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• 28•05•2003 •

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International Negotiating Agenda of CBD, FAO, WTO, CSD

To be updated

STOP PRESS: Porto Alegre Treaty to Share the Genetic Commons


Logos of FAO, WTO, CBD, CSD
Logos of Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Trade Organisation, Convention on Biological Diversity, Commission Sustainable Development

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Agricultural biodiversity is the basis for food and livelihood security but it also forms the main resource for the biotechnology and plant breeding industries. It is being manipulated, utilised and traded in ways hitherto unforseen and it is therefore important for human survival that care is taken in providing a technical, regulatory and legal framework, for its conservation and sustainable use, that is competent to deal with these new pressures. Countries need to exercise their rights in many intergovernmental forums and through the implementation of international agreements to ensure this happens. And they could do this in the year 2000!


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International Governance of Agricultural Biodiversity

Internationally the main bodies that impact on the governance of agricultural biodiversity are:

In the UK the government departments with similar responsibilities are, respectively:
  • The Environment Agency The Agency is responsible for UK's obligations under the CBD and for the UK's Biodiversity Action Plan

The intergovernmental processes that intend, on the one hand, to safeguard agricultural biodiversity and, on the other hand, to privatise these resources have a long history. International protection of privately owned resources, guaranteed through legally enforceable plant breeders' rights (PBRs) and patents, is in the ascendancy, because of the World Trade Organisation's WTO/ TRIPs (Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property rights) Agreement especially its Article 27 concerning patents on life forms. In contrast there are the following international agreements, among others:

  • The ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) by 171 Parties and the Decisions by the Conference of the Parties (COP) on Agricultural Biological Diversity (Decisions III/11 and IV/6). These decisions have resulted in a Plan of Work to be ratified by COP 5 in Nairobi in May 2000.
  • The FAO International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources [for Food and Agriculture] (IU) agreed to by 111 countries and currently being revised to bring it in harmony with the CBD. In 2000 these negotiations shold be finalised.
  • The agreement to the Leipzig Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (GPA) by 159 Members of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). Countries should implement this Plan as part of their obligations under the CBD Agricultural Biodiversity Work Plan and the IU.

Each of these agreements and decisions, which are mutually supportive, may be better suited than the World Trade Organisation's Agreement on the TradeRelated aspects of Intellectual Property rights (WTO / TRIPs Agreement) to providing long-term equitable sharing of the benefits of agricultural biodiversity, as the purpose of the FAO and CBD agreements is to safeguard and develop genetic resources and agricultural biodiversity for future generations through, inter alia, facilitating their sustainable use.


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2000 is a year in which the fndamental principles of governance of Agirucltural Biodiversity could be established and realised by Nation states. The acknowledgement by many countries after the WTO Seattle debacle that the CBD is better suited to establishing priorities, legal jurisdiction and programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of genetic reosurces for food and agriculture, could be realised in a series of CBD meetings in January (Extraordiary COP to discuss the Biosafety Protocol and SBSTTA V), March (Discussions on Benefit Sharing Article 8j) and May (COP V). Countries have an opportunity to establish the primacy of the CBD on these matters. At the FAO, the CGRFA will continue its discussions (on dates to be decided) on the IU and will hopefully conclude these in harmony with the CBD. The Council for TRIPs of the WTO (starting in January) will deliberate on the review of Article 27.3(b) concerning exclusions to patenting and might extend these exclusions to all living matter and genetic resources, deferring to the CBD for rulings on the ownership, use and benefit sharing of these.

A full calendar of events is available at The Genetic Engineering and Intellectual Property Rights Resource Center, managed by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) is a valuable resource for all types of information concerning GE and IPRs, as well as biodiversity, biotechnology, patents, and national and international legislation. Within this site, you will find upcoming Events from around the world in the fields of biotechnology, biodiversity, genetic engineering, etc.

Also in this IATP managed site there is a comprehensive listing of related Organizations, including contact information. Resources, including a library with documentation on biotechnology, biodiversity, legislation texts, genetic engineering, intellectual property rights, meeting reports, patent information, product labeling, plant variety protection, trade, and the TRIPs Agreement. Resources also contains Bulletins, with fully searchable, current bulletins on related subjects, Other Resources, including books, bulletins, reports, etc., and Related Sites with hundreds of links to similar organizations. Headlines compiled daily, for the latest news on genetic engineering. You may also subscribe to the list serv, Biotech Activists (send an email to In the body of the message type: subscribe biotech_activists). A full-text searchable Search engine for all the information in this resource center. Customizable listings under What's New for additions throughout the resource center. This site is fully interactive, allowing you to add your own information to the pages in the resource center.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy was established in 1986 as a nonprofit and tax exempt research and education organization. Its mission is to create environmentally and economically sustainable communities and regions through sound agriculture and trade policy. The Institute assists public interest organizations in effectively influencing both domestic and international policymaking through the following activities: Monitoring, Analysis and Research; Education and Outreach; Training and Technical Assistance; and Coalition Building and International Networking.

Other calendars of key events include:


CSD: and for CSD 8:

CSD NGO Sustainable Agriculture Caucus:


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Four elements for a programme of work are proposed for consideration by the SBSTTA. They apply the ecosystem approach, emphasizing the ecological functions of biodiversity in agriculture. The four programme elements are intended to be mutually reinforcing and to be implemented in parallel. Prioritization of activities within each programme element will be necessary, as set out in the sections on ways and means and timing of expected outputs. They have the following operational objectives:

(a) Element 1: To provide a comprehensive analysis of status and trends of the world's agricultural biodiversity, as a basis for the identification of areas requiring priority attention and the development of appropriate policies, plans and programmes by Parties, through a coordinated programme of ongoing and planned assessments of different components of agricultural biodiversity, and the development of the necessary methods and tools;

(b) Element 2: To identify management practices, technologies and policies that promote the positive and mitigate the negative impacts of agriculture on biodiversity, and enhance productivity and the capacity to sustain livelihoods, by expanding knowledge, understanding and awareness of the multiple goods and services provided by the different levels and functions of agricultural biodiversity;

(c) Element 3: To strengthen the capacities of farmers, their communities, and other stakeholders, to manage agricultural biodiversity so as to increase their benefits, and promote awareness and responsible action by producer organizations and agro-enterprises;

(d) Element 4: To support the development of national plans and strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity and to promote their integration in sectoral and cross-sectoral plans and programmes. The proposed elements of the programme of work have been developed bearing in mind the need: to support the development and integration of national strategies, programmes and action plans; to build upon existing, internationally agreed plans of action, programmes, strategies and other agreements; to ensure harmony with the other thematic areas of the Convention; and to promote synergy and coordination, and to avoid duplication, between existing relevant programmes of international organizations and to respect their mandates.

Highlights from Tuesday 1 February, by Earth Negotiations Bulletin - Excerpt below

WORKING GROUP ONE (Tuesday 1 February 2000)

DRYLANDS BIODIVERSITY: The Secretariat introduced the background note on the development of a programme of work for dryland, Mediterranean, arid, semi-arid, grassland and savannah ecosystems (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/5/9), including inter alia: scope, importance, status and trends; ongoing activities of international organisations and conventions and possible synergies; and a draft programme of work. BRAZIL and AUSTRALIA suggested explicit references to capacity-building and bioprospecting, dissemination of information and best practices, and the ecosystem approach. A number of countries highlighted capacity-building for assessment and monitoring, development programmes focusing local capacities and new technologies to enhance productivity, education and awareness-raising. The UK, CANADA, GERMANY, ETHIOPIA and NORWAY stressed involvement of indigenous and local communities in drylands management. ETHIOPIA, the RUSSIAN FEDERATION, NORWAY and FRANCE suggested more emphasis on synergies with other international conventions. Several countries proposed further collaboration with the CCD, which welcomed cooperation and highlighted relevant CCD experience and activities at the grassroots, national and sub-regional levels.

CANADA emphasized integrating resource management approaches and establishing an international network to facilitate information sharing. ARGENTINA stressed the importance of information exchange at the national and international levels and proposed that the CHM refer to other international organizations’ programmes. AUSTRALIA said activities should focus on outcomes. The NETHERLANDS said SBSTTA should refrain from addressing non-technical matters and should therefore not refer to GEF funding, although MALI, TURKEY and ALGERIA disagreed. The NETHERLANDS, the RUSSIAN FEDERATION, COLOMBIA and KENYA proposed establishing an expert group on drylands management, although they differed on whether it should be a roster or panel. GREECE said that assessments could be conducted in separate fora for each of the ecosystems in the programme. The NETHERLANDS, PORTUGAL and the WORLD METEOROLOGICAL ORGANIZATION (WMO) noted the need for reference to in situ conservation. ZIMBABWE and MALI called for an analysis of the underlying causes of biodiversity loss. GERMANY stressed the issue of subsidies and the relation between gender and biodiversity. BURKINA FASO suggested including pollution as a cause of biodiversity loss. The EC and SWITZERLAND asked for clarification of definitions. BELGIUM drew attention to endemic biodiversity. The WMO drew attention to the impact of climate variability on drylands.

Regarding the alternatives for an abbreviated title, most delegations expressed preference for "biodiversity of dry and sub-humid land." Chair Mary Fosi (Cameroon) established an informal group to draft recommendations.

AGRICULTURAL BIODIVERSITY: The Secretariat presented the background note, (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/5/10), which contains: suggested recommendations; the main conclusions of a multi-year assessment requested at COP-3; and further development of the agricultural biodiversity programme of work. The Secretariat stressed that the recommendations in the document aim not to replace, but to facilitate Decision III/11 on agricultural biodiversity. BRAZIL outlined the findings of the São Paulo workshop on pollinators which resulted in a declaration for possible endorsement at COP-5. BANGLADESH suggested GEF financing for regional projects and highlighted the need to support the role of women in agriculture. The EC said the fact that agricultural biodiversity encompasses biodiversity components beyond relevance to food and agriculture should be reflected in the document. On this point, the NETHERLANDS and FRANCE noted the need to include social and biological services provided by agro-biodiversity. VENEZUELA drew attention to how agro-biodiversity provides recycling services for gas emissions. The RUSSIAN FEDERATION noted the importance of the soil layer for agro-biodiversity. GERMANY, the EC, the NETHERLANDS, SWEDEN, FINLAND and FRANCE stated that agro-biodiversity should be dealt with in an interdisciplinary manner. SWEDEN called for greater emphasis on the underlying causes of agro-biodiversity degradation, and along with FRANCE requested reference to the multi-functional approach, which was rejected by ARGENTINA, AUSTRALIA, CANADA, NEW ZEALAND and the US. INDONESIA, AUSTRALIA, CANADA, the US and the UK stated that recommendations were too ambitious and would benefit from prioritization. COLOMBIA highlighted that the impact of industrialized agriculture on agro-biodiversity must not be forgotten. PAPUA NEW GUINEA stated that the issues of benefit sharing and intellectual property rights of commercialized natural resources had not been sufficiently covered. MALI drew attention to the lack of public awareness and stressed the need to integrate technology with traditional and local knowledge. BURKINA FASO highlighted the importance of indigenous knowledge.

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STOP PRESS: Biosafety Protocol agreed! Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was agreed by 130 governments on Saturday 29th January 2000. Click Here for More

Link to: Biosafety discussions and Extraordinary COP, 20 - 28 January 2000 (


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  • FAO INTERNATIONAL UNDERTAKINGThe International Undertaking is being negotiated by the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This page describes the present state of negotiations and their history, through a series of reports, papers and other linked web resources.


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  • The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology The Research Foundation for Science,Technology and Ecology was founded in Dehra Dun, Uttar Pradesh (INDIA) in 1982 under the directorship of Dr. Vandana Shiva. The Foundation has been involved in biodiversity conservation and protecting people's rights from the devastating threats to livelihoods and the environment posed by centralised systems of monoculture in forestry, agriculture and fisheries.


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