The Convention on Biological Diversity was finalized in Nairobi in May 1992 and opened for signature at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro on 5 June 1992. It entered into force on 29 December 1993. Today, the Convention is the main international instrument

For addressing biodiversity issues. It provides a comprehensive and holistic approach to the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of natural resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits deriving from the use of genetic resources. Biosafety is one of the issues addressed by the Convention. This concept refers to the need to protect human health and the environment from the possible adverse
Effects of the products of modern biotechnology. At the same time, modern biotechnology is recognized as having a great potential for the promotion of human well-being, particularly in meeting critical needs for food, agriculture and health care. The Convention clearly recognizes these twin aspects of modern  Biotechnology. On the one hand, it provides for the access to and transfer of technologies, including biotechnology, that are relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity (for example, in Article 16, paragragh 1, and Article 19, paragraphs 1 and 2). On the other hand, Articles 8(g) and 19, paragraph 3, seek to ensure the development of appropriate procedures to enhance the safety of biotechnology in the context of the Convention’s overall goal of reducing all potential threats to biological diversity, taking also into account the risks to human health.

Article 8(g) deals with measures that Parties should take at national level, while Article 19, paragraph 3, sets the stage for the development of an international legally binding instrument to address the issue of biosafety. At its second meeting, held in November 1995, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention established an Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety to develop a draft protocol on biosafety, focusing specifically on transboundary movement of any living modified organism resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effect on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. After several years of negotiations, the Protocol, known as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, was finalized and adopted in Montreal on 29 January 2000 at an extraordinary meeting of the Conference of the Parties.

The conclusion of the Biosafety Protocol has been hailed as a significant step forward in that it provides an international regulatory framework to reconcile the respective needs of trade and environmental protection with respect to a rapidly growing global industry, the biotechnology industry. The Protocol thus creates an enabling environment for the environmentally sound application of biotechnology, making it possible to derive maximum benefit from the potential that biotechnology has to offer, while minimizing the possible risks to the environment and to human health.

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