UN announces new measures to boost safety in trade of genetically modified

Under the new system adopted by the 87 member States of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety at a weeklong meeting in Malaysia attended by more than 1,000 delegates and observers, all bulk shipments of living or genetically modified organisms (known as LMOs, or GMOs) intended for food, feed or processing (such as soybeans and maize) are to be identified as “may contain LMOs.” The accompanying documentation should also indicate the contact details of the importer, exporter or other appropriate authority.Although the new system is binding on countries that are party to the Protocol, many key agricultural producers, such as the United States, have not endorsed that pact. “Now that a system for identifying and labelling GMO exports has become operational, countries can enjoy the benefits of biotechnology with greater confidence while avoiding the potential risks,” the Protocol’s Executive Secretary, Hamdallah Zedan, said. “This rigorous system for handling, transporting, packaging and identifying GMOs is in the best interests of everyone – developed and developing countries, consumers and industry, and all those who care deeply about our natural environment,” he added. The Cartagena Protocol, which entered into force last September, is designed to ensure the safe transfer, handling and use of GMOs that may adversely effect the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health. It forms part of the Convention on Biological Diversity negotiated under the auspices of the UNEP and signed by over 150 Governments at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Over the next year an expert group will further elaborate the documentation and handling requirements for bulk agricultural shipments. Key issues still to be resolved include the percentage of modified material that these shipments may contain and still be considered GMO-free and the inclusion of any additional detailed information. A decision on these matters will be considered at the next meeting of the treaty’s Parties, to be held in 2005. read more

SecretaryGeneral appoints Italian officer to assist UN mission in Lebanon

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today appointed a senior Italian officer to help direct the military strategy of the strengthened UN force in Lebanon, while the Force Commander on the ground agreed with his Lebanese counterpart to hold joint patrols once Israeli troops have completed their withdrawal.Lieutenant General Giovanni Ridinó will serve as Director of the newly established Strategic Military Cell for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which will be located at UN Headquarters in New York, a spokesman told reporters today.“The SMC (Strategic Military Cell) will provide military guidance to UNIFIL at the strategic level, and will report to the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations,” said spokesman Yves Sorokobi.Lt. Gen Ridinó has served in the Italian Army for over 30 years and, among numerous other posts, he has served as the Deputy Commander of the Multinational Division (Southeast) of the Stabilization Force for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) and the commander of the Territorial Military Autonomous Command for Sicily.In Lebanon, UNIFIL Force Commander Major-General Alain Pellegrini met with General Michael Sleiman, Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and both agreed to hold joint patrols along the Blue Line with Israel once all Israeli forces have withdrawn.“We had a very productive meeting. I briefed General Sleiman on the continued deployment of UNIFIL II, and on some of the issues we have to tackle,” said Maj.-Gen. Pellegrini. “I am very happy to announce that both UNIFIL and LAF will conduct a joint inspection of the Line to make certain there are no discrepancies.”UNIFIL is now up to a strength of 5,000 and last week Maj.-Gen. Pellegrini said he expected Israel to have completed its withdrawal from Lebanon by the end of this month.Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the fighting last month, mandated strengthening the original UNIFIL that has been deployed in southern Lebanon since 1978.In his latest report on the resolution Mr. Annan said there was a “general understanding” that Israeli troops would completely withdraw once the UN Force reaches 5,000 troops and the Lebanese army is ready to deploy at the full strength of 15,000 troops in the south of the country. read more