Convention on Biological diversity---Cartagena Protocol and Nagoya Protocol

In 1992, governments, indigenous groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to talk about the environment. The Rio Earth Summit was the largest international environmental meeting ever. At the meeting, world leaders agreed that it was important to protect the environment for all people, including future generations (That’s you). The leaders decided to create three conventions to achieve this goal.

1. Rio declaration on Environment and Development

2. Agenda 21

3.Forest Principles

The other important agreements signed which were legally binding too

1. Convention on biological diversity (CBD)

2. Framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC)

A convention is an agreement or contract. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is an agreement between countries based on natural and biological resources.

Under CBD, it was for the first determined legally that the protection on biodiversity is a " common concern of the humankind".

The convention on biological diversity was opened for signature at the earth summit 5 June 1992 and entered into force on 29 Dec 1992.

The convention call upon all nations to take appropriate measures for conservation of biodiversity and sustainable utilization of its benefits.

It is regarded as key document in the sphere of sustainable development.

As of 2019, 195 UN states and the European Union are parties to the convention.

The CBD has three main goals: 

  1. to protect biodiversity
  2. to use biodiversity without destroying it; and, 
  3. to share any benefits from genetic diversity equally.

The CBD has two important supplementary agreements

1. Cartagena Protocol - Bio safety 

2. Nagoya Protocol - Biodiversity 

1.Cartagena Protocol [ 11 Sept 2003]

The full name of the treaty is Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

  • The international treaty concerns the movement of LMOs (living modified organisms) resulting from modern technology from one nation to another.
    • LMOs are defined under the protocol as living organisms that have a novel combination of genetic material secured from the use of modern technology.
  • It is a supplementary agreement to the CBD like the Nagoya Protocol.
  • The Protocol was adopted in 2000 and it came into force in 2003. The protocol was adopted in Montreal in 2000 but is named after Cartagena, the original city in Colombia where the protocol was supposed to be adopted. It was delayed due to some outstanding issues.
  • The Cartagena Protocol on Biodiversity seeks to protect biodiversity from the potential risks caused by LMOs arising from modern technology.
  • The protocol was adopted because of the tremendous advancements in biotechnology and the associated concerns about its safety and usage with respect to biodiversity.
  • It seeks to implement an internationally harmonised regime for biosafety in order to ensure the safe utilisation of modern biotechnology.
  • The Protocol has provisions for an Advance Informed Agreement (AIA) procedure.
    • The AIA is for ensuring that countries are given enough information to make informed decisions before agreeing to import LMOs into their country.
    • There are four components to the AIA:
      • Notification by the exporter (This is a detailed written description of the LMO by the exporter, well in advance of the first shipment)
      • Acknowledgement of notification receipt by the importer
      • Decision procedure (Approve/prohibit/ask for more information, etc.)
      • Review of decisions
  • The Cartagena Protocol also sets up a Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH) to enable information exchange on LMOs between countries. 
    • It is also intended to help countries implement the Cartagena Protocol.
    • The BCH is an information-sharing mechanism for relevant technical, scientific and legal information.
  • The Protocol gives a precautionary approach to the issue of transfer of LMOs from one country to another.

 Image Source: GEAC

Cartagena Protocol Scope

The Protocol is applicable for transboundary movement, transit, handling and use of all LMOs that may have harmful effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, also considering risks to human health.

  • The Cartagena Protocol chiefly governs the following:
    • LMOs that are intentionally introduced into the environment (trees, seeds or fish).
    • Genetically modified (GM) farm commodities (grain and corn used for animal feed, food or for processing).
  • It does not cover pharmaceuticals for humans addressed by other international agreements and organisations or products derived from LMOs, such as cooking oil from GM corn.
  • LMOs are classified as the following under the Protocol:
    • LMOs for intentional introduction into the environment – subject to AIA procedures.
    • LMOs for direct usage as food or feed, or for processing – subject to simplified procedures which include informing through the BCH.
    • LMOs for contained usage (like bacteria for lab experiments) –  these are exempt from AIA procedures.

Cartagena Protocol and India

India is a party to the Cartagena Protocol (ratified in 2003). The nodal agency (Competent National Authority-CNA) in the country for the implementation of the Protocol is the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEF&CC), Government of India.

2. Nagoya Protocol[ 29th Oct 2010]

The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) is a supplementary agreement to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

  • This protocol is a legal framework for the implementation of one of the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is the fair & equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
  • The protocol was adopted in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan. 
  • It entered into force in October 2014.
  • The objective of the protocol is the fair and equitable sharing of benefits coming from the utilization of genetic resources and helping in the conservation & sustainable usage of biodiversity.
  • The protocol creates obligations for members to incorporate measures in respect of access to genetic resources, sharing of benefits, and compliance.
  • It is one of the important environmental protocols of the world.

Nagoya Protocol Importance

The Nagoya Protocol is significant in terms of conservation of biodiversity, and for having an equitable sharing of benefits of the genetic resources. This is also intended to help indigenous peoples everywhere to avoid being exploited for their traditional knowledge and expertise.

  • This protocol will help both the users and the owners of genetic resources by creating better legal certainty and transparency in the following ways:
    • It sets more predictable conditions for access to genetic resources.
    • It helps in having a better benefit-sharing experience when the genetic resources travel outside the country of origin.
  • The protocol aids in ensuring benefit-sharing and thus leads to better conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources. This, in turn, leads to better conservation of biodiversity.
  • The protocol’s adoption marks an important step towards the CBD’s implementation.
  • Genetic resources from animals, plants, and microorganisms are progressively valuable in the development of specialty enzymes, small molecules, or enhanced genes. These can be used in many areas, including drug development, crop protection, specialized chemical production, and also in industrial processing.
  • The protocol gives researchers a framework in which to access these genetic resources for biotechnology research in return for a fair share in the benefits arising from the usage.
  • Indigenous and local communities may receive benefits through a legal framework that respects the value of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources.

Obligations under Nagoya Protocol for Parties

The parties to the protocol are obliged to take actions with respect to access to genetic resources, benefit-sharing, and compliance.

Access to Genetic Resources

  • Access measures should have legal certainty, transparency, and clarity.
  • The rules and procedures thereof should be fair and non-arbitrary.
  • There should be clear rules for prior informed consent and mutually agreed to terms.
  • The rules should have provisions for the issuance of a permit (or its equivalent) when granted access.
  • Encourage research that will contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use.
  • Cases of imminent emergencies that threaten plant, animal, or human health should be considered.
  • Take into consideration the importance of genetic resources for food and agriculture, to have food security.


  • Benefit-sharing measures should have provisions for the fair & equitable sharing of benefits that arise from the utilization of genetic resources with the contracting party that provides genetic resources. 
  • Utilization implies R&D on the biochemical or genetic composition of genetic resources, and also resultant applications & commercialization. 
  • Sharing should be subject to mutually-agreed terms. 
  • Benefits could be non-monetary or monetary. Benefits could be in the form of royalties and/or sharing of the results of the research.


  • This includes having legal provisions for the implementation of the protocol.
  • This also includes having dispute resolution mechanisms in place for resolving any disputes.

Nagoya Protocol and India

India signed the Nagoya Protocol in 2011 and ratified it in October 2012. The ratification by India was done at the 11th Conference of Parties (COP) to the CBD, which was conducted in Hyderabad.

The domestic legislation in India for the implementation of the CBD is the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.


Source: https://bch.cbd.int/protocol/


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