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Annex 3

Special Note From The Experts Who Participated In The Consultation

The responsible deployment of GM crops needs to encompass the whole process of technology development from pre-release risk assessment through biosafety considerations to post-release monitoring. Our working group agreed on the need for post-release monitoring, in appropriate circumstances, without endorsing the technology. Monitoring programmes need to be developed in ways that recognize important sources of variation between farming systems and GM crop types. Such monitoring needs to address the interactions of the organisms with the environment. The effects (both positive and negative) of GM crops will vary with location and context, and monitoring will require a new model of working in order to inform actions at the farming system scale.

We are confident that post-release monitoring can be made to work, even within the restricted resource levels available in the developing world. The expert group recommended that the monitoring design guidelines that were developed within the workshop, could act as an effective basis for determining the need for monitoring, and the form of monitoring programmes should they be required. This step-by-step protocol was based on the successful experiences of environmental monitoring worldwide. This protocol provided a powerful basis for guiding our thinking within our workshop, and we believe it can be readily developed as the basis for an effective monitoring process. It particularly revealed the critical role of stakeholder engagement throughout the process. Not only is stakeholder engagement vital to build trust and public confidence, it is the only way to deliver an effective link between the goals for monitoring and the potential actions that may be triggered. The workshop formed a powerful consensus that stakeholder engagement is intrinsic to the system.

Our report does not list or evaluate indicators, but emphasizes the critical value of developing a planning process from which appropriate indicators will emerge. The background paper summarizes international efforts that are underway to standardize certain functional indicators for the condition of agro-ecosystems and we support the development of standardized procedures wherever this is possible. There is also a need to establish new methods that further develop capacity to measure gene flow and its consequences in plant communities in the ecosystems of the developing world

We note that an environmental monitoring system for GM crops could easily become overburdened by broader social, economic and cultural issues unless it is nested within other processes that address wider goals, e.g. farming system evaluations and Millennium Development Goals. Even so, we stress that environmental goals encompass maintaining the environmental resource base required to deliver these goals; thus, protection of soil, water and biodiversity need to be considered together.

In order for the process to be coherent, the goals for protection, and the balances between them, need to be addressed by the stakeholders. We recognize that important stakeholders are not yet participating and should be engaged better; stakeholders, scientists and policy makers need to develop a common working language. We also recognize that there is expertise available in both formal and informal sectors, but it needs to be identified and engaged. The perceptions and local knowledge of people who live and work in the agro-ecosystems is critical for an effective monitoring programme.

We consider that the establishment of monitoring systems is a matter of urgency. This can be built up in stages, with a limited programme, taking advantage of local expertise and readily available tools as a first stage.

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