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Fighting for Fair Use of Plant Genetic Resources


A nearly 8-year effort to redress a notorious act of biopiracy finally achieved its objective on April 29, 2008, when the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced it was definitively rejecting all patent claims for a yellow-seeded variety of common bean named 'Enola'. The Inte...

Biodiversity Key to Food Crisis-UN
by Estrella Torres, Reporter

AN official of the United Nations Convention on Biological Biodiversity has warned that the current global food crisis will worsen unless the international community addresses the loss of biodiversity, particularly in Southeast Asia which hosts 20 percent of the known animal, plants and marine species critical to food production.

Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Montreal-based UN Convention on Biological Diversity, described the loss of biological diversity as "a silent tsunami that's eating our mother earth."

He said a 1-percent increase in the global food supply requirement translates into 16 million people starving because the global biological diversity system could no longer produce enough food.

"The loss of biological diversity is a major reason for the current food crisis because countries rely more on food imports that result in fewer and fewer (food) resources instead of cultivating genetic biodiversity," said Djoghlaf in a press briefing on Friday at the Dusit Hotel in Makati City.

Dr. Djoghlaf's visit to the Philippines from June 19-22 was meant to assess the performance of the member countries of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in meeting their obligations to the 1992 UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

The UN member countries, he said, will have to renew their commitments to stop the loss of biological diversity in time for the 2010 UN Conference on Biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan.

"We need to involve countries of Asean to make specific commitment and timetable for fulfillment of obligations to the UN Convention on Biodiversity," said Dr.Djoghlaf, adding that commitments must be "doable and implementable."

The UN official will meet with officials of the Asean Centre for Biodiversity and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna to draft action plans that integrats biodiversity with programs that address food crisis.

Data of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity showed food production rising by 160 percent from 1961 to 2003. "Tradeoffs for an increase in food production have contributed to a decline in other ecosystem services, with 60 percent of them being degraded."

"The challenge for farmers and humanity as a whole lies in ensuring food security, adequate nutrition and stable livelihoods for the population of the world. Creating sustainability managed agricultural systems is essential," said the UN convention findings.

Dr. Djoghlaf said: "The objective of the UN Convention on Biodiversity lined up in the 1992 meeting has not been achieved because there is not a single country that complied with the treaty obligations to address the loss of biodiversity."

Dr. Rodrigo Fuentes, executive director of the Asean Centre for Biodiversity, said commitments of the regional bloc to address biodiversity loss is crucial because three of the 17 megadiverse countries (nations rich in biodiversity) are Asean members Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Asean region, however, "has seven of the world's 25 recognized biodiversity hotspots," or countries with critical losses in biodiversity.

Fuentes told the forum that Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are part of the Coral Triangle which is home of the world's most critical reef-building corals.

"(But) 80 percent of Southeast Asia's coral reefs are at risk due to destructive fishing practices and coral bleaching," he warned.

He listed deforestation as the top cause of massive biodiversity loss, with over 10 million hectares in the region being lost to forest fires from 1997-2006.

Fuentes said unsustainable logging practices and shifting cultivation and agricultural expansion have also contributed to the loss of biodiversity in the Asean.

Asean groups the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore and Burma/Myanmar.

'Biodiversity Conservation: A Guide for USAID Staff and Partners' <http://environment.developmentgateway.org/index.php?id=10976&tx_dgcontent_pi1[tt
"The goal of this Guide is to provide USAID staff and partners with basic information about designing, managing, and implementing biodiversity conservation programs or activities. What do you need to know, as a USAID manager, to design, implement, manage, and evaluate a biodiversity conservation pro...