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The negotiation and adoption, in 1992, of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) coincided with the emergence and rapid growth of modern biotechnology, which raised some concerns about its safe use. This led to the incorporation of references in the CBD. These include both the benefits of 
biotechnology, as well as the need to take measures to safeguard biodiversity and human health from the potential negative effects of living modified organisms (LMOs), as a result from modern biotechnology.

The Convention provides that each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate:


  • Establish or maintain means to regulate, manage or control the risks associated with the use and release of LMOs (Article 8(g)).
  • Provide and/or facilitate access for and transfer to other Parties of technologies, including biotechnology, that are relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and do not cause significant damage to the environment (Article 16.1).
  • Provide any available information about the use and safety regulations required in handling LMOs, as well as any available information on the potential adverse impacts to the country into which they are to be introduced (Article 19.4).

These Convention provisions focused mostly on the need of Parties to take measures at the national level. In response to Article 19.3 of the Convention, the Parties negotiated and adopted the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in January 2000.

The Cartagena Protocol aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of LMOs resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health. The Protocol focuses on regulating LMO’s that are subject to transboundary movement between Parties. Subsequent meetings of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (COP-MOP) have adopted a set of decisions on how to implement the Protocol provisions, including the handling, transport, packaging and identification of LMOs, and risk assessment and risk management.

In 2010, COP-MOP 5 adopted a supplementary agreement, known as the Nagoya–Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol, which establishes rules and procedures for redress, including response measures in the event of damage to biodiversity resulting from LMOs. In 2010, it also adopted the Strategic Plan for the Cartagena Protocol (2011-2020). It invited Parties to review and align their national biodiversity action plans and programmes, including NBSAPs, with the plan (Decision BS-V/16). In 2014, the COP 12 encouraged countries to integrate biosafety and access and benefit sharing into NBSAPs and other relevant sectoral and cross-sectoral policies, plans and programmes. It also called for a strengthening of national mechanisms to facilitate a coordinated approach to the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols (Decision XII/29, paragraphs 9-11). Biosafety measures may also directly contribute to achieving some of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, for example targets 1, 7, 9, 13, 14, 17 and 19.

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