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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

31 January 2000

BIOSAFETY PROTOCOL AGREEMENT


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill, said today that it was pleasing that after four years of negotiation, a Biosafety Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity had been finalised.

The Biosafety Protocol was adopted by consensus by representatives of over 130 Governments at a special meeting of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity held in Montreal.

"As one of the world's most biologically diverse countries with a significant dependence on the agricultural sector, Australia had important interests at stake in the development of the Protocol," Senator Hill said.

The objective of the Protocol, known as the Cartagena Protocol, is to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity by addressing the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology.

The Protocol provides for measures such as an advance informed agreement procedure, to apply in relation to the first international transboundary movement of living modified organisms for intentional introduction into the environment.

"Importantly, the Protocol quite specifically recognises that trade and environment agreements should be mutually supportive with a view to achieving sustainable development," Senator Hill stated.

The Federal Government is also taking steps to ensure the effective domestic regulation of Genetically Modified Organisms. A draft Gene Technology Bill, which will establish the Gene Technology Regulator, and complementary amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act have recently been released for public comment.

Senator Hill congratulated the Australian negotiating team led by the Ambassador for the Environment for its dedication and professionalism during a lengthy and sensitive period of international negotiations.

Media contact: Rod Bruem 02 62777 640

Commonwealth of Australia