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Stackyard News Nov 04
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Safeguarding the environment from GM exports from the UK: New regulations come into force

New regulations concerning trade in Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are now in force to ensure all countries importing them from the UK will have the information they need to safeguard their environment and their people.

The amount of GM material being exported from the UK is currently very low, but the regulations will give legal backing to periodic inspections in the UK of the material and ensure the exported GMOs are clearly identified. In particular, exporters must state that the product contains or consists of GMOs and produce the codes assigned to those GMOs which allow them to be identified clearly.

European Union regulations which came into force last week, and the Genetically Modified Organisms (Transboundary Movements) (England) Regulations 2004 announced today by Environment Minister Elliot Morley, provide the final piece in the jigsaw for implementing the UK's commitments under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

The Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by GMOs. It also establishes a procedure so countries have the information they need to make informed decisions before agreeing to import such organisms.

As such, Mr Morley said implementing the new regulations is a significant step towards making an internationally important piece of legislation work.

"Supervising and controlling the trade of GMOs is important for the protection of the world's biodiversity, the environment in general, and the protection of human health. Therefore, at an international level, the most important action we can take is to help all countries - developing and developed alike - to reach informed decisions about GMOs.

"Currently, imports of GMOs into and within Europe are covered by legislation, but this new regulation will see exports covered too; all under a common legal framework. It will provide the final piece in the jigsaw in implementing our commitments under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety."

In addition to administration, the regulations also cover enforcement (including penalties and offences). Member States have the flexibility to decide on the most appropriate level of inspection and how they will be carried out. The UK has opted for periodic inspections.

"We have tried to strike a balance between regular, strict inspections and no inspections at all," explained Mr Morley. "This is an effective and proportionate approach given that the number of GMOs being exported from the UK is very low. It will also enable the enforcement bodies to incorporate the new requirements into their existing workloads."

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