The Convention on Biological Diversity

The most important international event of recent years has been the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 which produced a document, the Convention on Biological Diversity, that was later ratified in 1995 by 142 countries around the world. The Rio-Conference, commonly known as 'Agenda 21', includes a chapter on 'Promoting Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development' (Agenda 21: Chapter 14) that deals exclusively with the problems of pesticide overuse and the need to promote effective alternatives under the general banner of Integrated Pest Management. Agenda 21 states:

Chemical control of agricultural pests has dominated the scene but its overuse has adverse effects on farm budgets, human health and the environment, as well as international trade. Integrated Pest Management, which combines biological control, host plant resistance and appropriate farming practices and minimises the use of pesticides, is the best option for the future, as it guarantees yields, reduces costs, is environmentally friendly and contributes to the sustainability of agriculture.

While some see the Convention as no more than an expression of goodwill (Pincus et al., 1999), others have recognized its rele vance to the future of pest management, particularly biocontrol (Waage, 1996), the structure and focus of international research organizations and the regulation of pesticide use (van Emden and Peakall, 1996). However, as van Emden and Peakall (1996) point out the target deadlines that were set in 1992 now seem hopelessly unrealistic. For instance, the Convention recommendation 'to establish operational and interactive networks among farmers, researchers and extension services to promote and develop integrated pest management' not later than 1998, has already passed with little progress made towards achieving this objective. In other areas, though, the Convention has had a far reaching impact - particularly relating to the exchange and exploitation of genetic resources. The signatories to the Convention may have access to genetic resources (e.g. pathogen isolates for developing biopesticides) in other countries party to the agreement but only with prior informed consent of the country concerned, and on the condition that any studies carried out involve the scientists from that country and that benefits derived from exploitation of the genetic resources will be shared in a fair and equitable manner. Such global commitments inevitably change the way in which issues such as biological diversity are viewed, and as much as national regulatory legislation for pesticide registration procedures, has a place in influencing the way pest management develops and the options that are ultimately available.

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