Negotiation and Dialogue at the UN Biodiversity Conference

This is the second in a series of blogs about the participation of CAGJ/AGRA Watch in the 2016 United Nations Conference on Biodiversity in Cancun, Mexico. Read the first blog: Convention on Biological Diversity: what is it and why do we participate?

Phil Bereano, Simone Adler, and Johanna Lundahl during a Plenary session of the CBD.

By Simone Adler

Beginning this past Sunday and going through December 17th, the two week United Nations Conference on Biodiversity in Cancun, Mexico is organized into different levels and spaces of negotiation, dialogue, and presentation. Throughout, the participation of attendees to the Conference varies by process and rank.


The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (aka Access and Benefit Sharing, ABS), and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety are all being negotiated at this Conference. Each has its own governing body. For the CBD, it is the 13th Conference of Parties (COP 13); for the ABS it is the 8th Conference of Parties Serving as the Meeting of Parties (COP-MOP8), and for the Cartagena Protocol it is the 2nd Conference of Parties Serving as the Meeting of Parties (COP-MOP2). This UN Conference is unique in that all three COP and COP-MOP are meeting simultaneously, as the content of each are inextricably related.

Who is participating?

The primary participants in CBD, ABS, and Cartagena Protocol negotiations are the government delegates from the countries that are signed Parties, i.e. the members of COP-13, COP-MOP8, and COP-MOP2. These participants are known as “Parties”. Significantly, the US has not signed these agreements, thus is not a Party. However US governmental officials do attend, and have considerable influence over the deliberations. Continue reading “Negotiation and Dialogue at the UN Biodiversity Conference”


Convention on Biological Diversity: what is it and why do we participate?

This is the first in a series of blogs about the participation of CAGJ/AGRA Watch in the 2016 United Nations Conference on Biodiversity in Cancun, Mexico.

Johanna Lundahl, Heather Day, Simone Adler, and Phil Bereano at the UN Conference on Biodiversity.

By Simone Adler, CAGJ Organizing Director

Food sovereignty ensures that the right to use and manage lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those who produce the food”

Declaration of Nyéléni, 2007

Small farmers and peasants around the world have a reciprocal relationship with their environments – as stewards of biodiversity, they are also shaped by the natural biodiversity in which they grow food. This is why the global dialogue and decision-making processes around biodiversity necessitate participation from farmers, food sovereignty activists, and advocates for biodiversity protection.

Beginning on Sunday, the United Nations opened the 13th Conference of Parties (COP 13) meetings on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Cancun, Mexico. The CBD was signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. To date, there are 196 legally-bound parties (countries) to the CBD. The COP is the governing body of the CBD which meets to review progress, identify new priorities, and potentially make amendments.

The CBD recognizes through international law that conservation of biodiversity is a common concern across nations and for all peoples and ecosystems. In the context of sustainable development, the CBD includes measures for the sustainable use of biological resources and includes protection of all ecosystems, species, and genetic resources. Additionally, the CBD address traditional knowledge as important to conserving genetic resources. As a global instrument for national strategies around conservation and sustainability, the CBD has three main objectives:

  • The conservation of biological diversity
  • The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity
  • The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources

In 2003, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety went into effect as a supplemental protocol to the CBD. The Biosafety Protocol addresses the risks of trans-boundary movement of biotechnology and genetically modified organisms and the possible adverse effects to human health and conservation of biodiversity. Continue reading “Convention on Biological Diversity: what is it and why do we participate?”

Biotech Industry’s Need for Selective Science

The on-going debates regarding whether or not GM food is safe for human consumption involve GM proponents relying on short-term research studies which do not allow for sufficient data collection to gauge the long-term and multigenerational effects of GM food consumption. Because some other studies have indicated that there are likely to be adverse health effects after long-term GM consumption AGRA Watch believes that independent scientific long-term research studies must be performed in order to enlighten the GM debate.

In a recently published article titled, “The State of Science“, Dr. Stuart Newman highlights the proliferation of GM crops despite the absence of long-term studies analyzing the effects of these crops on human health. According to Dr. Newman’s analysis, proponents of genetically modified foods are quick to dismiss opponents’ “reservations about the massive introduction of GM food into the food chain” as “scientifically ignorant, economically suicidal, and cruel to the world’s hungry.” Consequently, the biotech industry has relied upon lax regulations and superficial “scientific” studies to achieve lucrative profits from the transformation of traditional US crops to GM crops. Dr. Newman succinctly summarizes the issue and states, “To protect its investment against a skeptical public, the biotech food industry has depended on compliant regulators, on its proponents’ ridicule of biotech industry critics’ supposed scientific ignorance, and on expensive campaigns against labeling of prepared foods that would draw undue attention to the presence of GM components.”

If interested in learning more, please visit the Council for Responsible Genetics.

Agro​ecological Farming Methods to Alleviate Hunger

Supporters of the biotech industry argue that GE crops will be the solution to alleviating hunger. However, many others claim that scientific, philosophical and common-sense reasoning all link GE crops to hurting food security and perpetuating hunger worldwide.

The biotech industry has been quick to promote the opinions of any GE critics who change their views, and last week, Mark Lynas, once a steadfast critic of genetically engineered crops, announced that a viable solution to the issue of world hunger is through the use of GE crops


Contrary to Lynas’ assertions, numerous recent studies indicate that agroecological approaches to farming, NOT the use of GE crops, are the solution to alleviating hunger in a significant and sustainable way. A compelling and extensive research study funded in part by the US Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative revealed that conventional farming methods prioritizing crop rotation not only resulted in higher yields but also required fewer hazardous chemical inputs (See: More case studies of successful agroecological studies can be found at

AGRA Watch and African NGOs support an agroecological approach to farming as a method to address food security and food justice! For more information, see the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter (see: as well as in the findings of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (see

Nigeria Plans to Grow Cassava Industry through Biotechnology

ImageThe cassava root is an important staple product in Africa, and its use is slowly increasing in the rest of the world. It has a wide variety of uses and can be processed into food products like breads and cakes, or used for the production of adhesives and biofuels. Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of this root, and the country has seen a growing dialogue about whether or not it should utilize biotechnology to increase yields, extend shelf life, and combat pests. This has also prompted the need for to pass a Biosafety law in Nigeria, after which the Ministry of Agriculture and Development plans to grow the cassava industry and transform Nigeria into a leader in the global food market.

Read more here:

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