Human Practices - Legislation
Colombian legislation: Transgenic organisms are unfortunately still mainly a taboo in our geographical region. This happens both because of a general public ignorance on the matter, as well as a lack of will and legislation by the governments. Proof of this is the lack of national biosafety measures in Venezuela, which automatically prohibits the commerce or planting of Living Modified Organisms (LMOs). Ecuador actually explicitly proscribed any activity related to genetically modified organisms in its new Constitution (2008), second chapter, article 15. In 1999, Peru created the Law No. 27104 that is supposed to control all activities regarding LMOs and in 2003 began to work in the development of a Biosafety Regulation. However, Peru has still yet to publish such a document because of internal issues.
Colombia stands as a regional pioneer together with Brazil by participating in the Convention of Biological Diversity, as well as successfully ratifying and legislating biosecurity measures according to the Cartagena Protocol of Biosafety. As Colombians, we want to help our country develop these techniques further by abiding local legislation as well as becoming a technological vanguard through the application and divulgation of synthetic biology.
What's more, a free trade agreement has recently been approved by presidents Barack Obama and Juan Manuel Santos between the United States of America and Colombia, which automatically lower customs duties of many agricultural and industrial products to zero, and automatically demands an increase of competitiveness for both countries, but more dramatically for Colombia. In this matter, we strongly believe innovative processing of our most important exportations are crucial to stand as a competitive economy, and this why we decided to engineer synthetic biology for the improvement of our coffee production.
Regarding our current legislation in more detail:
Through the ratification of the Cartagena Protocol of Biosafety with Law 720 of 2002, Colombia remains true as a listed party country in the Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992 that has three main objectives: 1. The conservation of biological diversity, 2. The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity, and 3. The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. The Cartagena Protocol is basically an international agreement to ensure the safe handling, transport, and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) that result from modern biotechnology.
Colombian expresident Álvaro Uribe ordained the decree 4525 of 2005 through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development by which it delimits Law 740 of 2002. The decree first defines important terms that define our project as modern biotechnology (in vitro application of nucleic acids in live cells or organelles for the surpassing of the natural physiological barriers of the reproduction or recombination not traditionally used in reproduction and selection), emphasizes the importance of biosecurity in these kinds of projects, and determines the competent authorities which we have to inform about our biosafety techiniques, as well as project advances. In our case this turns out to be the Colombian Farming Institute (ICA), to which we must ask for authorization for research using LMOs.
The decree also determines the National Technical Committee of Biosecurity for LMOs with agricultural, livestock, fishing, commercial forest plantations, and agroindustry: the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Minister for Social Protection, the Minister of the Environment, Housing, and Territorial Development, Colciencias (the Administrative Department of Science, Technology, and Innovation) Director, and the ICA manager. This is the committee in charge of evaluating project viability and biosafety. The Ministry for Social Protection, the National Institute for the Surveillance of Foods and Drugs (Invima, Colombia's FDA), the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, ICA, and the Ministry of the Environment, Housing, and Territorial Development are in charge of the control and close following of authorized projects, as well as taking protective and disciplinary measures against malpractice.
Finally, in its article 36, the decree states that researchers involved with the engineering of LMOs should design and promote educational programs directed towards users, consumers, and the community in general in order to strengthen the public knowledge and perception of both the benefits and risks that may generate during the development of LMO activities.