©1999 J. E. Armstrong, Illinois State University

The first legally binding international agreement governing the shipment of genetically modified organisms across borders has reinvigorated critics of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The new agreement, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, requires that the governments of signatory nations be notified when living GMOs such as crop plants are to be brought into the country with the intention of introducing them into the environment.1

University of Georgia anthropology professor Brent Berlin did research for decades in the forests of Chiapas, Mexico, and expected to have little trouble running a new National Institutes of Health-funded project there. But his mission, searching for useful compounds in rare plants and other organisms and cataloging biodiversity, turned out to be impossible.

Chiapas farmers and their advocates in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) accused scientists of stealing plants, from which...

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