Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), adopted during the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, promotes the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity for the benefit of present and future generations. It was created because of the global recognition by countries of the threats to biodiversity given its importance for evolution, for maintaining life sustaining systems of the biosphere and for livelihoods.
Conference of the Parties
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the governing body of the CBD, which has 188 members (187 countries and the European Union). Notably the USA has not ratified the CBD. Meetings of the COP are held every two years in different continents and Parties as well as observers from international organizations, indigenous peoples' leaders and environmental, development and other civil society organisations attend. Since the entry into law of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in 2003, the COP has also acted as the forum for the Meeting of the Parties (MOP) of the Protocol.
Other international bodies are tasked by the CBD to provide legal instruments that address specific issues. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) worked with governments to make an international law governing plant genetic resources, commonly called the International Seed Treaty (in full the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture).
The agenda of the CBD/COP meetings has been expanding session by session. From the first meeting (COP 1) the workload has expanded threefold. In COP 1 (in 1994) there were 33 documents and 13 Decisions and in COP 7 (in 2004) there were 92 documents and 36 Decisions. The COP in 2006 has 92 documents on the agenda plus another 34 documents for the Biosafety Protocol meeting - all in 6 languages.
This increase in documentation and decisions is in recognition of the complexity and importance of the issues ranging from the conservation of biodiversity in different ecosystems and its sustainable use by people for many purposes to international regimes on access to genetic resources and mechanisms for benefit sharing.
The inter-relationship of agriculture and biodiversity has been a continual theme within the CBD since the mid 1990s. Successive decisions culminated in an agreed plan and programme of work in the year 2000. This seeks to mitigate the negative impacts of agriculture on biodiversity and strengthen the contribution of biodiversity to agriculture, especially as practiced by the millions of small-scale food producers around the world who develop and manage what is called agricultural biodiversity.
Identified threats to agricultural biodiversity are addressed, for example, the CBD also agreed in 2000 that Parties should not approve Genetic use Restriction Technologies (Terminator Technology) for field-testing and commercialisation. Terminator is a GM technology designed to sterilise farm-saved seeds, thereby protecting corporate seed sales.
Practical Action at CBD/COP
CBD / COP 8
The eighth Conference of the Parties to the CBD / COP 8 was held in Curitiba, Brazil from 20 - 31 March 2006. It was preceded by the third meeting of the Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety from 13 - 17 March 2006.
CBD / COP7
The seventh Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD/COP7) and the first Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety were held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 9th to 27th February 2004.
CBD / COP 6
The sixth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity met in the Hague, from 7th to 19th April 2002.
CBD / COP 5
The fifth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity met in Nairobi, Kenya from from 15th to 26th May 2000.