The United Nations has launched a US$38.4m project to enable countries in the developing world to import GM foods, a UN official revealed earlier today [Wednesday].

The UNEP-GEF Biosafety Project is culmination of two years preparation work, following on from the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which was signed by 107 governments in January 2000. Since then, however, only ten countries have ratified the Protocol, and for it to take effect another forty countries are required to do so.

Christopher Briggs, the project’s manager, explained: “The project aims to help countries set up national biosafety frameworks … so that you know what to do if you are importing genetically modified foods.

“It will mean changing, modifying or adding a little to a lot of different laws.”

The three-year project, which will be financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and managed by the UN Environment Program (UNEP), will aim to train officials and businesspeople in around 100 countries to effectively implement the Protocol’s provisions on the global trade of GM foods.

The UNEP headquarters in Nairobi is to host a three-day workshop until 18 January and involving 46 African countries. It is part of a series of over 20 workshops to be held globally.