Science in Society Archive

ISP letter to President of Croatia

Mr. Stipe Mesic
President of R. Croatia

Dear Mr. President,

Please allow me to address you on behalf of the Independent Science Panel (ISP) on Genetic Modification (GM), officially launched at a public conference in London, UK, on May 10; an event attended by 200, including UK's then Environment Minister, Michael Meacher.

The ISP consists of 24 prominent scientists from seven countries including Croatia, spanning the relevant disciplines of agronomy, agroecology, ecology, biochemistry, biophysics, botany, chemical medicine, molecular genetics, nutrition, histopathology, toxicology and virology, who are concerned to provide critical scientific information to the global debate over genetic engineered crops, in view of its importance for the future of our food and agriculture.

The ISP members have undertaken an extensive review of the scientific and other evidence on the problems and hazards of GM crops and the many health, environmental and social benefits of all forms of sustainable agriculture. The results are presented in a report entitled, The Case for a GM Free Sustainable World, a draft of which was released electronically on May 10, and was finalised and published on 15 June 2003 on a newly created ISP website

We are pleased to enclose an executive summary of the evidence assembled (together with a list of ISP members), based on which, we are calling for a global ban on environmental release of GM crops to make way for agroecology, organic farming and other forms of sustainable agriculture.

The ISP would also like to congratulate the Croatian government for having taken an early decision, during the 35th session of Croatian Parliament (November 27, 1998), to forbid any sowing of GM plants, even for experimental purpose, to forbid import of GM food and GM agricultural products, to develop legal regulations, and to establish a Bioethics Committee for GMO, a decision that was widely accepted.

We are also aware that in June 2001, four Croatian ministries agreed on the text of a draft law to ban genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and products until the Government has brought in a more specific regulatory framework.

Your Environment Minister Kovacevic has stated, “Considering that tourism holds a strategic place in Croatian business, and that we pride ourselves on organic farming, the government wants to stress the fact that we offer only GMO-free products as our comparative advantage. That is our national interest. Therefore, we want to draft legislation that will make sure our interests are protected, without violating any of our international commitments.”

Since September 2001, Croatia has been under increasing US pressure to drop the draft law. The US Embassy in Zagreb is attempting to put trade before environmental protection by stating that, “if such a ban is implemented, the US Government must consider its rights under WTO.” The fact remains that 74% of Croatians do not accept GMO food, even if import of GM food is to be permitted by law in Croatia.

We urge you to abide by Croatia's earlier decision, and remind you that the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the first legally binding international agreement governing the movement of living modified organisms (LMO) across national borders, will take effect on 11 September 2003. This was made possible after the Republic of Palau became the 50th country to ratify it.

The Cartagena Protocol establishes the rights of national governments to regulate all GMOs; while developing countries may use the Protocol to regulate commodities even before national policy are in place. Environmental, human health and socio-economic factors are recognised as valid considerations in determining whether to accept or reject GMO imports, and in accordance with the precautionary principle.

On 20 June 2003, Austria, Slovenia and Italy created Europe's first GMO free bioregion for organic agriculture. They are encouraging other regions of Europe to join this initiative or start their own initiatives to create GMO-free zones to enable the cultivation of non -GM food for the European market.

We urge your Government to resist the pressure from the USA and hold onto what is best for your citizens and for the world at large.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
For the Independent Science Panel on GM, London, U.K.

Cc Mr. Zlatko Tomcic, President of Parliament

Mr. Ivica Racan, Prime Minister

Article first published 04/07/03

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