What are the socioeconomic risks of importing living modified organisms (LMO) into a country? At the United Nations meeting on biosafety in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, governments from around the world decided they are going to discuss this question further before taking any new decision on the imports.

The sixth meeting of the governing body of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety ended three days before the October 8-19 summit of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) is scheduled to start in the same city. Around 1,500 delegates from over 100 countries attended the five-day meeting.

There was no agreement on allowing LMOs into a country without additional safeguards. Genetically modified (GM) crops form a major part of LMOs, and their movement has become a matter of heated debate.

In Hyderabad, the government delegates decided to convene a group of experts to further clarify the issue of socioeconomic considerations and to conduct further research and exchange information and experiences on the issue. They agreed on a number of other complex issues, including risk assessment, response actions in event of unintentional movement of LMOs across national borders and types of documentation accompanying shipments of LMOs.

An international group of experts is preparing a set of guidelines for risk assessment of LMOs. It was agreed that any government faced with an actual risk would test these guidelines and let everyone else know the results.

The UNCBD secretariat has convened an online information exchange facility called the Biosafety Clearing House, which is meant to inform countries about the developments and risks related to LMOs. Delegates decided that this facility needed to be strengthened.

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