An Ad Hoc Technical Experts Group (AHTEG) on risk assessment and risk management was established by the Conference of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (Biosafety Protocol), a subsidiary agreement under the Convention on Biological Diversity at the 4th Meeting of the Parties (MOP) in 2008. The AHTEG was tasked with providing assistance to Parties in risk assessment and management, and the mandate instructed the AHTEG to meet twice prior to the fifth Meeting of the Parties (MOP).
In the first meeting, in April 2009, the AHTEG was directed to “[d]evelop a ‘Roadmap’, such as a flowchart” to assist Parties conducting risk assessments according to Annex III of the Biosafety Protocol. The AHTEG was also instructed to consider the need for guidance on specific topics in risk assessment, produce modalities for the development of these documents, and prepare a report for review in the second meeting of the AHTEG. The intent was that this second meeting would review and finalize the “Roadmap” and: (1) make recommendations “on how to integrate the “Roadmap” and tools for retrieval of guidance materials”; (2) review the action plan concerning the modalities produced in the first meeting; (3) “consider possible modalities for cooperation in identifying living modified organisms that may have adverse effects”; and (4) prepare a report for MOP.
This paper examines the progress of the AHTEG toward a successful outcome by considering several questions: how did it operate; how did it consider input from AHTEG members and external experts; will the ongoing work produce a useful product? And importantly, is existing experience with risk assessment of LMOs being used? Information available to registered participants in the Open-ended Expert Group was used as well as relevant information publicly available on the Biosafety Protocol Secretariat’s website. Based on the stark divergence of positions apparent in those sources it seems unlikely that a credible path to a successful outcome from this AHTEG can be found by MOP-6 in October 2012, as mandated.