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COP 3 Decision III/11
Retired sections: paragraphs 1 to 12, 18, 23 and 24.

Conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biological diversity

The Conference of the Parties,

Recalling resolution 3 of the Nairobi Final Act,

Also recalling decisions II/15 and II/16 of the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties,

Further recalling recommendation II/7 of the second meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice related to agricultural biological diversity,

Welcoming the outcome of the fourth International Technical Conference on the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, held in June 1996 in Leipzig, and taking note of the follow-up process agreed in Leipzig and of the periodic updating of the report on the State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as well as the implementation of the Global Plan of Action,

Considering the importance of biological diversity for agriculture and taking note of the interrelationship of agriculture with biological diversity as detailed in the basis for action attached hereto as Annex 1,

Believing that the field of agriculture offers a unique opportunity for the Convention on Biological Diversity to link concerns regarding biological diversity conservation and sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources with the mainstream economy, taking into account the need for a balanced development of the three objectives of the Convention,

Recognizing the close relationship between agriculture and biological and cultural diversity and that the Conference of the Parties has a clear role and mandate to address issues relating to agricultural biological diversity within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity,

Further recognizing agricultural biological diversity as a focal area in view of its social and economic relevance and the prospects offered by sustainable agriculture for reducing the negative impacts on biological diversity, enhancing the value of biological diversity and linking conservation efforts with social and economic benefits,

Urging the expeditious provision of funds from appropriate sources necessary for the implementation of this decision,

Recognizing that traditional farming communities and their agricultural practices have made a significant contribution to the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity and that these can make an important contribution to the development of environmentally sound agricultural production systems,

Recognizing also that the inappropriate use of and excessive dependence on agrochemicals has produced substantial negative effects on terrestrial systems, including soil, coastal and aquatic organisms, thus affecting biological diversity in different ecosystems,

Reaffirming the sovereign rights of States over their own genetic resources, including their genetic resources for food and agriculture,

Urging Parties to establish or maintain means to regulate, manage or control the risks associated with the use and release of living modified organisms resulting from biotechnology which are likely to have adverse environmental impacts that could affect the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account the risks to human health,

Considering that its activities in this field relating to the implementation of Article 6 (b) of the Convention should focus on the interface between agricultural sustainability and environmental issues and should promote the integration of social, economic and environmental objectives and facilitate the development of solutions to problems relating to agricultural biological diversity in the context of the Convention's provisions,

Further considering that the contributions of conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biological diversity to sustainable agriculture should be a key focal area within the context of terrestrial, freshwater and marine biological diversity, to be pursued in collaboration with, and with the cooperation and initiative of, relevant international organizations thus avoiding duplication,

1. Decides to establish a multi-year programme of activities on agricultural biological diversity aiming, first, to promote the positive effects and mitigate the negative impacts of agricultural practices on biological diversity in agro-ecosystems and their interface with other ecosystems; second, to promote the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources of actual or potential value for food and agriculture; and third, to promote the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources; and which, in support of the implementation of ongoing or the initiation of new policies, programmes and plans in the field of agrobiodiversity, will have the following components:

    (a) The identification and assessment of relevant ongoing activities and existing instruments at the international level;
    (b) The identification and assessment of relevant ongoing activities and existing instruments at the national level;
    (c) The identification of issues that need to be addressed and relevant knowledge;
    (d) The identification of priority issues for further development of the programme;
    (e) The identification and implementation of case studies on issues identified;
    (f) The sharing of experiences and the transfer of knowledge and technologies;

2. Requests the Executive Secretary to invite the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in close collaboration with other relevant United Nations bodies and regional and international organizations, to identify and assess relevant ongoing activities and existing instruments at the international level, choosing among the thematic areas in the indicative list in Annex 2. The results should be reported back on a phased basis to the Conference of the Parties through the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice;

3. Welcomes the offer by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to continue serving countries in implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity in the area of agricultural biological diversity, and, referring to its earlier decisions, underlines the necessity of avoiding any duplication of work with respect to the activities being undertaken by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in this programme of work;

4. Requests Parties, as far as possible and as appropriate, to identify and assess relevant ongoing activities and existing instruments at the national level and to report back to the Conference of the Parties;

5. Requests Parties, as far as possible and as appropriate, to identify issues and priorities that need to be addressed at the national level and to report back to the Conference of the Parties;

6. Suggests that, in carrying out the initiatives described in paragraphs 3 and 4 above, Parties consider the thematic areas in the indicative list in Annex 2, as appropriate;

7. Requests the Executive Secretary, in close collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as appropriate, to report the results, together with advice from the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, of the above initiatives as a basis for setting priorities by the Conference of the Parties for further work within this programme of work using as criteria, inter alia:

    (a) The relevance of the issue to the objectives of the Convention;
    (b) The extent to which work on the issue is not already being undertaken;

8. Requests that the clearing-house mechanism be used to promote and facilitate the development and transfer of technology relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biological diversity by facilitating contacts among:

    (a) Groups needing solutions to specific problems;
    (b) Holders of technologies developed and maintained by many sources;
    (c) Technology-transfer brokers;
    (d) Enabling agencies which fund technology transfer;

9. Encourages the Parties, in accordance with decision I/2 of the Conference of the Parties, to use and/or study and develop methods and indicators to monitor the impacts of agricultural development projects, including the intensification and extensification of production systems, on biological diversity and to promote their application;

10. Invites countries to share case-study experiences addressing the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biological diversity, which, among other ways of sharing information, should be posted through the clearing-house mechanism of the Convention;

11. Encourages interested Parties and international agencies to conduct case studies on the two initial issues identified by the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice in recommendation II/7, described in Annex 3;

12. Instructs the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice to coordinate and assess the lessons learned from work on the topics described in Annex 3 and to report back thereon to the Conference of the Parties, as appropriate;

13. Recognizes that the successful implementation of policies aiming at the sustainable use of agrobiodiversity components largely depends on the degree of public awareness and understanding of its basic importance for society, and recommends Parties to establish or enhance mechanisms for information and education, including the use of the clearing-house mechanism, specific to groups of concern at national, regional and international levels;

14. Endorses the conclusions of the relevant sections of the 1995 Commission on Sustainable Development sectoral review of Agenda 21, which, inter alia, recognized the need for an integrated and multidisciplinary approach to the planning, development and management of land resources, and that the achievement of the multiple objectives related to sustainable agriculture and rural development requires a whole system approach that recognizes that it is not possible to focus on agricultural activities alone;

15. Encourages Parties to develop national strategies, programmes and plans which, inter alia:

    (a) Identify key components of biological diversity in agricultural production systems responsible for maintaining natural processes and cycles, monitoring and evaluating the effects of different agricultural practices and technologies on those components and encouraging the adoption of repairing practices to attain appropriate levels of biological diversity;
    (b) Redirect support measures which run counter to the objectives of the Convention regarding agricultural biodiversity;
    (c) Internalize environmental costs;
    (d) Implement targeted incentive measures which have positive impacts on agrobiodiversity, in order to enhance sustainable agriculture, in accordance with Article 11 and consistent with Article 22, as well as to undertake impact assessments in order to minimize adverse impacts on agrobiodiversity, in accordance with Article 14;
    (e) Encourage the development of technologies and farming practices that not only increase productivity, but also arrest degradation as well as reclaim, rehabilitate, restore and enhance biological diversity and monitor adverse effects on sustainable agricultural biodiversity. These could include, inter alia, organic farming, integrated pest management, biological control, no-till agriculture, multi-cropping, inter-cropping, crop rotation and agricultural forestry;
    (f) Empower their indigenous and local communities and build their capacity for in situ conservation and sustainable use and management of agricultural biological diversity, building on the indigenous knowledge systems;
    (g) Encourage ex ante and/or ex post evaluation of impacts on biological diversity from agricultural development projects, to assure the use of best practices to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity;
    (h) Integrate with other plans, programmes and projects relating to the conservation and sustainable use of other terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems, in accordance with Article 6 (b) of the Convention on Biological Diversity;
    (i) Promote partnerships with researchers, extension workers and farmers in research and development programmes for biological diversity conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in agriculture. To achieve this, countries should be encouraged to set up and maintain local level forums for farmers, researchers, extension workers and other stakeholders to evolve genuine partnerships;
    (j) Promote at national and regional levels adequate and appropriate services to farmers and responsiveness of public research and extension services and development of genuine partnerships;
    (k) Promote research into, and development and implementation of, integrated pest management strategies, in particular, methods and practices alternative to the use of agro-chemicals, that maintain biodiversity, enhance agro-ecosystem resilience, maintain soil and water quality and do not affect human health;
    (l) Encourage the consideration of introducing necessary measures and/or legislation, as appropriate, to encourage appropriate use of and discourage excessive dependence on agro-chemicals with a view to reducing negative impacts on biological diversity;
    (m) Study, use and/or develop, in accordance with decision I/2, methods and indicators to monitor the impacts of agricultural development projects on biological diversity, including intensification and extensification, of production systems on biological diversity, and to promote their application;
    (n) Study the positive and negative impacts on ecosystems and biomes of agricultural transformation resulting from intensification or extensification of production systems in their countries;

16. Encourages Parties to develop national strategies, programmes and plans, which should focus on, inter alia:

    (a) The key elements of the Global Plan of Action, such as broadening the genetic base of major crops; increasing the range of genetic diversity available to farmers; strengthening the capacity to develop new crops and varieties that are specifically adapted to local environments; exploring and promoting the use of underutilized crops; and deploying genetic diversity to reduce crop vulnerability;
    (b) The development of inventories which consider the status of farm animal genetic resources and measures for their conservation and sustainable utilization;
    (c) Micro-organisms of interest for agriculture;

17. Encourages Parties at the appropriate level, with the support of the relevant international and regional organizations, to promote:

    (a) The transformation of unsustainable agricultural practices into sustainable production practices adapted to local biotic and abiotic conditions, in conformity with the ecosystem or integrated land use approach;
    (b) The use of farming practices that not only increase productivity, but also arrest degradation as well as reclaim, rehabilitate, restore and enhance biological diversity;
    (c) Mobilization of farming communities including indigenous and local communities for the development, maintenance and use of their knowledge and practices in the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in the agricultural sector with specific reference to gender roles;

18. Notes that the various options for the legal status of a revised International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, which include a voluntary agreement, binding instrument, or protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity, have not been decided upon by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, requests the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to inform the Conference of the Parties of its deliberations, affirms its willingness to consider a decision by the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that the International Undertaking should take the form of a protocol to this Convention once revised in harmony with this Convention and further requests the Executive Secretary to inform the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture accordingly;

19. Welcomes the contribution that the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources, as adopted by the fourth International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources, provides to the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity in the field of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and encourages Parties actively to implement the Global Plan of Action, in accordance with their national capacities, and endorses its priorities and policy recommendations; recognizes that several issues require further work in the context of the FAO Global System for the Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, in particular: financing; the realization of Farmers' Rights as discussed in the Global Plan of Action; as well as terms of technology transfer to developing countries and access and benefit-sharing arrangements, in accordance with relevant provisions of the Convention. In this regard, calls for effective and speedy completion of the revision of the International Undertaking and strengthening of the FAO Global System;

20. Appreciates the importance of the country-based Global Strategy for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources under the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and strongly supports its further development;

21. Draws the attention of Parties to Article 20.1 of the Convention, in the context of providing, in accordance with their capabilities, financial support and incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity important to agriculture in accordance with national plans, priorities and programmes;

22. Draws the attention of international funding agencies to the urgent need to support the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity important to agriculture and invites these agencies to provide information and feedback in this respect to the Conference of the Parties and in this context, requests the interim financial mechanism to give priority to supporting efforts for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity important to agriculture in accordance with this decision;

23. Encourages the United Nations Environment Programme/Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations process developed by the Intergovernmental Committee negotiating an international binding instrument for the application of the prior informed consent procedure on hazardous chemical substances, including pesticides;

24. Recalls paragraph 39 (g) from the World Food Summit Plan of Action and encourages the World Trade Organization through its Committee on Trade and Environment, in collaboration with other relevant organizations, to consider developing a better appreciation of the relationship between trade and agricultural biodiversity and, in this consideration, recommends the collaboration with the Convention on Biological Diversity and requests the Executive Secretary to convey this request to the World Trade Organization.


Annex 1

BASIS FOR ACTION

A. Impact of biological diversity on agriculture

1. Biological diversity has enabled farming systems to evolve since agriculture was first developed some 12,000 years ago, and an understanding of the dynamic evolutionary and environmental processes which shape and influence agricultural biodiversity is fundamental to improving the sustainable management and conservation of agricultural ecosystems today. In recent years, as the world's population continues to grow and agricultural production must meet the rising demand for food, agricultural expansion into forests and marginal lands, combined with overgrazing and urban and industrial growth, has substantially reduced levels of biological diversity over significant areas. Current patterns of agricultural land use based on limited numbers of species and varieties have also diminished the biological diversity within agricultural ecosystems and are undermining the long-term sustainability of agricultural production itself.

2. Agricultural intensification has the potential to balance the world's need for increasing food supplies while reducing pressures to expand agricultural areas still further, but it is also harmful when accompanied by excessive dependence on agrochemicals and external energy and water inputs. Agro-ecological forms of intensification can, however, blend improved knowledge about agricultural ecosystems, intercropping, uses of diverse species, integrated pest management and the efficient use of resources. Beneficial mixes of land use also raise the overall level of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. These approaches currently represent a small but growing portion of intensification efforts. Meeting the imperative of increasing agricultural production in such sustainable ways while conserving and prudently using biological diversity is the major challenge which we must urgently address.

3. The importance of agrobiodiversity is of widespread and complex significance to society, encompassing socio-cultural, economic and environmental elements. It is essential to food security and poverty alleviation and much of the knowledge about agrobiodiversity is maintained by farmers themselves, many of whom are women. All domesticated crops and animals result from human management of biological diversity, which is constantly responding to new challenges to maintain and increase productivity. Biological diversity itself presents opportunities for naturally controlling pests and reducing the use of pesticides, while maintaining high yields, and a large proportion of crops depend on insect pollinators for good yields. Landraces and wild species of animals and plants are the essential source of genetic variability for responding to biotic and abiotic stress through genetic adaptation.

4. The biological diversity of the soil is responsible for nutrient circulation and fertility within agricultural ecosystems. Diversified agricultural production provides protection against uncertainties in the market, especially for less capitalized producers, and increases the opportunities to add value and exploit new markets. Farmers all over the world have also managed a variety of wild species and habitats which benefit the sustainability of both agricultural and natural ecosystems.

5. At the more fundamental level, the living organisms which constitute agricultural biodiversity play an important role in the resilience of all natural, life-support processes. They are essential agents for, inter alia, nitrogen, carbon, energy and water cycles. Moreover, the species composition and their relationships will affect the functioning and yields of agricultural ecosystems themselves. A diverse environment also offers a shield for agricultural ecosystems against perturbations, natural or man-made, contributing to their resilience and that of their surrounding ecosystems.

6. Agricultural production utilizes natural resources of diverse ecosystems worldwide and is the economic activity most representative as far as extensive land-use is concerned - nearly one third of the world's land area is used for food production. Serious adverse effects may occur on biological diversity at on and off-farm levels. Most of the world's biological diversity on land is harboured by areas under exploitation by humans; consequently, conserving biological diversity implies improving the ways in which agricultural ecosystems are managed.

B. Impacts of agriculture on biodiversity

7. Different agricultural practices lead to diverse impacts upon biological diversity. These impacts occur at the ecosystem, species and genetic levels.

    (a) Unsustainable agricultural practices have caused negative impacts on biological diversity, world-wide, at all levels - ecosystem, species and genetic - on both natural and domestic diversity. They have resulted in the large-scale degradation of agrobiodiversity and habitats through the destruction of biotic and abiotic resources, as well as by threatening the natural resource base to agriculture and through socio-economic problems created by destruction of the local resource base. Inappropriate reliance on monoculture, over-mechanization, and misuse of agricultural chemicals diminish the diversity of fauna, flora and micro-organisms, including beneficial organisms. These practices normally lead to a simplification of the components of the environment and to unstable production systems. Expansion of agriculture to frontier areas, including forests, savannahs, wetlands, mountains, and arid lands, combined with overgrazing, and inadequate crop management and pest control strategies contribute to degradation of biological diversity, as well as to the loss of the cultural diversity of traditional communities.
    (b) Agricultural practices have, however, also facilitated enhanced biodiversity as a result of both traditional and modern sustainable farming practices. Agricultural ecosystems can provide habitats for plants, birds and other animals. Many agriculturalists have made strong efforts to preserve biological diversity important to agriculture, both in situ and ex situ. Currently, progress is being made in many regions of the world in implementing biological diversity-friendly agricultural practices in soil conservation, withdrawing production from marginal areas, mastering chemical and nutrient runoff, and breeding crop varieties which are genetically resistant to diseases, pests and abiotic stresses.

Annex 2

INDICATIVE LIST OF THEMATIC AREAS

1. Land resources

    (i) soil erosion control;
    (ii) sustainable tillage;
    (iii) sustainable farming or cropping;
    (iv) marginal land use;
    (v) stock of agricultural land including pressures of urbanization;
    (vi) integrated land and resource management;
    (vii) restoration of degraded landscapes.

2. Water resources

    (i) precipitation;
    (ii) irrigation management;
    (iii) sustainable use;
    (iv) water quality;
    (v) farm waste.

3. Plant, animal and microbial genetic resources

    (i) in situ;
    (ii) ex situ;
    (iii) role of botanical gardens and zoos vis á vis agricultural biological diversity;
    (iv) sustainable use.

4. Wildlife

    (i) habitats;
    (ii) populations (e.g., pollinators, nematodes, soil micro-organisms);
    (iii) biocontrol organisms;
    (iv) border habitats for natural organisms beneficial to agriculture.

5. Air and climate

    (i) greenhouse gas emissions;
    (ii) temperature and precipitation variability.

6. Farm inputs

    (i) sustainable/water use efficiency;
    (ii) energy use efficiency;
    (iii) input costs;
    (iv) pesticide use involving integrated pest management;
    (v) nutrient balance including symbiotic soil micro-organisms.

7. Wild sources of food

    (i) wild relatives of domesticated species;
    (ii) other wild species.

8. Traditional knowledge

9. Marketing conditions for agricultural products

The relationship between biological diversity-friendly agricultural practices and market forces.

10. Land-use pressures

Examining land-use pressures which make it more difficult to maintain biodiversity-friendly practices, such as lack of services for rural people, and the artificial maintenance of some land far below productive capacity;

11. Agroforestry


Annex 3

INITIAL ISSUES FOR CONDUCTING CASE STUDIES

1. Pollinators, including consideration of the monitoring of the loss of pollinators worldwide; the identification of the specific causes of pollinator decline; the estimation of the economic cost associated with reduced pollination of crops; the identification and promotion of best practices and technologies for more sustainable agriculture; and the identification and encouragement of the adoption of conservation practices to maintain pollinators or to promote their re-establishment.

2. Soil micro-organisms in agriculture, including consideration of: the measurement and monitoring of the worldwide loss of symbiotic soil micro-organisms, in particular nitrogen-fixing bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi; the identification and promotion of the transfer of technologies for the detection of symbiotic soil micro-organisms and their use to enhance nitrogen fixation and phosphorous absorption; the estimation of the potential and actual economic gain associated with reduced use of nitrogen and phosphorus chemical fertilization of crops with the enhanced use and conservation of symbiotic soil micro-organisms; the identification and promotion of best practices for more sustainable agriculture; and the identification and promotion of conservation measures to conserve symbiotic soil micro-organisms or to promote their re-establishment.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme