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Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 4 - 15 May 1988


Summary of Outcomes

Extract from Annotated Agenda

NGO Position Paper

Presentation of NGO Statement by ITDG

Letter to a Member of the Drafting Committee for Decision IV/6

Decision IV/ 6 on Agricultural Biodiversity

Extract from Final Report

Summaries from Earth Negotiations Bulletin

Can the CBD sustain livelihood biodiversity? Review of COP 4 by GRAIN



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The Agricultural Biodiversity Decision (IV/6) covers most of the points raised by NGOs with the exception of directly raising the key issues of patents on life and possible incompatibility of CBD and WTO measures. However, through its call for urgency on completion of the negotiations on the revision of the FAO/CGRFA International Undertaking, the work on assessment methodologies and actions and the need for funding (for these) through the GEF, there will be greater progress in implementation of Decision III/11.

COP V will be in Kenya in the second quarter of 2000 and Sustainable Use and Access to genetic Resources are two of the three in-depth items for discussion. This must be a good opportunity for Civil Society Organisations to present their views on how Parties can best achieve equitable access to, and sustainable use of, agricultural biodiversity. This may be in the context of an agreed International Undertaking, or agreement on substantial parts thereof, which may be presented by the 1999 FAO Conference to COP V.

Although much of what was discussed by the COP on Agricultural Biodiversity was non-controversial, the possible widespread use of the patented 'Terminator Technology' (see RAFI's HomePage for further information)- that prevents farm-saved seeds from germinating - was raised repeatedly in Working Group 1, first by the Philippines. The ASSINSEL (seed industry lobby) spokesperson said in a lunch-time meeting that Wheat would be targeted by the Seed Companies, because so few farmers are currently paying royalties on crops sown in the USA. It is also said, for the same reason, that developing countries would also be targeted. This issue is dealt with in paragraph 11 of the Decision.

Other key points: Conflict between WTO/TRIPs and CBD, patenting, IPRs and BioPiracy; Need for FAO/CGRFA to complete negotiation of the International Undertaking on plant genetic resources, including Farmers' Rights, by the 1999 FAO Conference and return it to the CBD as a Protocol; Need for increased urgency of work by Secretariat to the CBD, FAO and others on implementing the multi-year programme of work on agricultural biodiversity, (Decision III/11, agreed in Buenos Aires in 1996), particularly using agro-ecosystems approaches (see Information Document #10 presented to SBSTTA 3).

Marcel Vernooy, Netherlands, Chairs Working Group I. 'Friends of the Chair' (i.e. the Chair's nominated working group that drafts the resolution) on Agricultural Biodiversity consists of: UK for EU, Ethiopia, Philippines, Brazil and Russian Federation.


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Agricultural biodiversity: Agenda Item 7.2 (Extract from Annotated Agenda)

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(Discussed by COP 4 in Working Group 1, Thursday / Friday 7 & 8 May 1998)

 Extract from the annotated agenda:

 Agricultural biodiversity

 61. In its decision III/11, the Conference of the Parties established a multi-year programme of activities on agricultural biological diversity and decided on the components of the initial phase of the work programme.

62. In paragraph 2 of the decision, the Conference of the Parties requested the Executive Secretary to invite the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in close collaboration with other relevant organizations, to identify and assess relevant ongoing activities and existing instruments at the international level, choosing among the thematic areas in Annex 2 of the decision, and to report back on a phased basis to the Conference of the Parties.

63. In paragraphs 4 and 5, it requested Parties, when considering the thematic areas in Annex 2, to identify and assess relevant ongoing activities and existing instruments at the national level, and to further identify issues and priorities that need to be addressed at the national level, and to report back to the Conference of the Parties.

64. Paragraph 7 of the decision further requested the Executive Secretary, in close collaboration with FAO, as appropriate, to report the results of the above initiatives, together with advice from the SBSTTA, as a basis for setting priorities by the Conference of the Parties for further work.

65. Accordingly, the Executive Secretary has prepared document UNEP/CBD/COP/4/6, which contains a report on progress in implementing the work programme on agricultural biological diversity.

66. The report has been prepared on the basis of contributions by Parties, Governments, and relevant international and regional organizations regarding their assessment of ongoing activities and existing instruments on agricultural biodiversity at national and international levels. With regard to Annex 2 of decision III/11, the document describes ongoing work to identify areas of relevance to the objectives of the Convention and further identifies priority thematic areas and issues that need to be addressed. Reference is made to SBSTTA recommendation III/4 on its review of ongoing activities on agricultural biological diversity, contained in document UNEP/CBD/COP/4/2 (see agenda item 4 above).

67. The Conference of the Parties is requested to note progress made in the initial review of activities and instruments, and to consider mechanisms for the further development, implementation and review of the multi-year work programme. This will thus form part of the longer-term programme of work to be considered under item 13 of the agenda.

68. In particular, the Conference of the Parties is invited to identify intersessional activities necessary to advance the first phase of the work programme, and to request the SBSTTA to provide further advice in light of its consideration of the initial review of ongoing activities and existing instruments.

69. The Conference of the Parties is also requested to consider the need for a global assessment of agricultural biological diversity, building upon ongoing activities in international organizations, as well as on contributions by Parties and Governments, and to request the SBSTTA to provide appropriate advice.


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NGO Position Paper

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A call from NGO observers for COP IV to take Urgent Action on


(Agenda Item 7.2)


30 initial signing organisations include: Agrecol; British Columbia Biotechnology Circle; Buko Agrar Koordination; CETAAR; CONTAG; Diverse Women for Diversity; ECOROPA; Environment Liaison Centre International; Forest People's Programme; GAIA; German Forum on Environment and Development Working Groups on Agriculture and Environment; GRAIN; IDRC; Indian Institute for Public Administration; Indigenous People's Biodiversity Network; ITDG; IUCN Netherlands; Kalpavriksh - Environmental Action Group; PAN Netherlands; RAFI; Research Foundation on Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy; SEARICE; Third World Network; UK Food Group; Via Campesina; WEN; Women and Ecology; WRI; WWF-UK

Agricultural Biodiversity [1] is the most vital sub-set of biodiversity, essential for food and livelihood security, and, because of its dependence and impact on human societies, is a critical theme of the Convention. It is a seriously threatened resource, which has been developed and nurtured through the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of countless local and indigenous farming, fishing and pastoral communities over the millennia (see Decision III/11 Annex 1).


The COP's landmark Decision III/11 and SBSTTA's Decision III/4 on Agricultural Biological Diversity recognised this, and the Conference of the Parties now needs to ensure actions are taken urgently to reduce the threats to, and increase the opportunities for, the conservation, sustainable use and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of agricultural biodiversity.


While welcoming the recommendation for the COP to endorse recommendation III/4 of SBSTTA on the programme of work on agricultural biodiversity, there are three specific issues, among others in the Secretariat's paper (UNEP/CBD/COP/4/6), that require urgent action:


1. WTO/TRIPS Review and Agreement on Agriculture

(UNEP/CBD/COP/4/6 para 64)

This may be the last major environmental conference before the 1999 Review of Article 27 of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) (concerning life patenting and sui generis systems). It is the COP's opportunity to send strong messages about the need for careful and proper assessment of the impacts of the TRIPs agreement and other WTO measures which are up for review and negotiation in 1999 and beyond.


The COP should also recommend the exclusion from patentability of all life forms because of the negative impact of IPRs on the sustainable use of agricultural bidoversity, and should ask the Executive Secretary to the CBD to transmit this resolution to the Director General of the WTO and to the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment [2].


2. Adoption of the Revised International Undertaking as a Protocol to the CBD (UNEP/CBD/COP/4/6 para 12)

In the light of the ongoing process in the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture on the revision of the International Undertaking (IU) on Plant Genetic Resources, which includes Farmers' Rights and, bearing in mind their relevance for Article 8j, and the goal of the adoption of the revised IU as a Protocol to this Convention, the COP should resolve that this Protocol have primacy over TRIPs and other trade and investment agreements particularly with respect to impacts which could seriously damage or threaten agricultural biodiversity.

3. Need for Action by the SCBD, FAO and others to implement the Multi-year Programme of Work agreed in Decision III/11

(UNEP/CBD/COP/4/6 paras 10, 11, 50, 56, 61, 62, 71 & 72)

 This COP must give a clear signal to the world about the urgency with which it is acting to safeguard this genetic wealth developed over many generations. The sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity will ensure the food and livelihood security of future generations. The COP should:

While welcoming the joint CBD-FAO programme of work (para 71 and as recorded in UNEP/CBD/SBSSTA/3/ Inf. 20) the COP should urge greater investment in concrete actions to provide technical support to Parties. In particular to assist with:

To achieve this, the COP should demand early publication of the GEF operational policy note on agricultural biodiversity (para 62). This should provide finance for assessments of the sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity and the required actions arising from this, especially redirecting policy and support measures which run counter to the objectives of the Convention regarding agricultural biodiversity (para 50). It should also include opportunities for GEF support to Civil Society groups including Indigenous Peoples and local communities that are largely the main conservers and sustainable users of this resource. Decision III/11 was a particularly significant decision of the COP. COP IV should now make even clearer and more explicit commitments to its full implementation.


1. A Definition of Agricultural Biodiversity

The variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture (including, in the FAO definition, crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries). It comprises the diversity of genetic resources (varieties, breeds, etc.) and species used for food, fodder, fibre, fuel and pharmaceuticals. It also includes the diversity of non-harvested species that support production (e.g. soil micro-organisms) and those in the wider environment that support agro-ecosystems (agricultural, pastoral, forest and aquatic), as well as the diversity of the agro-ecosystems themselves. [Return]


2. The WTO's first Ministerial Conference in December 1996 in Singapore has already agreed to develop a common appreciation of how TRIPS relates to "the creation of incentives for conservation of biological diversity (...) including protection of knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional life-styles relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity." [Return]


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Presentation of the NGO Statement by ITDG

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Thank you Distinguished Chair for allowing me this opportunity to make an intervention on behalf of many NGO observers. For the sake of brevity I will not read out the statement I gave you yesterday but would request that the statement is placed on the record. Can I highlight just a few points?

Today we can celebrate the diversity that gives life to 6 billion people because of the knowledge and skill of countless farmers, herders and fisherfolk who developed agricultural biodiversity. Tomorrow we could see a dystopia of a monocultural, homogenous future in which the lives of all of us are in the hands of a few - a world in which distant corporations own the keys to life; in which the knowledge of the generations before us is depreciated in favour of unproven technologies; in which, recalling the appalling increase in farm suicides and the massacre of innocent communities such as in Chiapas, too many farmers, herders and fisherfolk, choose, or have forced on them, death rather than life, taking their knowledge with them.

We congratulate the many delegations who have spoken so positively about this work programme.

We feel the balance of opinion - the majority view - is unequivocally to make a strong resolution in favour of increasing positive, concrete actions. The evidence that you need to do this is overwhelming. What none of us know is exactly what to do nor how precisely to do it, although we congratulate the many Delegations that have come forward with excellent ideas about where to start - such as full implementation of the Leipzig GPA, the FAO Global Strategy for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources and through a focus on farming and agroeco -systems approaches.

Here are 3 ideas, which we feel you should emphasise in your resolution.

 1. ASSESSMENTS: You need to identify what to do to reduce the threats to agricultural biodiversity, including those from IPRs, Biopiracy, dangerous technologies, and policy and support measures, and so must develop methodologies for assessments, implement these and urgently carry out the indicated work - including the activities of the Leipzig GPA, for example. Co-ordinated actions between all relevant actors ministries and institutions will be needed to achieve this and funds must be released by the GEF in ways that will allow and encourage involvement of Civil Society.

2. INTERNATIONAL UNDERTAKING: Indigenous Peoples and local communities have a wealth of knowledge which if recognised, respected and rewarded could provide the backbone for National Plans. So we would emphasise the need for you to send strong messages to the FAO requesting even more emphasis to completing the negotiations of the International Undertaking, including Farmers' Rights and in harmony with Article 8j, to be returned by the 1999 FAO conference to this COP for inclusion as a Protocol that will have primacy over trade and investment agreements with respect to agricultural biodiversity.

3. WTO/TRIPs: You need to halt patents on life by sending clear messages to the WTO and its Committee on Trade and Environment. Parties need time to fully assess the implications of TRIPS before its 1999 review is completed, and you need to recommend the exclusion from patentability of all life forms in the TRIPS agreement because of the negative impact of IPRs on the sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity.

So, Distinguished Delegates, this is a matter of human survival. We would urge you to make a strong resolution that reduces the threats to, and increases the opportunities for, the sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity for food and livelihood security; that creates a positive climate for further co-ordinated actions at local, national and international levels; that sends strong messages to the FAO, WTO and others; and that does not allow us to be the generation that jeopardised the lives of our daughters and our sons by selling the genetic wealth of our forefathers to the highest bidder. Adapting a statement made emphatically to the FAO World Food Summit, let it not be said of this COP that the COP did not want, or did not know, or could not be sufficiently wise to save the Earth's agricultural biodiversity.

Thank you.


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8 May 1998

Susan Buckenham, Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, UK Delegation

Dear Sue

Unfortunately I have to leave Bratislava, for a meeting in the UK on Monday, before we had a chance to discus progress on Agenda item 7.2. Presumably there will be some further discussion in Working Group I to agree the final resolution / decision, which I hope will be supportive of, and build on, Decision III/11, and give further explicit commitments to its full implementation.

As you will have seen from the NGO statements, we focused on 3 points and on the negative impacts of 'Terminator Technology'. All of the issues raised by us were specifically quoted by one or more delegations in the Working Group, some with blanket approval of certain paragraphs/ sections. For this reason, we feel it is the mood of the meeting to make a strong resolution.

We would hope that the COP:

Can I, with the full support of some 30 NGOs represented at this Conference, urge you to be bold and prepare a strong resolution that will accelerate work being done to hasten the full implementation of COP Decision III/11.

I look forward to hearing the outcome.

Yours sincerely

Patrick Mulvany

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IV/6. Agricultural biological diversity


The Conference of the Parties,


Recalling its decision III/11, on the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biological diversity, and reiterating the importance of agricultural biological diversity as containing the most vital elements of biological diversity essential for food and livelihood security,


Emphasizing the need for a worldwide reorientation towards sustainable agriculture which balances production and conservation objectives in such a way as to meet the needs of expanding populations while maintaining an ecological balance,


Welcoming the statement presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations at the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, regarding its offer to provide further technical assistance to Parties in the implementation of the three objectives of the Convention, in particular, in response to decision III/11,


Further welcoming the establishment by the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, of an intergovernmental Technical Working Group for Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the first meeting of which is scheduled for September 1998,


1. Endorses recommendation III/4 of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) and, noting the progress made so far in initiating the development of the multi-year work programme on agricultural biological diversity called for in decision III/11, highlights the importance of speeding up implementation and requests full support of the Convention's instruments in such efforts;


2. Reiterates its wish, in accordance with paragraph 2 of decision III/11, that FAO maintain its coordinating role in the assessment of ongoing activities and instruments at regional and international levels and requests the Executive Secretary, in collaboration with FAO, to further consult with Parties, Governments and relevant organizations and bodies in the finalization of this review with a view to making available a clear and well structured report, well in advance of the fourth meeting of SBSTTA, that will facilitate the work of SBSTTA;


3. Requests the Executive Secretary to reiterate the invitation to Parties and Governments for further national submissions, if possible in electronic form, on ongoing activities, existing instruments and lessons learnt in the area of agricultural biological diversity, in the light of paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 and annex 2 of decision III/11;


4. Suggests that Governments, funding agencies, the private sector and non-governmental organizations should join efforts to identify and promote sustainable agricultural practices, integrated landscape management of mosaics of agriculture and natural areas, as well as appropriate farming systems that will reduce possible negative impacts of agricultural practices on biological diversity and enhance the ecological functions provided by biological diversity to agriculture. In this regard, invites Parties, Governments and organizations to begin the process of conducting case-studies based on socio-economic and ecological analyses of different land-use management options and to provide such case-studies to the Secretariat.


5. Decides to expand the focus placed on soil micro-organisms in annex 3 of decision III/11 to address all soil biota, as outlined in paragraph 8 of SBSTTA recommendation III/4, and invites Parties, Governments and international organizations to conduct case-studies on soil biota in agriculture and to provide them to the Executive Secretary for compilation in the form of a synthesis report for consideration by SBSTTA;


6. Requests Parties, Governments and international organizations, in particular FAO, in the light of paragraphs 9, 15 (a) and 15 (m) of decision III/11 and of part A of decision IV/1 to begin to provide inputs on the development and application of methodologies for assessments of agricultural biological diversity and tools for identification and monitoring, including: criteria and indicators for agricultural biological diversity, including those addressing farming systems and agricultural ecosystems; rapid assessment techniques; the identification of underlying causes behind the loss of biological diversity; and the identification of incentives to overcome constraints and enhance the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biological diversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits;


7. Requests SBSTTA at its fourth meeting, in accordance with paragraph 7 of decision III/11 and decision IV/16, to develop and provide to the Conference of the Parties at its fifth meeting, advice and recommendations for the development of the first phase, and subsequent phases, of the multi-year work programme on agricultural biological diversity;


8. Welcomes the close cooperation established between the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and FAO and, with reference to decision II/15 and decision III/11, paragraph 19, of the Conference of the Parties, urges that the momentum in the intergovernmental negotiations of the revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources in harmony with the Convention should be maintained with a view to its timely conclusion before the end of 1999;


9. Requests the Executive Secretary, as a complement to decision III/17, paragraph 6, to apply for observer status in the Committee on Agriculture of the World Trade Organization for the purpose of representing the Convention in meetings whose agendas may influence implementation of decision III/11 and related decisions of the Conference of the Parties;


10. Requests the Executive Secretary to report to the Conference of the Parties on the impact of trade liberalization on the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biological diversity in consultation with relevant bodies, such as the World Trade Organization;


11. Reiterating the precautionary approach, requests SBSTTA, to consider and assess, in light of contributions to be provided by Parties, Governments and organizations, whether there are any consequences for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity from the development and use of new technology for the control of plant gene expression, such as that described in United States patent 5723765, and to elaborate scientifically based advice to the Conference of the Parties. Moreover, urges Parties, Governments as well as civil society and public and private institutions to consider the precautionary approach in its application;


12. With reference to paragraphs 21 and 22 of decision III/11, draws the attention of international funding agencies, including the financial mechanism, of the need to support capacity-building in the development and implementation of this work programme;


13. Welcomes the efforts being made by the financial mechanism in the development of its operational policy framework on agricultural biological diversity and urges the early completion of this framework, fully in line with decision III/11, so as to provide effective implementation support to Parties and Governments in all agricultural ecosystems.

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[To be added when published]

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From Earth Negotiations Bulletin

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Agricultural Biodiversity


Further Information: go to IISD - Earth Negotiations Bulletin Site



Thursday 7 May

WG-I considered the Programme of Work on Agricultural Biological Diversity (UNEP/CBD/COP/4/6, UNEP/CBD/COP/4/Inf. 20, and UNEP/CBD/COP/4/Inf.24). Most delegates expressed support for the SBSTTA recommendation III/4. ETHIOPIA, on behalf of the African Group, and supported by TANZANIA, KENYA and ZAMBIA, highlighted the importance of agricultural biodiversity for food security. TANZANIA said agricultural biodiversity could be the defining theme in this Convention.


INDIA and other delegations, including MOROCCO, TANZANIA and ETHIOPIA, urged the COP to adopt the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources as a protocol to the CBD. The UK, on behalf of the EU, said cooperation between the CBD and the FAO should be expanded to include other international bodies active in this field. MOROCCO stressed the need to strike a balance between acceptable production levels and conservation of biodiversity, especially for developing countries.


The PHILIPPINES noted with deep concern the emergence of technologies that sterilize agricultural varieties, depriving farmers the ability to reuse their seeds and called for, inter alia: a global assessment of agricultural biodiversity; prior informed consent for access; and capacity building for local and indigenous communities, including, inter alia, the design of viable incentives.


TANZANIA and INDIA stressed that the IPR regime and the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are detrimental to the objectives of the CBD. INDONESIA urged, inter alia, the Consultative Group of the International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) to give more attention to enhancing underutilized species.


Friday 8 May

On agrobiodiversity, some delegates highlighted areas for future consideration, but others stressed it was premature to engage in a priority-setting process before identifying gaps in efforts. Delegates supported: increased cooperation with FAO and other related organizations; finalization of negotiations harmonizing the International Undertaking (IU) with the objectives of the CBD; and adopting the IUas a protocol. Many delegates welcomed progress already achieved, but stressed that implementation should be faster.


Several developing countries emphasized the link between agrobiodiversity and food security, and said policies undermining sustainable food production are unacceptable. Many developing countries called for, inter alia: increased funding; capacity building at the national level; protection of traditional farming knowledge, innovations and practices; benefit sharing; identification of threats to agrobiodiversity from biopiracy; controls against invasive alien species; and incentives for in situ conservation.


PAKISTAN, SRI LANKA, RWANDA and RURAL ADVANCEMENT FOUNDATION INTERNATIONAL (RAFI), among others, condemned the use of "terminator technologies." The REPUBLIC OF KOREA called for assessment of trade liberalization's impact on agrobiodiversity in future work programmes.


CANADA noted a draft GEF framework for agrobiodiversity activities and suggested a working group or workshop be convened to provide feedback. BRAZIL proposed establishing a steering committee to promote increased cooperation and more efficient implementation. The CONSULTATIVE GROUP ON INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH (CGIAR) reaffirmed its mission to promote sustainable agriculture for food security in developing countries.


Tuesday 12 May - update

Agricultural Biodiversity: The Friends of the Chair of Agricultural Biodiversity engaged in constructive discussions following wide regional consultation, with the purpose of incorporating any new elements and ideas. A draft decision has been prepared and will be presented to WG-I on Thursday.


Thursday 14 May

On Thursday, 14 May, the Working Group reviewed a Friends of the Chair draft decision on Agricultural Biodiversity (UNEP/CBD/COP/4/WG.1/CRP.3). Debate revolved around use of the term "terminator technology" and the approach SBSTTA should take in determining the effects such technology has on agrobiodiversity. INDONESIA requested SBSTTA to make a complete assessment of possible threats and opposed adopting a precautionary approach for the technology's application. AUSTRALIA, INDONESIA, MALAYSIA, the US and CANADA supported deletion of the term "terminator technology." RWANDA, PAKISTAN, BURKINA FASO and TANZANIA supported its retention. AUSTRALIA proposed determining "impacts," not "threats" to biodiversity. Based on informal consultations between Parties, INDONESIA proposed a compromise, urging consideration rather than adoption of the precautionary approach, but deleting "terminator technology," and replacing "threats" with "consequences," which was adopted.


Friday 15 May

On Friday, 15 May, the draft decision (UNEP/CBD/COP/4/L.2/Add.2) was adopted. In addition to the compromise reached on 14 May, the final decision also: emphasizes balance between production and conservation objectives; reaffirms harmony with the IU and urges completion of IU negotiations before the end of 1999; and calls on international funding agencies and the financial mechanism to support capacity building. The decision also requests the Secretariat to report on the impact of trade liberalization on agrobiodiversity and to apply for observer status in the WTO's Committee on Agriculture.


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