Published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development
Vol. 9 No. 120
Wednesday, 23 June 1999
TUESDAY, 22 JUNE 1999
SBSTTA-4 delegates broke into two working groups. Martin Uppenbrink (Germany) chaired
discussions of drylands ecosystems and alien species. Zipangani Vokhiwa (Malawi) chaired
discussions on new plant technology and sustainable use, including tourism.
WORKING GROUP I
DRYLANDS: Several speakers identified areas where the Secretariat's document could be
improved (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/4/7). CANADA said a wider range of conservation techniques needs
to be applied than the paper implies. COSTA RICA said the section on rehabilitation and
restoration should be developed. MEXICO, CHILE and others suggested that its focus on
protected areas was too limited. NAMIBIA suggested considering the impact of land use.
AFRICA RESOURCES TRUST added sustainable use options. BRAZIL and ETHIOPIA said the
document did not give enough attention to the issue of genetic resources.
Additional issues proposed for consideration included CANADA's call to recognize the
Arctic as a dryland ecosystem. PERU said sub-humid areas should be considered. The EC said
hyperarid lands should be considered. BRAZIL stressed the importance of savannah
ecosystems. The NETHERLANDS added wildlife utilization and supported BRAZIL's proposal to
consider fire control and management. BURKINA FASO called attention to the drought
problem. ARGENTINA suggested addressing benefit sharing under this issue. INDIA stressed
capacity-building and information sharing. INDONESIA said in situ and ex situ conservation
are equally important. The HOLY SEE supported others who stressed focusing on
socio-economic aspects and granting priority to local communities and indigenous groups.
ZIMBABWE drew attention to the relationship between biodiversity degradation and poverty.
KENYA suggested identifying the impact of civil wars and inflows of refugees. CHINA and
the ARAB CENTRE FOR STUDIES OF ARID ZONES AND DRYLANDS proposed a region in China and the
Middle East, respectively, for special case studies. Many speakers, including CANADA,
SWITZERLAND, SWEDEN, GERMANY, MALI and BRAZIL, stressed the need to complement and not
duplicate the work of other conventions and organizations.
Regarding next steps, SOUTH AFRICA, ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA, ALGERIA and others supported
developing a separate work programme on drylands. JAPAN called for clearly identifying
what a programme will deliver. ETHIOPIA supported establishing a technical expert group.
CANADA, supported by COSTA RICA, the UK, SWITZERLAND and others, suggested establishing a
liaison group to help develop recommendations for the work programme. AUSTRALIA said the
liaison group should identify priorities and gaps. NORWAY said it should have clear terms
of reference to avoid establishing a pseudo-expert group.
ALIEN SPECIES: Harold Mooney, on behalf of the Global Invasive Species
Programme (GISP), opened the discussion with a presentation on the GISP's activities. He
discussed the situation in the Galapagos Islands to illustrate ecological problems and
control costs of invasive species and stressed the importance of capacity-building.
Delegates then considered the Executive Secretary's paper on developing principles for the
prevention of impacts of alien species and further development of the GISP
Several speakers supported the development of a database on control and prevention
strategies, and making it available through the CHM. The US said a work programme should
focus on areas where the CBD can add value, including standardization of terminology and
developing technical and financial resources for a distributive network of information.
GERMANY requested the Secretariat to compile more case studies on invasive species and
make them available on the CHM. The UK, SOUTH AFRICA and others supported New Zealand's
informal paper on principles to prevent the introduction of invasive species, but noted
the difficulty in predicting whether a species is likely to be invasive. MICRONESIA
highlighted the importance of this issue in Pacific Island countries and suggested using
his region as a trial site for implementing recommendations.
SOUTH AFRICA and PORTUGAL noted the need for transboundary control. HUNGARY, AUSTRALIA
and NAMIBIA said regional initiatives should be considered. SOUTH AFRICA, the US,
INDONESIA and TOGO stressed the need for public awareness programmes. FRANCE, the REPUBLIC
OF KOREA and others supported using the precautionary principle on this issue.
Several speakers noted relevant work underway in other conventions and organizations.
CANADA supported the work done by the GISP and highlighted work by the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The EC, the FAO and the INTERNATIONAL
CENTER OF INSECT PHYSIOLOGY AND ECOLOGY noted areas for cooperation with the International
Plant Protection Convention. IUCN drew attention to its guidelines for reducing biological
loss due to the invasion of alien species, which will be finalized next year. The RAMSAR
CONVENTION noted that COP-7 adopted a resolution specifying that Ramsar's Scientific and
Technical Review Panel should collaborate with SBSTTA, GISP and IUCN on invasive species.
On whether to establish an expert group, JAPAN said the budgetary implications should
be clarified before deciding on its establishment. INDIA said a new expert group would
duplicate efforts. SWEDEN opposed establishing a new group. NEW ZEALAND, supported by
SOUTH AFRICA, the NETHERLANDS, COTE D'IVOIRE and others, recommended asking the GISP to
develop principles for COP-5's consideration. Several speakers, including SWITZERLAND and
NORWAY, supported establishing a liaison group to coordinate action on this
WORKING GROUP II
CONSEQUENCES OF NEW PLANT TECHNOLOGY: Richard Jefferson, Chair
of the Center for the Application of Molecular Biology to
International Agriculture (CAMBIA), gave a presentation on the genetic use of restriction technologies
(GURTs), including both variety-level V-GURTs and trait-specific T-GURTs. He suggested
that commercially viable V-GURTs could have some merit in decreasing the frequency of
transgene spreading, but outstanding issues remain, such as: toxicity of inducing
compounds and cellular toxins; environmental spreading of V-GURT traits; and patents as a
means of control of V-GURTs. He noted that GURT technology will not be commercially
available for 5 years.
BOLIVIA asked about research on avoiding the spread of unknown traits into wild
organisms. Jefferson said field trials of GURTs do not exist. The NETHERLANDS asked how
far this technology had been applied to animal and human genes. Jefferson was unaware of
any value for such research. EL SALVADOR questioned whether GURT gene flows may enhance
the decline of wild relatives. Jefferson indicated that pollen transfer may occur and
requires policies on planting. HUNGARY asked whether GURTs could be used to halt the
spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Jefferson said commercial constraints
make this unlikely. PERU questioned potential impacts on potato varieties. Jefferson
suggested that farmers may prefer GURTs over other varieties. NORWAY asked whether
problems arise from the imprecise location of genomes. Jefferson indicated that classical
plant breeding has similar problems. INDIA asked how the technology would affect food
The Secretariat introduced documentation on consequences of the use of the new
technology for the control of plant gene expression on biodiversity
(UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/4/9/Rev.1 and UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/4/9/Inf.3). GERMANY and others requested
studies on the impacts of new plant technologies. Several delegations disagreed with
parallels drawn between hybrids and GURTs. NEW ZEALAND and CANADA recommended a study on
factors effecting genetic erosion. The DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO with others
highlighted the importance of the Biosafety Protocol. The Rural Advancement Foundation
International (RAFI) opposed CANADAs recommendation that new plant technologies be
addressed by the FAOs Commission on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and
Agriculture. The NETHERLANDS said UNEP could coordinate future scientific assessments.
UNEP said it would support future assessments.
BOLIVIA expressed concern that GURTs would not be used to stop the spread of GMOs in
the wild. The NETHERLANDS expressed concern over the negative effects of GURTs on
traditional plant breeding. INDONESIA, supported by the EC and CAMEROON, stressed
capacity-building in developing countries. SURINAME supported biotechnology transfer. The
US said other pervasive threats to biodiversity should be SBSTTAs focus. Supported
by RUSSIA and the World Seed Industry Organizations, he emphasized their overwhelming
positive aspects. CANADA emphasized that national regulation should focus on products. The
INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR GENETIC ENGINEERING BIOTECHNOLOGY said current knowledge
regarding the escape of wild genes was lacking. INDIA supported preventing the flow of
GURT technology. NORWAY and RAFI recommended a moratorium until their safe use is
guaranteed. HUNGARY, with MEXICO, TOGO, the EC and AUSTRIA called for the use of the
SUSTAINABLE USE/TOURISM: The Secretariat introduced the discussion on the
development of approaches and practices for the sustainable use of biological diversity,
including tourism (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/4/11). The EC underlined the importance of an
integrated approach to maximize advantages for all parties concerned. He added that local
populations should share in benefits from tourism, both financially and socially. The
NETHERLANDS, along with the UK, the US, NEW ZEALAND and SWITZERLAND, stressed
interlinkages between tourism and the sustainable use of biodiversity, and suggested
including a major part of the Executive Secretary's report in an annex for COP adoption
and forwarding it to the CSD. The EC said proposals for the CSD should come from the COP
and not SBSTTA. INDIA said the SBSTTA should collaborate with the CSD. CANADA stressed the
importance of linkages with other fora to avoid duplication. The NETHERLANDS emphasized,
along with CANADA, ZIMBABWE, SURINAME, TONGA, COTE D'IVOIRE and the UK, the involvement of
local and indigenous communities. PERU called for the use of the term sustainable
eco-tourism and encouraged local management through capacity-building. GERMANY noted the
importance of involving all stakeholders, as well as the importance of public awareness
and the application of planning tools, such as environmental impact assessment (EIAs),
economic incentives and environmental auditing. FRANCE stressed EIAs, indicators for
adopting touristic processes and use of best practices in the management of open spaces,
especially zoning and load capacity.
NATIONAL SUPPORT GROUP ON SUSTAINABLE TOURISM called for EIA legislation for tourism
projects. GUYANA, supported by BOLIVIA, called for the development of guidelines,
protocols and codes of conduct for sustainable tourism. AUSTRALIA called for regional
planning and noted that international guidelines on sustainable tourism already exist.
MEXICO suggested taking land use management into consideration. CUBA underscored the need
for strict regulation of tourism to ensure sustainable management of resources. ECUADOR
said tourism can be an effective tool for biodiversity conservation. PORTUGAL called for a
balance between conservation and economic income. SWITZERLAND said the price of tourism
should reflect the cost of environmental damage and suggested that mountain biodiversity
be given special attention.
NORWAY with CUBA, AUSTRALIA, BOLIVIA, ARGENTINA, PERU, COLOMBIA, NEW ZEALAND and the EC
expressed concern that the Secretariat paper did not include other aspects of sustainable
use. The Netherlands will chair a contact group to draft recommendations.
IN THE CORRIDORS
While many delegates welcomed the decision to invite experts to introduce some of
SBSTTAs topics with scientific presentations, a few participants in WGII were
disappointed with the presentation on GURTs because they believed it was not impartial.
The discussion on sustainable use and tourism also created considerable anxiety among some
in WGII. They expressed concern that the inordinate dominance of tourism at the CBDs
last COP appears to have carried over to SBSTTA. Some delegates suggest that this is due
to the direct intervention of one prominent northern country that believes it has a lot to
offer on this topic. Those concerned note that, meanwhile, other aspects of sustainable
use languish in the background.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
WORKING GROUP I: WGI is expected to consider the Global Taxonomy Initiative
during the morning. Chair's draft texts on drylands and alien species are expected to be
distributed during the morning and considered during the afternoon.
WORKING GROUP II: WGII is expected to consider environmental impact
assessments during the morning and continue its discussion of new plant technology during