The adoption of detailed documentation requirements for genetically modified (GM) food in the international trade of agricultural commodities has been met with caution by grain and cereal importers.
Coceral, the body representing the European cereals, rice, feedstuffs, oilseeds, olive oil, oils and fats and agrosupply trade, is concerned that the additional documentation requirements will prove a burden to importers who already have to meet stringent EU regulations.
"This goes a step further than current EU legislation," Chantal Fauth, secretary general of Coceral told FoodNavigator.
"We would have preferred not to have these measures, as EU legislation is already very stringent, and the move could bring some difficulties.
"We haven't had time to examine in full what the implications will be as the decision was made on Saturday. We don't know when the measures will come into force, or whether EU regulations will need to be adapted."
The outcome of the third meeting of the 132 parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (MOP3) was, however, described as 'landmark' by the European Commission (EC).
The EC, which negotiated on behalf of the EU and played an important role in brokering the final compromise, claimed that the requirements are "clear, meaningful and practical for both exporters and importers of agricultural products, while being consistent with EU law".
"It provides for legal certainty for the international trade in agricultural commodities,"said environment commissioner Stavros Dimas.
"As such, it is a landmark decision that bolsters the role of the Cartagena Protocol. I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Brazilian government that has been instrumental to achieve this outcome."
Trade implications of documentation requirements were the main focus of major players such as Mexico and Brazil.
In addition to the documentation requirements, MOP3 took decisions on a range of other issues designed to enhance the effective implementation of the Protocol, including biosafety capacity-building activities in developing countries, risk assessment for GMs and the operation of the web-based information exchange portal established by the Protocol, the so called Biosafety Clearing House.
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is the only international treaty governing the cross-border transport of genetically modified organisms. The Protocol is a supplementary agreement to the 1992 Convention on Biological Biodiversity.
The rules set out in the Protocol are intended to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and protect the public from the potentially harmful effects of GMOs. The Protocol entered into force on 11 September 2003 and currently has 132 Parties, including all Member States and the European Community.
The Cartagena Protocol is incorporated into EU legislation through a wide range of laws. The cornerstone of this legal framework is Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms.
It is supplemented by a Regulation on the transboundary movements of GMs, which was adopted in 2003.