Biology Reference
In-Depth Information
7.2 ABS Debate
At the eighth Conference of the Parties to the CBD (COP 8), held at Curitiba,
Brazil, from 13 to 17 March 2006, it was decided that the negotiations on an inter-
national ABS regime should be completed by COP 10, scheduled to meet in 2010.
And indeed, the negotiations did result in the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol
in October 2010. However, the ABS debate is still raging simultaneously in vari-
ous major intergovernmental forums, such as the World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO) and the WTO, where these issues are being tackled in dif-
ferent ways and from widely diverse perspectives, with the result that the agencies
concerned are all going in different directions - and, at times, in circles.
The centrifugal force needed to break out of these circles is likely to come
once something that should have been done initially is achieved: namely, defining
clearly the terms being used in this debate in order to resolve many of the current
ambiguities (Pisupati 2008 ; Schroeder 2007 ). It is evident from the history of the
CBD that as the end of the original negotiations approached, definitions were prob-
lematic and, in fact, became an impediment to the conclusion of the CBD itself.
Rather than resolving this issue, the negotiators instead agreed to remove the prob-
lematic definitions, or let them remain vague. For example, no further effort was
made to clarify the definition of 'conservation of biological diversity'. The adop-
tion of the relatively weak definition '“technology” includes biotechnology' was a
way to avoid controversy on the definition of this critical concept and many others.
In this section, we explore a number of cases that are relevant to our current
concerns regarding ABS. We examine the debate on what is covered by the defini-
tion of 'biological diversity' and how this question is being addressed by different
organizations. Another important aspect of this debate is the determination of how
benefits may best be distributed and how the proper recipients of these benefits will
be identified, but a discussion of these issues is beyond the scope of this chapter.
7.2.1 Concepts and Coverage
It is important to understand the definitions adopted by the CBD in order to appre-
ciate the broader implications for our current concerns regarding ABS. It should
be recognized that the focus of the CBD as originally proposed was significantly
broader and more comprehensive than it became later, after an extremely wide pro-
cess of consultation. When the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of
the Convention on Biological Diversity met in Nairobi in 1992, the document had
already gone through three meetings of technical experts and seven negotiating ses-
sions, held between November 1988 and May 1992. This process was led by the
General Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), initially
through the Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity (between
November 1988 and July 1990), followed by the Ad Hoc Working Group of Legal
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