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Approaches to GMO–free Protected Areas . Josef Hoppichler Federal Institute for Less-Favoured and Mountainous Areas, Vienna (Bundesanstalt für Bergbauernfragen). Content. What are protected areas ? Protected areas in the EU – Natura 2000 network and EIA

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Approaches to gmo free protected areas

Approaches to GMO–free Protected Areas

Josef HoppichlerFederal Institute for Less-Favoured and Mountainous Areas, Vienna (Bundesanstalt für Bergbauernfragen)


Content

  • What are protected areas ?

  • Protected areas in the EU – Natura 2000 network and EIA

  • Precautionary principle and protected areas

  • Approaches to GMO-free protected areas in Austria –

    • opinion of EU-Commission

    • counterarguments to the comments of EU-Commission

    • new risk assessment strategies

  • Conclusions


What are protected areas ?

  • Protected areas have a long history: - religious reasons, species protection (e.g. elephant reserves 300-100 BC by Mauryan Kings in India) - “protected areas are a cultural response to perceived threats to nature. Because society is constantly changing, so too are social perspectives on protected areas and the values that they are established to conserve” (McNeely 1998) – e.g. national parks as a result of industrial revolution

  • Actual Definitions of protected areas:

  • IUCN Guidelines (1994) .”An area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means.” similar to

  • CBD (1992): A geographically defined area which is designated or regulated and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives (Part of Article 8: In-situ conservation – integrating PAs, regulation of risks of GMOs, TK and ABS)


The IUCN categories

  • Protected areas are a political and social construct and not just the result of scientifically analysed causes and effects

  • There is a need for demarcation concerning the levels of human interference in PAs


Growth of global protected areas

Source: S. Chape*, J. Harrison, M. Spalding and I. Lysenko, Measuring the extent and effectiveness

of protected areas as an indicator for meeting global biodiversity targets. UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK - Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B (2005) 360, 443–455


Protected areas in the EU – Natura 2000 network

  • Council Directive 92/43/EC Article 1 (c):natural habitat types of Community interest means those which, within the territory referred to in Article 2: (i) are in danger of disappearance in their natural range; or(ii) have a small natural range following their regression or by reason of their intrinsically restricted area; oriii) present outstanding examples of typical characteristics of one or more of the five following biogeographical regions: Alpine, Atlantic, Continental, Macaronesian and Mediterranean.

  • Article 2 :1. The aim of this Directive shall be to contribute towardsensuring bio-diversity through the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora in the European territory of the Member States to which the Treaty applies. 2. Measures taken pursuant to this Directive shall be designed to maintain or restore, at favourable conservation status, natural habitats and species of wild fauna and flora of Community interest. 3. Measures taken pursuant to this Directive shall take account of economic, social and cultural requirements and regional and local characteristics.


Protected areas in the EU – Natura 2000 network

  • Natura 2000 directives (Habitats and Birds Directive):

  • (Council Directive 92/43/EC)

  • Article 6:

  • 1. For special areas of conservation, Member States shall establish … appropriate management plans specifically designed for the sites or integrated into other development plans, and appropriate statutory, administrative or contractual measures which correspond to the ecological requirements of the natural habitat…

  • 2. Member States shall take appropriate steps to avoid, in the special areas of conservation, the deterioration of natural habitats and the habitats of species as well as disturbance of the species for which the areas have been designated


Protected areas in the EU – Natura 2000 network

  • Natura 2000 directives (Habitats and Birds Directive):

  • (Council Directive 92/43/EC)

  • Article 6:

  • 3. Any plan or project … likely to have a significant effect thereon … shall be subject to appropriate assessment of its implications for the site in view of the site's conservation objectives

  • The competent national authorities shall agree to the plan or project only after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the site concerned and, if appropriate, after having obtained the opinion of the general public

  • -------------------------

  • Comment: The trigger for applying these safeguards is a likelihood that a plan or project will have a significant effect on the site concerned.(DG XI's Nature Newsletter, Issue 2, Dec. 1996) (Amendment 50)



Precautionary principle and protected areas

  • Protected areas are based on the Precautionary Principle to prevent irreversible loss to biodiversity

  • apparent during the creation of a System of PAs

  • An example of the description of the Precautionary Principle in connection with the creation of a PAs – Marine Protected Areas Network Canada

  • „The precautionary principle recognizes that decisions and action on conservation measures can and will be taken in the absence of scientific certainty. Even without extensive scientific knowledge, the level of risk to the marine environment can be determined with the best available information and conservation actions taken based on that information. In the context of marine protected areas, where the threat or risk can be inferred, this could mean that lack of scientific certainty regarding performance measures, targets and benefits will not be used as a reason not to precede with a designation.(http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/canwaters-eauxcan/infocentre/publications/docs/fedmpa-zpmfed/part7_e.asp)


Co-existence and protected areas in Austria

Comments of the EU-Commission to Carinthian, Burgenland and Styrian Act 2004/05:(Genetic Engineering Precaution Acts 2004/05: Objectives are:- regulation of Co-existence (Art. 26a of D 2001/18/EC)(- protection against GMO-contamination of organic/GMO-free farming)- protection of natural flora and fauna and of natural ecosystems/habitats

Second Carinthian draft – statement of the Commission: *restriction of the use of GMO within protected areas has to be justified in accordance with the Natura 2000 Directives

Detailed comments on the Burgenland/Styrian draft (3 statements):

  • there is no need to scrutinize whether the GMO may threaten an object of conservation in PAs. (All) impacts on health and environment of authorized GMOs are carefully assessed.

  • justified only, if the consent/authorisation according to article 19 (c) defined “conditions for the protection of particular ecosystems/environments and/or geographical areas”

  • Comm. understands the concern for a higher level of protection in PAs. A possible restriction of the use of agricultural plants, including GMOs, has to take place within the scope of the Natura 2000 directives


Co-existence and protected areas in Austria

1st Counterargument on the comments of the EU-Comm. to Carinthian, Burgenland and Styrian Act 2004/05:

  • The environmental impact assessment according environmental effects is not complete

  • A full EIA of the GMO’s “implications for the site in view of the site's conservation objectives“ has never been done by the EFSA GMO-panel, especially not done including all direct and indirect risks of a GMO.

  • If there is lack of scientific evidence this does not mean there are no risks of significant effects. (absence of evidence of risk = evidence of absence of risk?)

  • e.g. Where are the ERAs to meet the criteria of the guidance to Annex II to Directive 2001/18/EC?: „The overall case-by-case assessment covers the GMO(s) concerned (GMO-by-GMO assessment) and the environment(s) in which the GMO is to be released (for example, site-by-site assessment and region-by-region assessment, if applicable) …..The ERA should use the case-by-case principle because of the broad range of individual characteristics of different organisms (GMO by GMO) and different environments (site by site and region by region).”


Co-existence and protected areas in Austria

2nd Counterargument on the comments of the EU-Comm. to Carinthian, Burgenland and Styrian Act 2004/05:

  • The Precautionary Principle must be the guiding principle

  • If we accept that there is scienttific uncertainty (knowledge gaps) in assessing the impacts of GMOs on the environment especially concerning special conservation objectives, then we have to use the precautionary principle as main basis for restrictions of GMO in PAs:

  • Lack of scientific certainty regarding the impact on the environment of a PA and the conservation objective should not be used as a reason not to restrict the use of a GMO in PAs. Especially concerning PAs there is a need for reversing the burden of proof .

  • Conclusion: Minimizing the gene-flow of synthetic constructs (vertical and horizontal) would be a sufficient reason to restrict the use of GMO in PAs


Co-existence and protected areas in Austria

If the precautionary principle is not accepted:

  • there is the need to proof the environmental damage – but this is the same within PAs and outside PAs

  • however, the thresholds for a damage may be significantly lower – e.g. the risk of significantly influencing the population of butterflies may be un-acceptable in PAs

  • examples:

    • laboratory experiments – are they accepted by decision-makers?

    • on-farm, large scale experiments like FSE in GB – huge costs but they are still easy to refute e.g. ACRE comments on FSE: “the impacts are due to the herbicide management regime, not to the genetic modification itself …alternative management strategies may have different impacts” –


Co-existence and protected areas in Austria

If the precautionary principle is not accepted:

  • an actual Austrian approach:

    • determine Biodiversity Hotspots of species mainly affected – agro-associated ecosystems and plants, butterflys, beetles, predator species

      New Austrian Study from UBA-Vienna (Traxler A. et al.):

      “Hotspots of Biodiversity within Agricultural Landscapes as a Basis for Risk Assessment and Monitoring of GMO” (www.gentechnik.gv.at)

    • contribute to the regionalization of the environmental risk assessment for agro-associated flora and butterflies

    • within hotspots there is a higher basic risk and/or the thresholds for damages are lower

    • development of risk scenarios: e.g. analyses of “pollination time of maize” corr. “larval development of butterflies” –


Austria-wide risk-map of butterflies according to Bt-Mais

Gesamtrisiko-Index (bezüglich Bt-Mais) der Tagfalter in der Agrarlandschaft Source:TRAXLER et al. 2005 – www.gentechnik.gv.at:


Conclusions

There is a need for GMO-free areas

  • a new category of Protected GMO-free Areas, including most of the actual PAs should be introduced

    • goal: GMO-free Bioshere-Reserves at a global level

    • main arguments:

      • Precautionary Principle + recognizing the crucial importance of centres of origin and genetic diversity

      • Minimizing the introgression of synthetic genes (no gene garbage in PAs) - we need a dynamic concept of counterbalancing modern risks… e.g. including nanotechnology ?

  • create closed areas for GMO-free seed breeding and propagating - guarantee a GMO-free on-farm conservation of plant genetic resources

  • in Natura 2000 sitesappropriate GMO-free management plans should be developed (including the Democtratic Principle)

  • last argument: The Principle of Ark-NoahIf the Genetic Revolution causes unforseeable negative developments, we need Alternatives for a GMO-free Future.



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