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.

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. […]

Analysis and proposals for Target 17 of the First Draft of the post-2020 GBF

TWN’s analysis and proposals for Target 17 of the Global Biodiversity Framework, which addresses the issue of biosafety. […]

Major Differences Vex Discussions on Assessment of New Genetic Technologies

Discussions at the CBD on the assessment of new genetic technologies, such as synthetic biology and organisms containing engineered gene drives have brought to light major differences. […]

Biodiversity Talks Stymied by Inequities in Virtual Negotiations

Formal virtual negotiations under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have hit major stumbling blocks. This is largely due to the inequities of the virtual format, which have prevented meaningful participation by developing countries, especially the African Group. […]

Africa Calls Out Inequitable Virtual Negotiations on Biodiversity

The African Group, at a key meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), has expressed deep regret that because of the virtual setting, representation from the African Parties has been extremely limited. […]

Virtual Informal Session of SBI-3 Considers Implementation of CBD and its Protocols

The CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) held a virtual informal session from 8-12 March and 14 March 2021, covering various aspects related to the implementation of the Convention and its Cartagena and Nagoya Protocols. […]

Virtual Informal Session of SBSTTA-24 Considers Synthetic Biology and LMO Risk Assessment

The CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological advice is currently holding a virtual informal session (17-19 and 24-26 February 2021). Among the agenda items discussed were that of synthetic biology, and risk assessment and risk management of LMOs. The issue of gene drive organisms features prominently in both these agenda items, with civil society calling for a moratorium on environmental releases of such organisms. […]

Crucial Biodiversity Talks Begin for Post-2020 Actions

Amidst recent scientific reports highlighting the biodiversity crisis, new negotiations have begun for crucial implementation of the CBD in the period post-2020. […]