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WORKING GROUP I

The Group continued its examination of the draft report on biosafety as contained in document UNEP/CBD/IC/2/WG.I/CRP.4. They then held preliminary discussions of the two remaining issues: ownership of, and access to, ex situ genetic resources; and farmers rights.

BIOSAFETY

Paragraph 8 regarding the joint work on developing international technical guidelines by the UK and the Netherlands was amended by the Netherlands: "A number of representatives considered that a voluntary, flexible framework provided by these kind of guidelines should now be developed within the context of the Convention." Mexico, supported by Chile, sought a clarification as this implied prior, voluntary acceptance before the COP. Brazil and India stated their preference for retaining "guidelines." The paragraph was accepted on the understanding that these guidelines are flexible and voluntary. Paragraph 9 regarding the negotiated draft of the FAO International Code of Conduct on Plant Biotechnology was amended by Canada to add that the biosafety component of the draft Code of Conduct constitute an input into the COP. The Philippines expressed concern that Paragraph 10, on NGO statements, was inadequate as specific examples of transgenic testing in developing countries had been left out. The Third World Network (TWN) on behalf of the other NGOs recommended adding: "They stressed the urgent need for a protocol because of the serious risks posed by the transboundary nature of the export of LMOs and the fact that northern companies had already started carrying out hazardous genetic engineering experiments in the South. They also asked that the serious destabilizing socio-economic aspects of biosafety form part of such a protocol." Canada wanted "the fact that" to be replaced by "in the opinion of." While stressing that such tests had been carried out, the TWN suggested using "and examples were given," which was accepted.

Paragraph 4 Germany, Chair of the contact drafting group preparing text, added the following to the paragraph: "A significant number of delegations expressed support for the immediate work on a protocol while others expressed support that the COP should establish a step-by-step process to consider the need for, and modalities of, a protocol." India, speaking on behalf of G-77 and China, proposed adding the following: "The G-77 and China were of the unanimous view to immediately work on a protocol on biosafety, while some others expressed support that the COP should establish a step-by step process to consider the need for, and modalities of, a protocol." This proposal led to a heated debate over whether it could and should be added.

Germany stated that it was not appropriate that text agreed on by consensus in the drafting group be reopened. Brazil, India, Morocco, Kenya and others stated that there was a larger group to which the drafting group was accountable, and indicated support for the G-77 and China. The US, supported by France, stated that there had been a consensus on the text in the drafting group and that the suggestion of including a new text was an attempt to rewrite the history of what had been discussed. France sought a clarification from the Rapporteur who noted that he did not hear such a statement from the G-77 and China. The East European group indicated support for the G-77 position. Philippines stated that the Group might want to reflect the decision by the G-77 and China, as taken subsequent to the Group's discussion of the issue. Brazil pointed out that the issue was still under discussion. US noted that the phrase, `subsequent to the discussion on the issue, the G-77...," could be added. Mexico recommended giving a precise description of what had happened. Germany, on behalf of the EC stated that it was not in agreement with India's proposal. The Russian Federation said that it supported a step-by-step approach. The disagreement was whether the opinion presented by the G-77 and China should be included or not. The EC, US, Japan and Canada stated that such an inclusion was not made at the time of discussion nor at the drafting working group while the G-77 and China stated that they had met at the earliest time convenient and adopted this position. India recommended adding the following phrase, "In reaction to the proposal, the G-77 and China..." The paragraph was accepted.

OWNERSHIP OF AND ACCESS TO GENETIC RESOURCES AND FARMERS RIGHTS

The Chair noted that the issue of ownership, and access to, ex situ genetic resources is not provided for in the CBD. Hence, the Interim Secretariat had invited the FAO to prepare a background paper in the context of Resolution 3 of the Nairobi Final Act. As the COP is not required to deal with the issue at its first meeting, the Committee should begin to identify possible areas of interest for future work, such as, examining the legal status of: national ex situ plant collections; future ex situ collection centers; and the current status of ex situ centers of plant, animal or other organisms. India stated that as custodians of domestic plant and animal diversity, farmers need a legally binding regime that would recognize their rights as inviolable and that cannot be nullified in international legal instruments. As the Convention does not provide for existing ex situ genetic resources, Japan did not believe that the FAO's international undertaking on genetic resources could become a legal instrument under the CBD. Norway recognized the importance of resolving the issue of access to, and ownership of, ex situ resources in a legally binding document, perhaps a protocol. Kenya proposed: the strengthening of regional gene banks to be funded under the CBD; repatriation of gene duplicates to their countries of origin; sharing in the commercial and technological benefits with the gene resource's country of origin; and a binding document.

Malaysia noted that the ex situ collections were contributed by developing countries on the understanding that they would be freely accessible. Greece, on behalf of the EU, said that the COP should provide guidance for the conservation, characterization, collection and utilization of genetic resources in the CBD. She stated that germplasm collections have to respect existing property rights and laws. The FAO gave a brief history of the organization and noted that the ex situ gene banks established before the entry into force of the CBD are being brought into harmony with the CBD. Brazil, on behalf of the G-77 and China, said that any multilateral agreement should consider the ex situ collections that existed before the entry into force of the CBD, and that there should be a mandatory sharing of benefits from these resources with the countries of origin. Chile noted the need to establish a network that would put together an intergovernmental gene bank. Indonesia said that her country had attained agricultural food self-sufficiency in rice in 1984, thanks to the gene banks, hence their importance. Australia noted the need to ensure some cooperation between the COP and the FAO, even if it were only information sharing, as well as, the need for the COP to consider the involvement of the SBSTTA in the technical aspects of microbial collections. The Netherlands highlighted the need for the COP to give attention to the genetic resources of domestic animals, fish and forestry. Nigeria proposed the establishment of a mechanism to ensure sharing of benefits. Malawi noted that contrary to belief, international law can be made retroactive where countries commit such great crimes. Mexico disagreed on the repatriation of duplicates of genetic resources to their countries of origin, since the farmers and indigenous communities in those countries, who are the rightful owners, would still not benefit. Third World Network, noted that contrary to initial expectations, the freely donated genetic resources areof least benefit to the South.

FARMERS' RIGHTS:The Chair summarized the evening's debate by noting that: all delegates expressed support for rights of indigenous peoples to be recognized; some suggested new approaches to compensate farmers for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity; incentives should be given to local communities and indigenous communities; intellectual property rights may constitute a basis for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits; the issue of ex situ collections and intellectual property rights should be on the agenda for the COP; the COP should initiate a study on how to implement Article 8(j); the work underway in FAO on the subject should be taken into account and not duplicated; and that NGOs expressed the wish to see elected representatives of indigenous people at the COP. Colombia reminded the group of the arguments for a legally binding protocol on this issue and Greenpeace noted several speakers' call for a study on the impact of intellectual property rights on the objectives of the Convention, particularly the ambiguities of Article 16(f).

STATUS REPORT OF INTERIM SECRETARIAT

Debate on this item could not be finished due to the late hour.

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