From Bio Journal - November 2014

Twelfth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 12) held in Pyeongchang, South Korea

The Twelfth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 12) and the First Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing was held in Pyeongchang, South Korea from 6 to 17 October 2014. The more than 3000 participants included government representatives from 162 out of 194 state parties (including the EU) as well as citizensf organizations and others. The main items on the agenda this time were the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Nagoya Protocol, both adopted at the 2010 COP10 in Nagoya, as well as the new technology that has appeared on the scene, synthetic biology.

Aichi Biodiversity Targets: This is an attempt to set up targets in various fields for how far biodiversity can be protected on a global scale by 2020, this year being the year for the interim assessment. There was general agreement at the conference was that, as things are at present, the final targets will not be met.

Nagoya Protocol: The purpose of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing, which came into force on 12 October 2014, is the establishment of mechanisms for fair and just distribution of the profits gained from genetic resources. The meeting in Pyeongchang was the First Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (MOP1), but the discussions made little headway and there is concern about how things will turn out. The protocol bears the name of a Japanese location, but Japan has not yet ratified the protocol. On 2 October 2014, five organizations, including the Japan Bioindustry Association, issued a statement saying that Japan should not ratify the protocol.

Synthetic Biology: Following on from genetic engineering, this is a technology that threatens the natural world through the production of artificial life forms. Synthetic biology has been on the agenda since MOP10, but the discussion has just begun now that it has been decided at Pyeongchang to examine the matter in specialist groups.

Themes of the Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol

Prior to COP12, the Seventh Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was held over five days from 29 September 2014. The agenda included the following five themes: 1) Article 18 of the Protocol, on the handling, transportation, packaging and identification of LMOs (living modified organisms), 2) Article 27, on liability and redress that is supposed to be dealt with in the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (pending), 3) Article 15, on risk assessment, and Article 16, on risk management, 4) Article 26, on socio-economic considerations, and 5) Article 17, on unintentional transboundary movements and emergency measures.

1) Inspection and identification technologies were identified as an issue, with discussion focusing especially on necessary labeling for identification. In the end, it was concluded that there was no necessity for special labeling, but that special labeling would not be hindered.

2) The Supplementary Protocol will come into force when it has been ratified by 40 states, but as yet it has only been ratified by 26 states (Japan has not yet ratified the Supplementary Protocol), and therefore the content has not yet been brought to any table for specific discussion.

3) An advance meeting of an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) drew up a guidance on issues such as GM fish, but AHTEG became the focus of criticism as the guidance has no legal power. The continued existence of AHTAG came under threat, but in the end it was allowed to continue.

4) The existence of AHTEG, the establishment of which was decided at the previous meeting, was called into question, and although it was finally decided that it should continue, no concrete discussions were held.

5) Technologies relating to inspection and identification were discussed, but the discussions centered mainly on financial aid to developing countries.

Overall, almost no progress was seen and many issues have been passed on to the next meeting, MOP8 in Mexico in two yearsf time.

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(English Index)