Biotrade/Concepts relevant to BioTrade
“Biodiversity” or “biological diversity” is the variation of life forms within a given ecosystem or the entire planet. As such it encompasses the totality of genes and species of a particular region or domain. Traditionally, three levels of biodiversity have been identified: ecosystem biodiversity, species diversity, and intra-specific diversity. Molecular diversity has been suggested as a fourth dimension in light of its usefulness for genomic analysis and fingerprinting purposes.
Box 1: The CBD definition of biodiversity. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines "biological diversity" as "the variability among living organisms from all sources, including, 'inter alia', terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems". Life consists of many millions of distinct biological species. There are an estimated 6-10 million insect species, of which only 1,000,000 have been described and catalogued, and some 300,000 species of flowering plants. Some species are more important for human use than others. The species richness of certain groups, such as the economically relevant orchids (20,000 species) and the palms (2000) suggest that there is much potential for humans to derive even greater benefits from the use of biodiversity than at present. Biodiversity critically supports nutrition in terms of the biodiversity products that constitute food. The reservoir of genetic traits present in crop wild relatives and landraces is fundamental in maintaining and improving crop performance through plant breeding, an ongoing process of vital importance for humans, but little appreciated. Biodiversity is also critically associated with health. Drug discovery and manufacture relies to a large extent on plant diversity. Not least important, biodiversity has intrinsic aesthetic and cultural values that discredit the notion that tropical forests and other ecosystems are only worthy of conservation because of the tangible services they provide. Yet, this is a time in human history of unprecedented and unabated decline of biodiversity, because of over-use, the destruction of habitats, the failure to recognize the option value of biodiversity, and –in the wake of globalization- the abandonment of traditional lifestyles with their greater reliance on biodiversity. Biodiversity is much richer in the tropics than in the temperate zone, while the inverse is true for the distribution of wealth and purchasing power, thus determining the direction of international BioTrade along a south-north gradient.
Box 2: Agricultural biodiversity: In regard of BioTrade, agricultural biodiversity is especially noteworthy. The genetic resources embodied in agricultural seed and animal stocks are the most important assets of agricultural systems in delivering their principal ecosystem service, which is the provision of food and other agriculture-based commodities. As such they have overwhelming importance for human nutrition, dietary diversity, farmer income and economies. There is also considerable diversity within most agricultural species, notably in domesticated species that have been subject to human selection pressure. For example, there are an estimated 4000 varieties of native potatoes in the Andes and several tens of thousands of rice varieties, many of which have distinct use properties and adaptations.
In a broad sense, sustainability is the capacity to endure . Ecosystems are sustainable when they maintain ecological functions, biodiversity and productivity into the future. For humans, sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of wellbeing, which will in turn depend on the responsible use of natural resources. The Global Environment Outlook 4 defines sustainability as “a characteristic or state whereby the needs of the present and local population can be met without compromising the ability of future generations or populations in other locations to meet their needs” thus capturing two fundamental issues: the intra-generational equity (meeting human needs now) and inter-generational equity (fulfilment of basic needs of all global citizens in the future). Sustainability is often described as resting on three pillars or having three dimensions: environmental, social and economic sustainability, as in UNCTAD’s BioTrade definition. The conventional understanding of sustainable development, based on the ‘three pillars’ implies that restricted trade-offs can be made between environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainability. However, in practice, development decisions by governments, industries and other actors have traditionally put greatest emphasis on the economy above other dimensions of sustainability. This is a major reason why the environment continues to be degraded and development does not achieve desirable equity goals.
Sustainable use of biodiversity
Definitions of sustainable use relative to biological resources (fish stocks, forest products) generally reflect the concern over the widely observed excessive consumptive use of biological resources leading to levels below critical thresholds, beyond which their long-term viability or very existence is put in jeopardy . On the other hand, concerns of over-exploitation of a resource do not directly apply to agricultural biodiversity, for the biological diversity embodied in crops and animals is perpetuated as agricultural seeds and reproduced animals. The term “sustainable use” conjures the notion of the need for reconciling conservation and use of agricultural biodiversity as somehow antagonistic goals when indeed conservation of agricultural biodiversity is only possible through use, and benefits arising from its actual or potential use (or value) provide the only incentive for its conservation. The principal threat to agricultural biodiversity is ultimately not over-use but rather the under-use in agricultural systems and breeding programs. The CBD’s Addis Ababa principles and guidelines (AAPG) provide a comprehensive and normative framework for the sustainable use of biodiversity (CBD 2004). Table 1 shows where the AAPG intersect thematically with BioTrade principles and can inform each other. Since the AAPG also deal with non-commercial uses of biodiversity, they are necessarily much broader. Recent analysis suggests that the AAPGs inadequately address agricultural biodiversity, which is distinctive in several respects from non-agricultural biodiversity and thus requires distinctive solutions. A distinguishing feature of the use of agricultural biodiversity vis-à-vis the use of biodiversity in natural ecosystems is that agricultural practice typically requires trade-offs between the on-farm diversity on the one hand, and livelihood and development goals on the other, particularly at the plot and farm level. Productivity needs and crop uniformity requirements arising from crop and post-harvest management as well as market integration tend to reduce agricultural biodiversity, thus requiring ex situ conservation of landraces and traditional animal breeds.
Table 1: Matching Addis Ababa Principles with BioTrade principles
Addis Ababa Principle (abbreviated) Conservation of biodiversity Sustainable use of biodiversity Equitable sharing of benefits Socio-economic sustainability (management, production and markets) Compliance with national and international legislation and agreements Respect for the rights of actors involved in BioTrade activities Clarity about land tenure, use and access to natural resources and knowledge 1: Supportive policies, laws and institutions are in place at all levels and there are effective linkages. 2: Local users of biodiversity should be empowered by rights to be accountable for use of the resources. 3: Policies that distort markets or represent perverse incentives for degradation should me removed or mitigated. 4: Adaptive management through science, traditional knowledge, and feedback from use and impact assessment. 5: Avoidance of adverse impacts on ecosystem services and components. 6: Support of interdisciplinary research into all aspects of use and conservation of biological diversity. 7: Spatial and temporal scales of management should be compatible with the ecological and socio-economic scales of the use and its impact. 8: International arrangements for international cooperation where multi-national decision-making are needed. 9: Interdisciplinary, participatory approach for management and governance related to the use. 10: Policies need to take into account use and non-economic values of biodiversity and market forces affecting the values and use. 11: Avoidance or minimization of waste and optimized benefits from uses. 12: Local custodians of biological diversity need to benefit from the uses of these resources. 13. The costs of management and conservation of biological diversity should be internalized within the area of management and reflected in the distribution of the benefits from the use. AAP14. Implementation of education and public awareness programs on conservation and sustainable use; more effective communication between stakeholders and managers.
In light of the growing importance of agriculture and farming of wild-type species for BioTrade, this section explores the concept and practice of agricultural sustainability. There is no universally accepted definition of sustainable agriculture, given the extraordinary diversity and complexity of agricultural land use, and the perspective taken (producer, consumer, etc.). For the purpose of this training manual, sustainable agriculture is defined as the “ability of farmland to produce food and other agricultural products to satisfy human needs indefinitely as well as having sustainable impacts on the broader environment”. Sustainable agriculture includes considerations of productivity goals, environmental stewardship, farm profitability and rural welfare objectives as well as consumer health. The principle of sustainability implies the use of resources at rates that do not exceed the capacity of ecosystems to replace them. By definition, the dependency on non-renewable inputs of contemporaneous agriculture is unsustainable, even if in the short term it is necessary as part of a trajectory toward sustainability. There are many difficulties in making agricultural sustainability operational. Over what spatial scale should food production be sustainable? Clearly an overarching goal is global sustainability, but should this goal also apply at lower levels, such as regions, nations, or farms? Could high levels of consumption or negative externalities in some regions be mitigated by improvements in other areas, or could some unsustainable activities in the food system be offset by actions in the non-food sector (through carbon-trading, for example)? Limited potential for the expansion of cultivated lands and the need to roughly double agricultural production over the next decades leave little alternative but to improve further the productivity of existing agricultural land in a dramatic fashion. Agricultural intensification will have to be achieved by boosting land, water, nutrient and labor productivity, while at the same time avoiding the environmental degradation caused in the past by wasteful use of resources and inputs. Experience suggests that the dual goals of agricultural intensification and lessening the environmental footprint of agriculture can be achieved, but require the implementation of enabling policies that promote resource-use efficiency. Correcting for negative environmental externalities of agriculture, including environmental pollution and the costs of waste and poor health, will reflect the true costs of agricultural products and send accurate price signals to change production methods . Rewarding farmers for providing environmental services will create incentives for farmers to engage in environmentally beneficial practices. BioTrade can be a driving force in making agriculture more sustainable, especially if price premiums provide incentives for farmers to engage in improved practices, notably with regard to nutrient, pest and disease management. The need for increased investments in agriculture and agricultural research cannot be overstated. The development of technological innovations and the knowledge to underpin policy decisions as well as infrastructure improvements will require unprecedented research and development efforts. The empowerment of poor farmers who supply most agricultural produce in developing countries will require a host of policies that impact the capacity for BioTrade such as: revamping extension services, ensuring smallholders’ land tenure, providing market access, and strengthening the role of women (see also section 6).
Box 3: Sustainable agriculture and Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines (AAPGs). AAPGs are a general framework for the sustainable use of biodiversity with important messages targeted to a global audience. They are broadly applicable to agriculture. However, they are stated in very general terms, and their wording and the accompanying rationales reflect concerns about the sustainability of non-agricultural biodiversity. Identifying a set of universal principles that have global validity, may also prove elusive, or be so general as to be of little practical value. In order for the AAPGs to be of operational value in agriculture and provide meaningful guidance for improved management they would need considerable re-interpretation. Recent in-depth examination of the AAPG concludes that existing normative agricultural frameworks aimed at greater sustainability such as Good Agricultural Practice Principles, IFOAM guidelines and many others to be “marketed” and used to a larger extent. As compared with the AAPGs, these frameworks offer more specificity in terms of thematic focus and target audiences, and greater potential to guide priority action suited to particular circumstances of the highly diverse agricultural systems. These frameworks also represent good models for the development of production principles or standards for agricultural sub-sectors for which such principles do not yet exist. If more widely applied, they have the potential to move agriculture toward a more sustainable future. Agriculture has no shortage of sustainability principles and guidelines, but judging from its environmental footprint, it certainly lacks their implementation. Sustainable agriculture includes considerations of productivity goals, environmental stewardship, farm profitability and rural welfare objectives as well as consumer health. BioTrade can be a driving force in making agriculture more sustainable, especially if price premiums provide incentives for farmers to engage in improved practices, notably with regard to nutrient, pest and disease management.
CBD 2004; CBD 2010; FAO 1996; FAO 2007; FAO 2009; McNeely and Scherr 2001, 2003; MEA 2005; Orr 2006; Tilman et al. 2002; Trewavas 2001, 2002, 2004;