The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety enters into force in September 2003, following its ratification by its 50th country – the island state of Palau. The Protocol – which was adopted by the member governments of the Convention on Biological Diversity in January 2000 – sets out the first comprehensive regulatory system for ensuring the safe transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), with a specific focus on their movements across national boundaries.

‘This new regime promises to make the international trade in GMOs more transparent while introducing important safety measures that will meet the needs of consumers, industry and the environment for many decades to come,’ s aid Klaus Toepfer, UNEP’s Executive Director. ‘The Protocol institutionalizes the precautionary approach and establishes a rigorous advanced informed agreement procedure.’

UNEP – with funding from the Global Environment Facility – is overseeing a $38.4 million scheme to help developing countries assess the potential risks and rewards of genetically modified crops. The largest capacity-building project ever conceived in the field of biosafety, it is helping up to 100 nations to develop the scientific and legal skills needed to evaluate the health and environmental issues surrounding GMO imports, and to handle them safely.

Twenty-four new sites were added to the World Heritage List at the 27th session of the World Heritage Committee in Paris, France, from 30 June to 5 July 2003. Two of them are considered among the most important regions in the world for biodiversity. These are: the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas in China, the epicentre of Chinese biodiversity and one of the Earth’s richest temperate regions, where the Yangtse, Mekong and Salween rivers run roughly parallel, north to south, through steep gorges; and the extension of the Central Amazon Conservation Complex – which includes Jaú National Park, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2000 – and is home to the world’s largest array of electric fish.

Others include the rich and diverse Uvs Nuur Basin in Mongolia and the Russian Federation; the pyramid-shaped, wooded Monte San Giorgio in Switzerland which has outstanding marine fossils; the forested Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Viet Nam, which includes 65 kilometres of underground caves and rivers; the Purnululu National Park in Western Australia, which contains the beehive-shaped cones of the Bungle Bungle range; and the United Kingdom’s Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.


This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Töpfer | Biological backbone | Benefits beyond boundaries | Common inheritance | Beauty or beast? | Wonders of the world | Protecting heritage | People | Parks and participation | At a glance: Protected Areas | Profile: Harrison Ford | Scorecard, catalyst, watershed | Coral Reef Fund | Coral jewels | Reef knots | Brief window for biodiversity | Books & products | Conservation amid conflict | News | Green, red or black? | Keeping faith with nature | Make parks not war

Complementary articles in other issues:
Issue on WSSD, 2002
Issue on Biological Diversity, 2000
Issue on Culture, Values and the Environment, 1996

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment: