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Forests | 15 May 2000

Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity

Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity

Text and annexes.

The Convention on Biological Diversity was finalized in Nairobi in May 1992
and opened for signature at the United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro on 5 June1992. It entered into force
on 29 December 1993. Today, the Convention is the main international instrument
for addressing biodiversity issues. It provides a comprehensive and holistic
approach to the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of natural
resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits deriving from the use of
genetic resources.
Biosafety is one of the issues addressed by the Convention. This concept refers to
the need to protect human health and the environment from the possible adverse
effects of the products of modern biotechnology. At the same time, modern
biotechnology is recognized as having a great potential for the promotion of
human well-being, particularly in meeting critical needs for food, agriculture and
health care. The Convention clearly recognizes these twin aspects of modern
biotechnology. On the one hand, it provides for the access to and transfer of
technologies, including biotechnology, that are relevant to the conservation and
sustainable use of biological diversity (for example, in Article 16, paragragh 1,
and Article 19, paragraphs 1 and 2). On the other hand, Articles 8(g) and 19,
paragraph 3, seek to ensure the development of appropriate procedures to enhance
the safety of biotechnology in the context of the Convention’s overall goal of
reducing all potential threats to biological diversity, taking also into account the
risks to human health. Article 8(g) deals with measures that Parties should take at
national level, while Article 19, paragraph 3, sets the stage for the development of
an international legally binding instrument to address the issue of biosafety.
At its second meeting, held in November 1995, the Conference of the Parties to the
Convention established an Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety to
develop a draft protocol on biosafety, focusing specifically on transboundary
movement of any living modified organism resulting from modern biotechnology
that may have adverse effect on the conservation and sustainable use of biological
diversity. After several years of negotiations, the Protocol, known as the Cartagena
Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, was finalized and
adopted in Montreal on 29 January 2000 at an extraordinary meeting of the
Conference of the Parties.
The conclusion of the Biosafety Protocol has been hailed as a significant step
forward in that it provides an international regulatory framework to reconcile the
respective needs of trade and environmental protection with respect to a rapidly
growing global industry, the biotechnology industry. The Protocol thus creates
an enabling environment for the environmentally sound application of
biotechnology, making it possible to derive maximum benefit from the potential
that biotechnology has to offer, while minimizing the possible risks to the
environment and to human health.