Biodiversity and Biotechnology

The Biodiversity Action Network (BioNet), a network of U.S. NGOs advocating protection of biodiversity in law and policy, was initiated and coordinated by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and the Sierra Club, to support NGO advocacy to improve protection of biodiversity through law and policy. BioNet will facilitate member efforts to share information and ideas to help refine their positions and build alliances.

An international workshop on "Biodiversity Country Studies: Tools for Preparation of National Action Plans" was organized in November 1992 in San Josť, Costa Rica, to make recommendations on draft revised guidelines for preparation of country studies.

Barely 18 months after its signing in Rio de Janeiro, the Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force on 29 December 1993. The first meeting of Governments that have ratified the Convention (the first Conference of Parties) is tentatively scheduled from 28 November to 9 December 1994 in the Bahamas.

An international conference on "The Convention on Biological Diversity: National Interests and Global Imperatives" took place in January 1993 in Nairobi, Kenya. It was co-organized by UNEP and the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), a not-for-profit institution established in 1988 that focuses on identifying alternative policy options for promoting technological innovation and environmental conservation to achieve sustainable development. Among other topics, implementation of the Convention and elaboration of the future protocols to the Convention were discussed.

Experts in the field of biodiversity from all over the world gathered in Trondheim, Norway, from 24-28 May 1993, for the Norway/UNEP Expert Conference on Biodiversity. It was hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Environment on behalf of the Norwegian Government, in cooperation with UNEP. The conference focussed on biodiversity research and management related to implementing the convention.

The Global Biodiversity Forum was held in October of 1993, at the headquarters of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in Gland, Switzerland. The purpose was to further dialogue on the topic of biodiversity among interested sectors of society and to analyze and debate critical ecological, economic, institutional and social issues to further the development and implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Global Biodiversity Strategy. The event was staged by the joint World Resources Institute/IUCN/UNEP Biodiversity Conservation Programme, in collaboration with co-sponsors, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), the UNDP, and the Governments of Canada, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

About half a million Indian farmers took part in a rally in Bangalore, India on 2 October 1993 to protest proposals in the multilateral Uruguay Round. Eight resolutions to fight the patenting of agricultural seeds and plant resources and to oppose the entry of multinational companies in Indian agriculture were supported. The rally also adopted an alternative action program which includes a continuation of the free exchange of seeds between Third World farmers, the blocking of an outflow of biological wealth from the South through direct action, and the protection and development of "community intellectual property rights" of farmers. It was announced that the Karnataka farmers had decided to establish an international research centre with the cooperation of scientists in order to help develop community seed banks and to protect the intellectual rights of the communities.

The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) has formed an international Biotechnology Advisory Commission (BAC). Among its tasks will be to assist governments and other relevant national bodies to evaluate technologies, advise on the potential risks and benefits that are expected to result from such introductions and mainly review specific agricultural biotechnology projects to advise on risks, particularly those related to biosafety. The mandate of the BAC will be to provide this impartial advice while taking into full account evolving international codes of conduct. It will consist of about ten world experts covering agriculture, biology, economics, environment, environmental technology, health/nutrition, international development programs, law and sociology.

An intergovernmental meeting of scientific experts on biological diversity, hosted by the Mexican Government, was held from 11 to 15 April in Mexico City. The meeting was the first intergovernmental meeting on the Convention since it entered into force on 29 December 1993. The scientists advised the ICCBD about scientific information and activities to give effect to the objectives of conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of biological resources and the sharing of benefits from commercial use of genetic resources.

The second session of the ICCBD was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 20 June to 1 July 1994 to consider scientific programs and international cooperation in research relevant to the Convention. It also prepared an agenda for scientific and technological research on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and identified innovative, efficient and state-of-the-art technologies and know-how relating to conserving and using biodiversity sustainably.

The Second International Biodiversity Measuring And Monitoring Course was held from May 2 to June 3, 1994 at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Biodiversity surveying and sampling, measuring and monitoring were discussed.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International, SWISSAID and WWF-Switzerland organized an International Symposium on the implications of the commercialization of biodiversity for people's livelihoods and for conservation. Conclusions and recommended policy changes should help secure both the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods.

In May 1994 indigenous and black communities in Colombia began an inventory of the medicinal plants of the western Choco region, and are cultivating some species in order to produce medicines for sale to local populations. Headed by the environmental project Biopacifico, the "Living Pharmacies" program began with workshops to train local residents on how to take an inventory of local plants that have preventive and curative properties. The species will be cultivated domestically and used to produce medicines for sale to the public through a network of markets to be introduced throughout the region. The program is supported by the Colombian Environmental Ministry, the UNDP, and the World Wildlife Fund.