Safeguarding Biodiversity: The Convention
on Biological Diversity (CBD)
Susan Bragdon, Kathryn Garforth and John E. Haapala Jr
Biodiversity encompasses the whole of life on this planet. Today's biodiversity has developed
from over four billion years of evolution. Yet the actions and development of one species, ours, is
now the biggest threat to the immense biodiversity on the planet – something of irreplaceable
value in itself as well as vital for our wellbeing, whether for our food, health or climate. Moves
to safeguard all aspects of biodiversity do not take place in a vacuum nor are they uninfluenced
by social and economic developments. Indeed, as this and the next chapter show, and earlier
chapters have indicated, the expansion of intellectual property (IP) into the biological sphere
and the reactions to that have overshadowed at times and helped shape the types of interna
tional agreements affecting IP and biodiversity. This chapter gives a background to the
negotiation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety,
their key aims, and issues arising in their implementation.
A growing appreciation of the monetary and non-monetary value of genetic resources – catalysed by enormous strides in molecular biology and genetic engineering – provided the backdrop to the negotiations of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, signed May 1992, entered into force 1993). An understanding of the dynamics behind increasing conflict over rights and responsibilities for these resources is necessary before discussing the CBD itself. It is also relevant to the discussion of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA or the Treaty) in Chapter 6.
The current international debate on legal regimes for genetic resources has its origins in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when developing countries became concerned by moves in industrialized countries to extend IP protection to living organisms. New legislation, court rulings and international agreements such as UPOV (see Chapter 2) had made it possible to