Liability and Redress of Trans-Boundary Movement of Genetically Modified Organisms and the Biosafety Law in Malaysia



Biosafety refers to the efforts taken in ensuring the safety of the application of biotechnology, which necessitates for proactive steps to be taken to “reduce and eliminate the potential risks resulting from biotechnology and its products”. Modern biotechnology has enabled scientists to genetically and biochemically modify plants, animals as well as microorganisms. In the effort to increase crop production for the purpose of securing global food supply, the application of biotechnology in the agricultural sector must be carried out in a safe and sustainable manner. The recognition of the potential risks to human health and the environment must not be discounted and countries looking towards the application of biotechnology must ensure its safe application. The need for further regulations on biosafety was discussed in 1992, when the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted. Article 19(3) of the Convention requires its members to consider the need for a protocol on “the safe transfer, handling and use of any living modified organism resulting from biotechnology that may have adverse effect on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.” This consequently led to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), which primarily regulates the trans-boundary movement of living modified organisms (LMOs) or alternatively known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In Malaysia, the Biosafety Act 2007 (BSA) was passed to regulate the release, importation, exportation and contained use of GMOs in order to protect inter alia human, plant and animal health as well as the environment and biological diversity. This paper highlights the issues pertaining to liability and redress, which provides for the legal obligation to compensate the damage especially to the environment accruing from the trans-boundary movement of the GMOs, as well as the position of the present Malaysian biosafety law.

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