Cayman Islands: Biosafety

House of Lords written question – answered on 30th November 2010.

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Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the provisions of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, to which the United Kingdom is a party, apply to the Cayman Islands; and, if so, what steps have been taken to implement them there.

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether shipments of genetically modified mosquito eggs by the Oxford-based biotechnology company Oxitec to the Grand Cayman Island for use in experimental field trials in 2009 and 2010 were treated as exports of genetically modified organisms under (a) Regulation (EC) No. 1946/2003 on the transboundary movements of genetically modified organisms, and (b)the Cartagena Protocol.

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in field trials conducted by the Cayman Islands' Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) in 2009 and in May and October 2010 were subject to the provisions of (a) European Union regulations, and (b) the Cartagena Protocol.

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The UK's instrument of ratification of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety has not been extended to the Cayman Islands. As such, the provisions of the protocol regarding the transboundary movement of genetically modified (GM) organisms are not applicable to the shipment of GM mosquitoes from the UK to the Cayman Islands, a non-party. Overseas territories are encouraged to become party to the UK's ratification of multilateral environmental agreements, but ultimately this is a matter for them to decide.

However, the shipment of the GM mosquito eggs from the UK was subject to the requirements of Regulation (EC) 1946/2003, chapter II of which imposes an obligation on exporters to notify their first intended transboundary movement of a GM organism to the relevant authority in the importing country, whether that country is a party or a non-party to the protocol, and to await its consent to proceed.

The decision to allow the GM mosquito field trials in the Cayman Islands was not subject to the EU legislation on the deliberate release of GM organisms, because it does not apply to UK overseas territories. And the Cartagena Protocol does not govern the release of GM organisms into the environment, only their transboundary movement. The Cayman Islands have their own legislation which required the Mosquito Control and Research Unit to obtain a permit from the local Department of Agriculture to carry out the trials, and as part of this process a risk analysis and an environmental impact assessment were carried out.

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