said the compact, which had been developed over the past two years, was now in force under the umbrella of an independent mediation and arbitration framework administered in The Hague.
“The plant science industry’s commitment to stewardship and the responsible development and use of living modified organisms has helped to ensure there has been no negative impact on biological diversity for over fifteen years of commercialization,” CropLife International’s plant biotechnology chief Denise Dewar said.
Ms Dewar said the Compact was first floated in May 2008, offering national governments and food value-chain stakeholders an innovative private sector option to domestic and international liability laws that provided redress and financial security in the event of damage to biological diversity caused by GMOs.
Since 2008, The Compact’s founding members had developed the framework and guidelines for filing and arbitrating claims.
The Compact offers a science-based process for resolving claims alleging damage to biological diversity where binding decisions are made by independent commissioners and arbitrators under the auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration located in The Hague.
“There is no doubt that the Compact is at the cutting edge of innovation in the resolution of transnational disputes, a 21st century solution which could hardly have been conceived of only a generation ago,” International Council for Commercial Arbitration president Jan Paulsson said.
“The prospect of neutral decisions, timely decision-making and reliable enforcement on the consensual basis established in the Compact is likely to generate emulation in other technologically advanced fields as well.
“One can only applaud The Compact’s members, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the world community for forging a unique private-public arbitration regime to address claims of damage to biological diversity from the use of living modified organisms.”
Biotech crops are currently grown on 134 million hectares in 25 countries, including several major agricultural exporting countries.
Guidelines on the import, transfer, handling, and domestic use of living modified organisms, including how to address damage to biological diversity, can have significant impact on international trade.
The introduction of The Compact provided countries with an objective and independent procedure for evaluating and arbitrating claims of, and remedying damage to, biological diversity, Ms Dewar said.
“The implementation of such a framework supports smooth trade transactions in the agricultural community.
“CropLife International believes The Compact plays a critical role in providing financial security and supplementing other liability and redress frameworks involving LMOs.
“It clearly demonstrates our industry’s confidence in the safety of its products.
Ms Dewar said the intention was that, “in the unlikely event of damage to biological diversity”, countries would choose to seek remediation under The Compact because it was the “most effective, efficient, and comprehensive process for addressing these sorts of claims, and provides the assurance of recovery in the event of actual damage”.