What is the Supplementary Protocol?
Adopted as a supplementary agreement to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the Supplementary Protocol aims to contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity by providing international rules and procedures in the field of liability and redress relating to living modified organisms, as stated in its Article 1. The Protocol applies to damage resulting from living modified organism which find their origin in a transboundary movement (Article 3).
The Supplementary Protocol provides a definition of ‘damage’, referring to an adverse effect on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity that is measurable or otherwise observable and significant, taking also into account risks to human health. It provides for an indicative list of factors that should be used to determine the significance of an adverse effect.
The Supplementary Protocol requires in Article 4 that a causal link between the damage and the living modified organism be established. States must require the appropriate operator or operators to take response measures in the event of damage resulting from living modified organisms which find their origin in a transboundary movement, as set out in Article 5. The ‘operator’ is defined as any person in direct or indirect control of the living modified organism. The operator must also take response measures where there is a sufficient likelihood that damage will result if timely response measures are not taken.
Response measures may also be taken by the competent authority, for example when the operator has failed to do so. In such cases, the competent authority may recover the expenses and costs of such measures from the operator. In addition to the obligation to provide for response measures, Parties may develop civil liability rules and procedures to address damage.
The Supplementary Protocol defines ‘response measures’ as reasonable actions to prevent, minimize, contain, mitigate or otherwise avoid damage, as appropriate, or reasonable actions to restore biological diversity.
In addition to imposing a requirement for response measures, the Supplementary Protocol obliges Parties to continue to apply existing legislation on civil liability or to develop specific legislation concerning liability and redress for material or personal damage associated with damage to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, as defined in the Supplementary Protocol.
As response measures can be imposed by the competent administrative authority, rather than by a judicial body, the Supplementary Protocol is known as having introduced an ‘administrative approach’ to liability and redress.