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MEDIA REPORTS

BIODIVERSITY AND WILDLIFE

This page was updated on: 01/13/10

 

2008

 

Biodiversity and Wildlife Media Reports Archives: 2010; 2009; 2007; 2006; 2005; 2004; 2003; 2002

 

DECEMBER 2008

NATIONAL COLLECTIONS INCLUDED IN THE ITPGR MULTILATERAL SYSTEM
Germany, Namibia, the Netherlands and Zambia have notified the Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR) of national collections with more than 120,000 accessions of staple crops that are included in the Treaty’s Multilateral System of access and benefit-sharing.

Link to further information
ITPGR Press Release, 4 December 2008

ITPGR PUBLISHES CALL FOR PROPOSALS
The Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR) has invited applications from entities and institutions based in the countries that are parties to the Treaty, for grants within the framework of the Funding Strategy. The deadline for submission of pre-proposals is 15 January 2009. The maximum grant size for projects is US$50,000. The priorities for this period, as established by the Governing Body at its second session, are: information exchange, technology transfer and capacity building; managing and conserving plant genetic resources on-farm; and the sustainable use of plant genetic resources.

Link to further information
The call for proposals

NOVEMBER 2008

TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE STILL UNDER THREAT, EXPERTS SAY, AUTONOMY FOR INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES KEY FOR ITS PROTECTION
Despite global moves to improve the rights of indigenous peoples, the wisdom and knowledge accumulated by indigenous communities over thousands of years is still being lost or plundered for corporate profit, according to a report released in Paris by an international coalition of experts. Their conclusions are described in a case study released on 13 November 2008 as part of a new report: “Toward a New Era of Intellectual Property: From Confrontation to Negotiation,” from the Montreal-based International Expert Group on Biotechnology, Innovation and Intellectual Property.

The study was released at a conference of international biotech and intellectual property experts, convened by Sciences Po and The Innovation Partnership, a non-profit consultancy specializing in the understanding, use and management of intellectual property in industrialized and developing countries. The authors looked at how traditional knowledge is treated in three countries—Brazil, Kenya and Northern Canada, each of which has its own unique indigenous knowledge systems, innovations, customary laws and practices, and its own approach to protecting them. The authors concluded that more than property rights are needed to protect traditional knowledge and ensure fair and equitable benefit sharing with indigenous communities for the use of their knowledge. Noting that the co-management of land use and natural resources has allowed traditional knowledge owners to be part of decision-making processes, the authors stress that self-government allows even greater powers of autonomy and the establishment of governance institutions that blend traditional and modern practices.

They consider therefore that promoting autonomy and capacity for self-governance for indigenous communities rather than property is the key for the adequate protection of traditional knowledge.

Links to further information
EurekAlert, 13 November 2008
The report Toward a New Era of Intellectual Property: From Confrontation to Negotiation

CITES-SUPERVISED IVORY AUCTIONS FINALIZED
Through four auctions, conducted under the supervision of the Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Willem Wijnstekers, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe have sold 102 tons of ivory to Chinese and Japanese accredited traders, for a total amount of US$15,400,000. The sales were agreed during the 14th Conference of the Parties to CITES in June 2007, while no new sales from these four African countries will be allowed for the next nine years. The proceeds are to be used exclusively for elephant conservation and community development programmes within or adjacent to the elephant range.

Link to further information
CITES press release, 7 November 2008

CITES-SUPERVISED IVORY AUCTION UNDERWAY IN SOUTHERN AFRICA
Auctions of elephant ivory have recently taken place in Namibia and South Africa, while similar sales will follow during the next two weeks in Botswana and Zimbabwe. Supervised by Willem Wijnstekers, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Willem Wijnstekers, the sales were agreed during the 14th Conference of the Parties to CITES in June 2007. Japan and China have been approved as trading partners. No new sales from these four African countries will be allowed for the next nine years.

The Namibian auction sold 7.2 tons of ivory, fetching a total of US$1.3 million, at an average price of US$164 per kilogram. The Namibian authorities had expected to sell over nine tons of ivory, and most experts had expected far higher prices. Proceeds will go to the Game Product Trust Fund, to promote conservation in communities where elephants range. South Africa sold 47 tons for US$6.7 million, at an average price of US$142 per kilogram.

Links to further information
CITES Press Release, 24 October 2008
National Geographic News, 28 October 2008
BBC News, 28 October 2008
Reuters News Service, 29 October 2008
ICTSD Bridges Trade BioRes, 31 October 2008
AFP News, 6 November 2008
Reuters News Service, 7 November 2008

UNECE PROMOTES INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE POTATO 2008
Drawing attention to some of the most urgent challenges facing the international community, the global food crisis and the need to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) organized an exhibition to mark both the International Year of the Potato 2008 and the launch of the UNECE Potato Cookbook “The Potato: around the world in 200 recipes.” The exhibition and Cookbook are intended to highlight the work of the UN in focusing world attention on the importance of the potato in providing food security and alleviating poverty. Cultivation of potatoes is part of the comprehensive efforts being undertaken to achieve greater food security through productivity gains.

Link to further information
UNECE press release, 4 November 2008

OCTOBER 2008

UNEP Launches Green Economy Initiative
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a Green Economy Initiative, which seeks to respond to the global economic downturn by focusing economic growth and job creation in environmental industries. The initiative, which was launched on 22 October 2008, in London, UK, is funded by the European Commission, Germany and Norway. It builds on the G8+5 study on the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, which emphasized the economic implications of ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss, as well as their link to poverty. The US$4 million Green Economy Initiative will look to clean and rural energy and technologies, sustainable agriculture, ecosystem infrastructure, reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and sustainable cities to promote its priorities, which include valuing and mainstreaming nature’s services, generating employment through green jobs and policy, and accelerating the transition to a Green Economy via instruments and market signals.

Links to further information
The Independent article, 12 October 2008
UNEP Press Release, 22 October 2008
UN News Centre article, 22 October 2008
Reuters article, 22 October 2008

Newsweek article, 25 October 2008

eBAY TO BAN IVORY TRADING
The online auction site eBay has announced that it will not allow trading of ivory through its websites as of 1 January 2009. In the wake of reports highlighting wildlife crime through the internet, wildlife conservationists around the world have called the decision a major victory.

Link to further information
Environment News Service, 22 October 2008

CITES AND INTERPOL LAUNCH NEW SUPPORT MANUAL
A manual to support law enforcement officers in their investigation of wildlife crimes was launched on 16 October 2008 by Interpol and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The manual provides guidelines on how to carry out controlled delivery of illegal items in order to identify individuals connected with criminal activity and to gather evidence against them using techniques primarily developed in combating drugs trafficking. The manual was launched during Interpol’s 6th International Conference on Environmental Crime, held from 13-17 October 2008.

Links to further information
CITES Press Release, 16 October 2008
The manual will be available at the Interpol webpage

EC CALLS FOR EVIDENCE ON TEEB PHASE II
The European Commission is asking interested stakeholders to submit evidence on the economic consequences of biodiversity loss. The contributions are for Phase II of TEEB, a global study on the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity launched in 2007. Evidence in the form of scientific papers, reports and studies, valuation studies, or examples of policy implementation, is needed in all areas of the project, but is particularly welcome in areas where substantial gaps have been identified. The call will remain open until 31 March 2009.

Links to further information
The call for evidence

NEW FOUNDATION TO PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE COLLECTION OF WILD PLANTS
An agreement signed between the four founding institutions of the International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP) aims to endorse global implementation of the standard through the FairWild Foundation. The standard promotes appropriate management of wild plant populations used in medicines and cosmetics to ensure they are not overexploited. Under the new agreement, the FairWild Foundation will help develop an industry labeling system so that products harvested using the sustainable ISSC-MAP criteria can be readily recognized and certified. ISSC-MAP was developed by a partnership including the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, the IUCN SSC Medicinal Plant Specialist Group, WWF-Germany, and TRAFFIC, plus industry associations, companies, certifiers and community-based NGOs.

Link to further information
TRAFFIC Press Release, 9 October 2008

FAO URGES REVIEW OF BIOFUEL POLICIES TO ENSURE THE POOR CAN BENEFIT
On 7 October 2008, at the launch of its flagship publication, The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2008, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf noted both the risks and opportunities created by biofuels. Diouf highlighted the need for an in-depth review them, aimed to ensure world food security, protect poor farmers, promote broad-based rural development and ensure environmental sustainability. Diouf emphasized the need to invest on research and technology for the production of second generation biofuels, which put less pressure on the natural resource base.Diouf also emphasized the need to remove agricultural and biofuel production subsidies, along with trade barriers, in order to facilitate developing countries’s ability to reap some benefits.

Links to further information
UN News Centre, 7 October 2008

The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2008

EUROPE’S BIODIVERSITY LOSS CONTINUES, EVEN IN PROTECTED AREAS
A first analysis of the state of conservation for selected species and habitats in Europe presented by the European Environment Agency paints a disappointing picture. Based on the latest reports from member countries with regard to more than 1,000 species and 216 habitats of “European interest,” the report indicates that only less than half of the protected species and habitats in Europe are considered to be in “favorable conservation status.” For most of the remaining species and habitats, the conservation status is considered to be either inadequate or bad. For a significant number of species and habitats, the data are insufficient to reach any assessment. The analysis confirms that wetlands, dunes and grasslands are among the less well-preserved habitats, while terrestrial habitats in the Alpine and Mediterranean regions, and the coastal and marine habitats in Macaronesia and the Mediterranean, appear to be enjoying the best conservation status.

Link to further information
EEA Press Release, 7 October 2008

IUCN RED LIST CONFIRMS MAMMALS’ EXTINCTION CRISIS
Launched on 6 October 2008, this year’s IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reveals that at least 1,141 of the 5,487 mammals on Earth are known to be threatened with extinction. The assessment lists 188 mammals as critically endangered, including the Iberian Lynx. China’s Père David’s Deer is listed as extinct in the wild, but the captive and semi-captive populations have increased recently and wild populations could be re-established soon. Nearly 450 mammals have been listed as endangered, including the Tasmanian Devil, the Fishing Cat and the Caspian Seal. But the results also show the success of conservation efforts, with five percent of currently threatened mammals showing signs of recovery in the wild. The elephant's risk status is lowered from Vulnerable to Near Threatened.

With regard to other categories of species, a further 366 amphibians have been added to the list, making amphibians the most threatened animal group, while the Indian tarantula has been placed on  the Red List for the first time.

Links to further information
IUCN Press Release, 6 October 2008
BBC News, 6 October 2008

NEW ONLINE TOOL ALLOWS MONITORING OF WORLD’S PROTECTED AREAS
A new product allows scientists, environmentalists, park rangers as well as tourists to monitor and explore over 100,000 protected areas via Google Earth. The product, which has been developed by a partnership between UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and IUCN, has resulted in the complete redesign and relaunch of the World Database on Protected Areas. The new system allows users to view information on national parks and protected areas in their web browser, visualize them in Google Earth, download data, and bring together other important data, like species information, into the same portal.

Links to further information
UNEP press release, 6 October 2008

The World Database on Protected Areas

UNEP Announces Projects to DEMONSTRATE RETURNS TO INVESTMENTS IN ECOSYSTEMS

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), in cooperation with governments, has announced the launch of large-scale projects aimed at demonstrating that re-investing in damaged ecosystems can generate significant economic, environmental and social returns. The projects will take place in five countries during the run up to the next meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, in Nagoya, Japan, in 2010.

 

Link to further information
UNEP Press Release, 6 October 2008

 

SEPTEMBER 2008

GIGA PROJECT TO EASE ACCESS TO INTERNATIONAL GENEBANKS
Global Information on Germplasm Accessions (GIGA) is a new, multimillion dollar project that addresses the obstacles faced by breeders, crop researchers and others who seek information about germplasm stored in genebanks around the world. Coordinated by Bioversity International, the GIGA project is helping to implement the rational system foreseen by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. GIGA will deploy three components to address the difficulties in making greater use of genebank accessions: development of common information standards to describe the key characteristics of genetic resources; deployment of a new version of genebank data-management software; and building of a user-friendly system to help people find the information or sample they are looking for.

Link to further information
Bioversity International Press Release, 29 September 2008

RWANDA AND BURUNDI SIGN CONSERVATION AGREEMENT
According to media reports, on 10 September 2008, Rwanda and Burundi signed a conservation agreement to protect the cross-border Nyungwe-Kibira Landscape, the largest remaining block of mountain forest in East Africa and home to many endangered primates and other species. The agreement is intended to help improve conservation efforts in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park and Burundi’s Kibira National Park.

Link to further information
Environment News Service, 16 September 2008

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RECONSIDERS BIOFUELS TARGET
The European Parliament’s industry committee has proposed reducing the EU’s existing 10% target for adopting traditional biofuels for road transport by 2020. Instead, the committee had advocated a 6% target for traditional biofuels, with the other 4% coming from electricity or hydrogen from renewable sources, or from second-generation biofuels. The proposal comes in the wake of concerns that biofuels have affected food prices and deforestation. The biofuels target is part of a larger series of goals that address climate change and energy issues.

Links to further information
BBC news, 11 September 2008
Spiegel Online International, 11 September 2008

NIGERIA AND CAMEROON COOPERATE TO SAVE ENDANGERED GORILLA
Cameroon and Nigeria, the Range States of the critically endangered Cross River Gorilla, agreed to improve transboundary cooperation to protect the species, as well as other endangered wildlife, during a meeting in Akampka, Nigeria, organized with the support of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and WWF, The meeting involved park rangers from the Okwangwo Division of Cross River National Park in Nigeria and their colleagues from the proposed Takamanda National Park in Cameroon. It is estimated that only 300 Cross River Gorillas are left in the wild.

Link to further information
Environment News Service, 5 September 2008

BIOFUEL UPDATE: SUSTAINABILITY STANDARDS ENDORSED, MALAYSIA AND INDONESIA COOPERATE IN DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME, KENYAN COURTS CONSIDER HALTING BIOFUEL PLANS
A UN-backed expert group, the Steering Board on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), has endorsed a draft sustainability standard that would evaluate the economic, social and environmental effects of biofuels over their entire life-cycle. “Version Zero,” as the draft standard is called, aims to be the method used by private and public entities to evaluate the sustainability of the production of biofuels. Considerations taken into account by the standard include, among others, the projects’: legality, consultative nature, effect on greenhouse gas emissions as compared to fossil fuels; and respect for human rights. The RSB is asking for feedback on the principles through February 2009, after which the standard will be redrafted and published in April 2009.

In other biofuel-related news, Malaysia and Indonesia, the world’s top two palm oil producers, held a meeting in early August in order to cooperate in a biofuel development programme. Kenyan courts are considering halting the first stage of a US$370 million biofuel project that aims to replace up to 20,000 hectares of coastal grassland at the Tana River Delta on the northern Kenyan coast with irrigated fields of sugarcane. A judicial review of the project was granted following a campaign from environmental groups and nomadic cattle-farming groups.

Links to further information
UN News Centre article, 13 August 2008
The draft standards
Environment News Network, 6 August 2008
SciDev.Net, 5 August 2008 

MAJOR POPULATION OF ENDANGERED GORILLAS DISCOVERED, HALF OF WORLD’S PRIMATES THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION
A survey by the Wildlife Conservation Society in the northern Congo Republic has identified a population of more than 125,000 western lowland gorillas, a discovery that brings new hope for the critically endangered species. The results of the census were released on 5 August 2008, at the International Primatological Society Congress, held in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

As announced by IUCN at the same Congress, in a preview of the 2008 IUCN Red List to be released in October 2008, almost half of the world’s primates are threatened with extinction.

Links to further information
Wildlife Conservation Society news release
IUCN press release, 5 August 2008

AUGUST 2008

UNEP LAUNCHES PLAN TO PROTECT BEES AND BIRDS
In a bid to protect pollinators, which play a role in crop production and biodiversity, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a 5-year programme to disperse best management practices worldwide. Partially funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the US$27 million project, “Conservation & Management of Pollinators for Sustainable Agriculture through an Ecosystem Approach,” aims to develop local and national capacities to protect these economically and environmentally important species.

Link to further information
UNEP Press Release, 8 August 2008

BRUNEI DARUSSALAM BECOMES 191st CBD PARTY
Brunei Darussalam became an official party to the Convention on Biological Diversity on 27 July 2008, bringing the number of parties to the Convention to 191.

Link to further information
List of CBD parties

JULY 2008

KENYA PROMOTES TRADITIONAL CROPS FOR FOOD SECURITY
In the face of rising food prices and shortage fears, the Kenyan government began distributing to farmers seeds for traditional food crops, including cassava, sweet potato and sorghum. “These crops are known to perform well in dry areas where food insecurity is a common feature due to inadequate rainfall,” Agriculture Minister William Ruto said, adding that production of such crops had declined in the country due to lack of planting materials, low interest among seed companies and changing eating habits.

Link to further information
Environment News Network, 21 July 2008

NATIONAL PARK IN COLOMBIA TO HELP PRESERVE INDIGENOUS TRADITIONS
In an effort to help the Cofan, a tribe numbering about 2,600 people between Colombia and Ecuador, preserve their traditions, Colombia recently created the Orito Ingi-Ande Medicinal Plants Sanctuary, to protect the plants the Cofan depend on for medicinal and spiritual purposes. According to Colombian officials, the reserve is the only national park in the world created for such reasons. Aside from spiritual value, the new park has rich biodiversity, including about 400 bird varieties, numerous reptiles, and such rare species as chameleons, jaguars and Andean spectacled bears. Cofan elders have also identified nearly 100 plant species used for medicinal and religious purposes.

Link to further information
San Francisco Chronicle, 8 July 2008

EU MINISTERS BACK AWAY FROM BIOFUEL TARGET
In an informal meeting held from 5-6 July 2008, EU environment and energy ministers concluded that Commission legislative proposals aimed at covering 10% of transport needs from biofuels by 2020 had been misinterpreted and are not limited to biofuels only but to renewables in general, including hydrogen or electricity power sources. Reportedly, such a reinterpretation could help the EU to shift away from their controversial commitment to promote biofuel production.

Link to further information
EurActiv.com, 7 July 2008

JUNE 2008

AFRICAN RHINOS INCREASING, NORTHERN WHITE NEAR EXTINCTION
African rhinos have reportedly reached record numbers for the first time in decades, but the Northern white rhino is listed as critically endangered and is on the brink of extinction, according to the IUCN Species Survival Commission African Rhino Specialist Group.

Links to further information
IUCN press release, 16 June 2008

WORLD BANK, GEF AND OTHERS JOIN TO SAVE ENDANGERED TIGERS
The World Bank, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and a worldwide alliance of tiger conservationists, scientists and celebrities have joined forces to help save wild tigers. Tiger numbers have declined from more than 100,000 a century ago to around 4,000 today. The decline is driven by a loss of prey and habitat due to uncontrolled development and poaching for the black-market trade in tiger skins and bones. The new Tiger Conservation Initiative, launched in Washington DC, brings together many of the global experts who have been studying the decline of tiger populations and national and international NGOs that have been fighting to save tigers. The Tiger Conservation Initiative will start with a series of dialogues in tiger range countries to find out what has worked locally to protect the tigers. As part of this Initiative, the World Bank has proposed a Five-Point Plan of Action that stresses community engagement over earlier and failed punitive action. It will also assess the financing needs of tiger conservation and work with governments and the private sector to find innovative funding sources and mobilize new resources for the species’ protection.

Links to further information
World Bank News , 9 June 2008
GEF News,  9 June 2008

World Bank Tiger Conservation Initiative

TRANSBOUNDARY PARKS CREATED IN THE BALKANS, NEW PROTECTED AREAS IN BRAZIL
The Governments of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia announced on 29 May 2008 the creation of 13 new protected areas and the extension of nine others in the Dinaric Arc, an area which is home to healthy populations of large carnivores. In related news, Brazil celebrated World Environment Day, 5 June 2008, by creating four new protected areas, three of which are in the Amazon rainforest.

Links to further information
Reuters News Service, 30 May 2008
Environment News Service, 6 June 2008

IUCN RED LIST 2008 FOR BIRDS SHOWS CLIMATE CHANGE PUTS BIRDS AT RISK OF EXTINCTION
Long-term drought and sudden extreme weather put additional stress on habitats that many threatened bird species depend on, found the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species of Birds. The publication established climate change as an accelerant to many of the factors putting birds at risk of extinction, coupled with habitat destruction. The list identifies 1,226 species of birds now threatened, and eight species newly listed as Critically Endangered.

Links to further information
IUCN press release, 19 May 2008
Birds on the 2008 Red List

MAY 2008

SWITZERLAND BANS GM CROPS UNTIL 2012
The Swiss Federal Council has voted to extend the country’s moratorium on the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops until 2012, to allow for the completion of a government-supported research programme launched to investigate the potential risks and benefits of GM crops. The research programme is expected to reach a conclusion by the middle of 2012.

Link to further information
AllAboutFeed.Net, 29 May 2008

ENOLA BEAN PATENT REJECTED BY US PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE
Following eight years of legal battle led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), which is one of 15 centers making up the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the non-governmental organization ETC Group, the US Patent and Trademark Office has rejected all patent claims for a common yellow bean that has been a familiar staple in Latin America for more than a century. In what is typically described as a “biopiracy case,” in the 1990s, Larry Proctor, a US national, bought some beans in a market in Mexico and after a few years of plantings, claimed he had developed what he called “a new field bean variety that produces distinctly colored yellow seed which remains relatively unchanged by season.” He obtained a 20-year patent that covered any beans and hybrids derived from crosses with even one of his seeds, which he named “Enola bean.” The patent was actively enforced, although CIAT provided evidence of yellow beans in its genebank, and noted that a version of the bean variety had been released to the public by the Mexican government in the 1970s. Proctor can still appeal the US Patent and trademark Office’s decision in the US federal courts.

Links to further information
CIAT press release, 2 May 2008
ETC Group press release, 29 April 2008

Oxygen depletion in oceans threatens sea life

A study in the publication Science shows that oxygen-depleted regions of tropical oceans are expanding, restricting habitats for fish and other marine life. Continued expansion of these zones could have dramatic consequences for both sea life and coastal economies. The study was carried out as part of a long-running programme on climate variability and predictability led by the World Climate Research Programme, which looks at climate through the interaction of ocean and atmosphere.

 

Link to further information

Science article abstract, May 2008
AFP, 1 May 2008

BIODIVERSITY LOSS AFFECTS HUMAN HEALTH - STUDY
A new generation of medical treatments may be lost unless the current rate of biodiversity loss is reversed, a recently published book involving more than 100 experts has revealed. Such medical treatments include a new generation of antibiotics and painkillers, and new treatments for thinning bone disease, kidney failure, blindness and cancer. The book, Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity, which has been supported by UNEP, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Development Programme and IUCN, was edited and written by Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein, from Harvard Medical School, along with more than 100 scientists who contributed to writing and reviewing it. The book explores how the natural world holds secrets to the development of new kinds of medical treatments, and its authors warn that threats to land and marine-based life forms reduce the chances of revealing and creating them.

Links to further information
Harvard Medical School Sustaining Life website
CBD press release, 24 April 2008
BBC News, 23 April 2008
Reuters News Service, 24 April 2008

Oxford University Press

APRIL 2008

PESTICIDE BANS DO NOT REDUCE AGRICULTURAL OUTPUT – STUDY
A Sri Lankan study on the impacts of banning insecticides monocrotophos, methamidophos, and endosulfan found no reduction in agricultural productivity. The chemicals were banned in the 1990s in an effort to reduce fatal poisonings and suicides. The study, which was published in the April 2008 issue of the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, concluded, that where affordable substitutes exist for pest control, there is no significant impact on agricultural output.

Link to more information
Article, April 2008

UNITAR TO ORGANIZE WORKSHOP ON BIODIVERSITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
The UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Kushiro International Wetland Centre, in partnership with Japan-UNDP Partnership Fund and the Secretariats of the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity, will organize a workshop on biodiversity and climate change in the context of wetlands and water resource management, to be held from 29 June - 4 July 2008, in Kushiro, Japan. The workshop aims to support the sharing of scientific facts and policies on biodiversity, wetlands and climate change, provide analytical knowledge to understand and practically use the scientific data and documentation, facilitate exchange of ideas and strengthen the Kushiro/UNITAR network of experts in wetlands, biodiversity and climate change. Up to 30 participants will be selected, including national policy-makers and project managers from environmental, climate or water disciplines and working on biodiversity and climate change issues.

Link to further information
UNITAR Series on biodiversity webpage

IAASTD REPORT SAYS AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES MUST BE REVISED TO BENEFIT THE WORLD’S POOR
Modern agricultural practices must change to better serve the poor if the world is to cope with a growing population and climate change, according to the Synthesis Report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), released on 15 April 2008. The report is the result of three years of cooperation between nearly 400 scientists. Global and sub-Global “Summaries for Decision Makers” and an “Executive Summary of the Synthesis Report” were approved at an Intergovernmental Plenary that met from 7-12 April 2008, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Synthesis Report integrates the key findings from the Global and five sub-Global assessments, and focuses on eight topics: bioenergy; biotechnology; climate change; human health; natural resource management; traditional knowledge and community based innovation; trade and markets; and women in agriculture. The report primarily addresses how agricultural knowledge, science and technology can be used to reduce hunger and poverty, improve rural livelihoods, and facilitate equitable environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable development. The report suggests that the way to meet this challenge is to put in place institutional, economic and legal frameworks that combine productivity with the protection and conservation of natural resources, while meeting production needs. The IAASTD was sponsored by several UN agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization, UN Environment Programme and World Bank.

Links to further information
The IAASTD reports
UN news release, 15 April 2008

EU TO PROPOSE BAN ON IMPORTS OF SEAL PRODUCTS
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said he will propose to ban imports of all seal products resulting from inhumane killings. The proposal follows a European Parliament resolution last year adopted with great majority, which backs such a ban. Belgium and the Netherlands banned imports of seal products last year, which resulted in trade dispute launched by Canada against the EU.

Link to further information
Reuters News Service, 14 April 2008


MARCH 2008

GREENPEACE RELEASES ANNUAL GM CONTAMINATION REPORT
Greenpeace recently released its “GM Contamination Register Report 2007,” recording 39 incidents of contamination from genetically modified organisms in 2007, 28 of which involved the contamination of food, feed and seeds. Eleven were illegal releases. The GM Contamination Register reports were initiated by GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace International in 2005. 

Links to further information
Greenpeace press release, 29 February 2008
The GM Contamination Register Report 2007

ENVIRONMENT CRIME HIGHLIGHTED AS SERIOUS PROBLEM
The World Customs Organization and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) are highlighting illegal trade in ozone-depleting substances, hazardous waste, endangered species and other environmentally sensitive items as a serious problem with a global impact. According to their press release, the international community is increasingly mobilized to address this problem, in which organized crime groups are involved. Participants in a recent meeting at the World Customs Organization agreed on an Action Plan to fight environment crime that emphasizes the prioritization of environment crime within Customs administration, as well as international cooperation.

Link to further information
World Customs Organization Press Release, 27 March 2008

STUDY SHOWS BETTER PROTECTION AGAINST WILDFIRES AND DEFORESTATION IN CERTIFIED AREAS OF BIOSPHERE RESERVE
A study by the Rainforest Alliance has found that forest concessions within the Guatemalan Maya Biosphere Reserve, which are managed in compliance with certification standards of the Forest Stewardship Council, had fewer wildfires and less deforestation in comparison with protected areas in the Reserve. The Rainforest Alliance says that these results demonstrate how responsible forest management can result in better conservation of forestlands.

Link to further information
Rainforest Alliance Media Release, 24 March 2008

CITES PUBLISHES CAVIAR QUOTAS
The Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has published the export quotas for caviar and other sturgeon products from the Caspian Sea set by the range States for 2008. In line with a recommendation made at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in June 2007, the quotas are at or below the levels of 2007. Iran’s caviar quota for Persian sturgeon has been reduced by 1000 kg as a conservation measure.

Links to further information
CITES press release, 3 March 2008
The official quotas (published by the CITES Secretariat), March 2008

FEBRUARY 2008

SVALBARD SEED VAULT OPENS IN NORWAY
The Global Seed Vault, a seed facility located in the Arctic island of Svalbard, Norway, which will house duplicates of unique varieties of the world’s most important crops to be used in case of a future catastrophe, was inaugurated on 26 February 2008. The opening ceremony was attended by the Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg and Nobel Peace Prize-winning environmentalist Wangari Maathai, as well as the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, among many others, who deposited seeds. The vault, which operates in the framework of the Global Crop Diversity Trust and under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, has a capacity of 4.5 million seed samples, equivalent to about 2 billion seeds. Its construction was funded by the Norwegian government. On the occasion of the opening, the non-governmental organizations ETC group and GRAIN issued reports highlighting the need to support in situ agricultural biodiversity and farmers’ rights.

Links to further information
Svalbard Global Seed Vault press release, 26 February 2008
FAO news release, 25 February 2008
GRAIN article, 26 February 2008
ETC group release, 26 February 2008

NEPAD – MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY PARTNERSHIP TO BOLSTER AFRICA’S BIOSAFETY CAPACITY
A US$ 1.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was given to Michigan State University (MSU), to promote Africa’s biosafety capacity in partnership with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The grant will be used to develop the African Biosafety Network of Expertise, to help regulators access the most up-to-date training, data and resources needed to properly regulate biotechnologies. Over the next 10 months, MSU and NEPAD will undertake a consultation process with African biosafety regulators to assess needs and develop a responsive information and resource network that provides training, peer-reviewed scientific information, expert assistance and other services as required.

Link to further information
MSU press release, 25 February 2008

SHARK SPECIES FACE EXTINCTION
The scalloped hammerhead will be listed on the 2008 IUCN Red List as globally endangered due to overfishing and high demand for its fins, according to a member of the IUCN– The World Conservation Union’s shark specialist group. The number of many other large shark species has been greatly reduced due to increased demand for their fins and meat, shark fisheries and bycatch. Currently, fishing for sharks in international waters is unrestricted.

Links to further information
Environment News Network, 17 February 2008

The Guardian, 18 February 2008

PROTECTED AREAS UPDATE: UGANDA, RWANDA AND CONGO ESTABLISH TRANSBOUNDARY RESERVE, KIRIBATI CREATES WORLD’S LARGEST MARINE RESERVE
In a declaration signed during the Third World Congress of Biosphere Reserves in Madrid, Spain, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda have launched an initiative to create a transboundary biosphere reserve to safeguard their shared biodiversity, providing the habitat of the great apes.

In related news, the Pacific island nation of Kiribati has created the world’s largest marine protected area: the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, covering 410,500 square kilometers, is one of the planet’s last intact coral archipelagos and is threatened by over-fishing and climate change.

Links to further information
UNESCO press release, 5 February 2008
Reuters news, 14 February 2008

TWO GROUPS BACK INDUSTRY WITHDRAWAL FROM IAASTD
Two groups, The Scientific Alliance and the Public Research & Regulation Initiative (PRRI), have posted responses backing the decision by industry representatives to end their participation in the International Assessment of Agricultural Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) and the subsequent editorial in Nature urging them to continue participating. In its “Open letter to the organisations and governments involved” in IAASTD, PRRI suggests that IAASTD “rewrite the chapter on biotechnology by a group of experts…and with the objective to actively and critically explore how agricultural knowledge, science, and technology can contribute to meeting goals such as reducing hunger and poverty, improving health and livelihoods, and facilitating sustainability with the active of biotechnology, especially from the public sector.”

Links to further information
PRRI Open Letter, January 2008
The Scientific Alliance Newsletter, 1 February 2008
IAASTD website

The East African Standard news story, 3 February 2008

SVALBARD GLOBAL SEED VAULT RECEIVES FIRST SEED SHIPMENTS
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a facility in the Arctic that seeks to duplicate all samples of agricultural biodiversity currently in genebanks, has received its first consignment of seeds: 7,000 seed samples from 36 African nations, sent by the Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. The vault, which operates within the framework of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, is scheduled to be formally opened on 26 February 2008.

Links to further information
The Vault website
BBC News, 31 January 2008

SeedQuest News, 23 January 2008

PROJECT TO WORK ON RARE, ENDANGERED AMPHIBIAN SPECIES
Following an assessment of all amphibian species according to how Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) they are, the Zoological Society of London has launched the EDGE Amphibians conservation and fundraising initiative, which highlights some of the most unusual species on the planet currently threatened with extinction. This year work will focus on ten such species, including the Chinese giant salamander, the Malagasy rainbow frog and the Gardiner�s Seychelles frog, perhaps the world�s smallest frog.

Links to further information
Zoological Society of London press release, 21 January 2008
The
EDGE website

JANUARY 2008

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN CHILE AWARDED LAND TITLE IN CONSERVATION BATTLE
An indigenous Pehuenche community of the Andes in Chile has been awarded a grant of title of 22,000 acres of land in the south of the country, following an almost 20-year struggle for land rights and conservation of their rare Araucaria forests. The Pehuenche communities of Quinquen started their battle in the late 1980s, when a logging company tried to evict them from the Araucaria forests they lived in.

Link to further information
WWF press release, 30 January 2008

FIRST-EVER CENSUS OF ANTARCTIC MARINE BIODIVERSITY LAUNCHED
New Zealand�s Prime Minister Helen Clark has announced that marine scientists from the US, New Zealand and Italy will undertake a two-month voyage to Antarctica�s northern coast, as part of the first-ever census of Antarctic marine biodiversity. According to her statement, this census is a multinational research project involving 23 countries and 11 coordinated voyages to survey marine ecosystems and habitats in waters surrounding Antarctica. The 26 scientists on the research ship will collect samples of sea life and capture images of the sea floor in previously unexplored areas. The work is part of International Polar Year, a global science program designed to advance knowledge of the land and sea environments of the Arctic and Antarctic.

Link to further information
Associated Press news story, 30 January 2008

TWO AGRI-BIOTECH FIRMS PULL OUT OF INTERNATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Monsanto and Syngenta, two agri-biotech firms, have indicated that they will no longer participate in the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), which is due to be completed this year. IAASTD is a multi-year project that is seeking to evaluate the relevance, quality and effectiveness of agricultural knowledge, science, and technology (AKST), along with the effectiveness of public and private sector policies as well as institutional arrangements in relation to AKST. The Assessment has emerged from an international consultative process set in place following a proposal by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Bank, in August 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to develop an international assessment of the role of agricultural science and technology. Some 4,000 experts have been engaged in the development of a Global Assessment and five Sub-global Assessments. According to CropLife International, an industry association to which Monsanto and Syngenta belong, their decision was based on their inability to get industry perspectives reflected in the draft reports.

Links to further information
Nature, 17 January 2008
International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development website

RESEARCH LINKS DEFORESTATION DUE TO PALM OIL PRODUCTION AND DISAPPEARING BIRDS
According to a novel study, using for the first time satellite imagery to determine the likely threat status of a complete set of birds present in a given region, the extent of deforestation occurring on the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea, indicates that many more bird species are threatened with extinction than previously thought. An eighth of lowland forest on the island disappeared between 1989 and 2000, largely driven by an uncontrolled expansion in global demand for palm oil. The research, published in Biological Conservation, was undertaken by scientists from Birdlife International, Conservation International and a number of other organizations. The paper recommends potential areas to designate as protected areas.

Link to further information
Birdlife International press release, 9 January 2008

EU TO SET ENVIRONMENTAL CRITERIA FOR BIOFUELS
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the EU will be setting sustainability criteria for biofuels, including environmental and social criteria, despite the EU target to cover at least 10% of transport fuel from biofuels by 2020. According to Dimas, the EU had initially underestimated the danger to rainforests and the risk of forcing up food prices. The announcement came following a letter from a group of NGOs called on Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs to introduce tougher standards for biofuel production or give up mandatory transport biofuels targets altogether.

Links to further information
EurActiv.com News, 11 January 2008
Reuters News Service, 15 January 2008

CLONED MEAT, DAIRY PRODUCTS BACKED BY EU FOOD AGENCY, DISMISSED BY USDA
The European Food Safety Authority, the EU�s consultative body on food safety issues, recently concluded that it �is very unlikely that any difference exists in terms of food safety between food products originating from clones and their progeny compared with those derived from conventionally bred animals,� adding that �no environmental impact is foreseen as a result of animal cloning.� Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) requested an ongoing �voluntary moratorium� of food from cloned livestock, given the emotional nature of the issue, despite the Food and Drug Administration�s conclusion that food from cloned livestock is safe to eat.

Links to further information
Reuters News Service, 14 January 2008
Environment News Network, 17 January 2008

IUCN SURVEY PLACES BIODIVERSITY AT CENTER OF CLIMATE DEBATE
A survey of 1,000 climate decision-makers and influencers from across 105 countries conducted by GlobeScan, IUCN-the World Conservation Union and the World Bank immediately prior the Bali Climate Change Conference concluded that these individuals emphasize biodiversity protection as a means to help guide climate actions. Among other key findings, the survey revealed that respondents consider biofuels produced from food crops like corn to have the least potential of 18 technologies for reducing carbon emissions over the next 25 years.

Links to further information
IUCN press release, 10 December 2007
The survey

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