The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety that was adopted by governments on 29 January 2000 is the main international legally binding treaty that regulates ?the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology? that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health?.

It is significant as the first global treaty to attempt to contribute to the protection of biodiversity and human health in this field, and as the first treaty to operationalise the precautionary approach in decision-making relating to imports under the Protocol. As of 22 February 2005, there are 113 Parties to the Protocol.

Although the Protocol focuses on transboundary movements of GMOs, its provisions do influence national and regional biosafety policies and laws, bearing in mind that the Protocol sets minimum requirements and Parties have the right to formulate more comprehensive national laws with higher standards. This is reaffirmed in Article 2(4).

Meanwhile, work and standard setting are also taking place in other international fora, such as the Codex Alimentarius, the International Plant Protection Convention and the International Office of Epizootics, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation.

The linkages among trade, environment and health means that developments at the World Trade Organisation also impact on biosafety and vice versa.

A field of growing importance is the development of biological weapons as part of biodefence programmes where the adequacy of global rules and standards needs examinination.

Ensuring good governance of synthetic biology at SBSTTA-26

As Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity gather in Nairobi for the Twenty-sixth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice from 13-18 May 2024, the issue of synthetic biology is high on the agenda. […]

TWN Briefing Note on Risk Assessment for SBSTTA-26

Key recommendations for SBSTTA-26 on risk assessment on living modified organisms containing engineered gene drives. […]

TWN Briefing Note on Synthetic Biology for SBSTTA-26, May 2024

Key recommendations for SBSTTA-26 on synthetic biology […]

Biodiversity Meeting Agrees on Limited Action on Technology and Synthetic Biology

Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have successfully established a process for horizon scanning, monitoring and assessment of the most recent technological developments in synthetic biology. […]

Bringing Horizon Scanning, Technology Assessment and Monitoring into the Future Work of the CBD

New briefing from ETC Group and Friends of the Earth calls on delegates to the upcoming UN biodiversity meetings in Montreal (3-19 December, 2022) to continue the CBD’s long and world-leading commitment to precaution. […]

Updated Briefing Note on Target 7 (pesticides) of the Post-2020 GBF

Briefing note from Pesticide Action Network UK and the Third World Network addressing the pesticides aspects of Target 7 of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). The analysis is on the ‘streamlined’ text proposed by the Informal Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. […]

Updated Briefing Note on Target 17 (biosafety) of the Post-2020 GBF

TWN briefing note on Target 17 of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). Target 17 is the biosafety target and would apply to all Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The analysis is on the ‘streamlined’ text proposed by the Informal Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. […]

The Need for Horizon Scanning and Technology Assessment to Address the Evolving Nature of Genetic Engineering

Examples of new developments in genetic engineering – gene drives, genetically engineered viruses and RNA interference – demonstrate why horizon scanning and technology assessment are urgently needed. […]

How the CBD Can Improve Governance of Synthetic Biology Developments

This report, published by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, aims to enable governments to be prepared for current and future developments in synthetic biology, namely through the process of technology horizon scanning, monitoring and assessment. […]

Updated Briefing Note on Target 17 (biosafety)

Updated briefing note on Target 17 (biosafety) of the First Draft of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. […]