The first legally binding international agreement governing the shipment of genetically modified organisms (GMO) across borders goes into effect tomorrow (September11). The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety requires that the governments of signatory nations be notified when living GMOs, such as crop plants, are going to be brought into the country with the intention of introducing them into the environment.

Critics are already expressing concern about possible trade consequences of the new rules, which are intended to protect native biodiversity, but the protocol is not expected to significantly impact scientific research. However, the biosafety protocol is only one part of a larger treaty, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which also covers access to indigenous plants and other genetic resources, and so far, scientists and others say, the protocol's parent document has proved misguided at best.

"The treaty is an absolute disaster for scientists," said a senior UN official on condition...

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