The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – opened
for signature at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992 – aims at the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. Furthermore, it recognizes the sovereignty of countries over their genetic resources – as well as the right of each country to determine, by national law, the regime of access to the resources of its biodiversity. Brazil was the first country to sign the text of the Convention, having ratified it in 1994.
A country with great biological diversity, Brazil has the largest tropical forest cover in the world and accounts for about 12% of the planet's biodiversity. The Brazilian Government has been one of the most active participants in the negotiations launched by the Convention, given the importance of biological diversity resources for the economic and social development of the country. The States Parties to the Convention meet every two years in Conferences of the Parties (COPs).
The 10th Conference of Parties to the CBD (COP-10), held in Nagoya in 2010, approved a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity Conservation for the period 2011-2020, with 20 targets for reducing biodiversity loss (the Aichi Goals). These will be implemented by each country according to their own circumstances, needs and capabilities and will be reviewed at the next COP (COP-15), to be held in 2020 in Beijing, China.
Negotiations on benefit-sharing regime concerning the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge were also concluded at the COP-10, and the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization was adopted. It is expected that the Protocol will help combat biopiracy and protect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, promote technological and scientific development based on access to biodiversity and guarantee a fair and equitable sharing of benefits. Brazil was one of the first signatories of the Nagoya Protocol, whose text is under analysis in the National Congress. To date, 117 countries have ratified the Protocol, which entered into force on October 12, 2014.
One of the main issues currently under discussion within the framework of the CBD, and of great relevance to Brazil, is the possibility of including digital sequence information on genetic resources within the scope of the Convention. Digital sequence information (DSI) is the genetic information originated from the analysis of data contained in nucleotides, amino acids or molecular structures of proteins. This information can be stored and transferred, hence applied for commercial use. Currently, much of the DSI is stored in international free-to-access depository banks. There is a large number of DSI data available on the internet, without reference to the place of origin.
Discussions on DSI under the scope of the CBD began at COP 12 in South Korea, following discussions on Synthetic Biology, which will be described below. As this is a new topic on the Convention agenda, with implications for the biodiversity agenda and benefit sharing in the coming years, DSI will probably be the main topic to be discussed during COP 15, especially with regard to benefits.
Regarding post-2020 biodiversity targets, discussions began in 2018. Brazil will be actively engaged in the process, defending the equal importance of the three pillars of the convention (preservation, sustainable use and fair and equitable sharing of benefits ) and the necessary adaptation to technological advances, especially in the DSI field. In the Brazilian view, the pillar of benefit sharing was under-represented in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.
Access to biodiversity resources is also discussed within the framework of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources (CGRFA) and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), adopted in 2004. Combining the planet's greatest biodiversity with advanced research and agricultural production, Brazil has always been one of the most active participants in these forums. The Commission has a mandate to negotiate on genetic resources from plants, animals, forests, aquatic resources, invertebrates and micro-organisms of interest to food security. With membership of 145 contracting parties, the ITPGRFA focuses on plant species used in food and agriculture and establishes a system for facilitated access to 64 plant species that form the basis of 80% of human food. The Treaty also establishes a multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism that provides for sharing of research conducted or payment of a percentage of benefits arising from commercialization.
Brazil has committed itself to the creation of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which promotes the interface between science and public policy related to biodiversity. Established in 2012 as an independent intergovernmental forum, open to all United Nations members, the IPBES has 132 members. The IPBES is not bound by a specific agreement and can respond to requests both from States Parties and from biodiversity-related conventions (such as the CBD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Ramsar Convention.