White asbestos continues to be in use in - -- United Nations

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White asbestos continues to be in use in - -- United Nations ...


    Thursday, 12 February 2004

     UNEP and the Executive Director in the News ? Malaysia General News -COP-7 hopes to resolve international regime on

    ABS issue ? New Straits Times - Unjust compensation for communities' resources

     PANA - UNEP sounds warning over earth's cloud forests

    ? Business Standard - Say no to white asbestos ? The Herald - ‗Safe‘ amalgam fillings classed as toxic waste ? AAP NEWSFEED - Depressed Broadway star dies in Australia while on retreat ? The Sun Chronicle - Young actor dies

     ? Dawn - Provinces to submit proposals - Consensus on water issue

     Other Environment-related News ? Le Monde - La Convention sur la biodiversité va discuter du brevetage du vivant

     ? The Star Online - Delegates split on regulating access to genetic resources

     ? The Star (Malaysia) - Financial backing

     ? ENS - Deep Sea Trawling Threatens Marine Biodiversity

     Environmental News from the UNEP Regions

    ? ROA

    ? ROAP

    ? ROE

    ? ROLAC

    ? ROWA

     Other UN News

    ? U.N. Highlights of 11 February 2004

    ? S.G.'s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 11 February 2004

Malaysia General News

    Communications and Public Information, P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya

    Tel: (254-2) 623292/93, Fax: [254-2] 62 3927/623692,,

February 10, 2004, Tuesday

    COP-7 hopes to resolve international regime on ABS issue



BODY: The ongoing Seventh Conference of Parties (COP-7) to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD)

    hopes to resolve the present debate on the necessity of having a legally binding instrument in dealing with access to genetic resources and benefit sharing (ABS).

    CBD Deputy Executive Secretary Olivier Jalbert said some of the parties were against such implementation, arguing that they should instead adopt Bonn Guidelines issued during the 2001 conference in Germany.

    "There's a group of governments calling themselves a Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries whose objective is to obtain a legal binding instrument in this field of ABS. But there are other governments who have different views that feel we have set the guideline. Now let's apply them and see if they work to satisfaction," he told a media conference on the sidelines of the two-week conference, today.

    However, Jalbert said the Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries felt that the Bonn Guideline was insufficient to deal with ABS.

    Bonn Guideline basically covers a few relevant elements such as a mechanism on benefit-sharing and stake-holders involvement, but there is a question whether it actually benefits the core stake-holder where genetic resources originated from.

    When asked about this, Jalbert admitted there were cases where developers of the genetic resource had applied to patent their finding without the concern of those who had the prior knowledge (traditional knowledge) of that particular genetic resource.

    "We have heard of cases of the utilisation of genetic resources that have led to intellectual property rights problem, where it was filed without consent," he said.

    The role of intellectual property rights in ABS was also being scrutinised during the Bonn meeting, of which the Panel of Experts on ABS was unable to come up with any conclusion.

One of the presenters, Ivonne Higuero from the United Nations Enviromental Programme (UNEP), who

    presented the case study on a herb found in India, said although the patents filed on the medicine from the herb covered just India, the study showed that it had been sold outside that country with at least one company in the United States, which fell outside the licensing and benefit-sharing agreement.

    She said, the study also showed there were several questions raised as to who were really benefited from the fund, which was set-up from the profit gained from the licensing of the herbal medicine.

    Another case study on a type of rice in Mali, which was presented by Shakeer Bhatti, the senior programme officer with World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), also showed similar a problem. ________________________________________________________________________________

    New Straits Times

    February 11, 2004

    Unjust compensation for communities' resources

    BYLINE: By Elizabeth John; Deborah Loh; Anis Ibrahim


    COMMUNITIES providing access to their genetic resources and traditional knowledge on plants and animals, have not been suitably rewarded through voluntary agreements with users of these resources, according to a United Nations Environment Programme study.

    The study, conducted by Professor Anil K. Gupta on three such agreements, highlights their shortcomings and shows how complex it is to determine the best way to compensate communities for the use of their genetic



    Gupta, who holds the Kasturbhai Lalbhai Chair of Entrepreneurship at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, studied agreements made in Mali, India and Nigeria.

    In Mali, a wild rice gene was found to be resistant to bacterial rice blight, one of the most damaging rice diseases, and the disease-resistant gene was cloned and patented by the University of California, Davis in the United States. Gupta questioned the appropriateness of offering PhD

    fellowships as the central benefit to the Bela people, a farming community, in exchange for their knowledge of the plant.

    A trust fund for the community, set up after an application to patent the gene had been filed, had not received any funds, he said. He also questioned why the new know-how on the gene was not made available to the Institute of Economic Research in Mali. The study, jointly commissioned by

    the World Intellectual Property Organisation and UNEP, also suggests ways to improve such agreements.

    The launch of the study comes a day before the Seventh Conference of the Parties begins deliberations to establish an international regime on Access and Benefit Sharing.

    The regime will eventually determine rules by which parties may access genetic resources like plants and animals and how benefits arising from the use of these resources should be shared with the communities the resource was taken from.

    Biological resources such as animals and plants are much sought after for commercialisation. Many top-selling drugs have been derived from nature. According to industry estimates, total annual sales of over-the- counter herbal drugs in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Spain in the 1990s reached an estimated US$7 billion (RM26.6 billion).



    UNEP sounds warning over earth's cloud forests

    Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) has warned that the earth's cloud forests, vital and unique habitats for thousands of rare and endangered species, and suppliers of year-round water were under increasing threat from agriculture, road-building and climate change, among other factors.

    In a report, the Nairobi-based agency said new figures from a survey indicate that cloud forests cover an area of just under 400,000 sq. km, or less than 2.5 per cent of the world's tropical rain forests.

    The report, Cloud Forest Agenda, said contrary to previous estimates, the majority of these moist humid forests are found in Asia (60 percent) rather than Latin America (25 percent), while Africa accounts for 15 per cent.

    The report makes it clear that conserving and restoring cloud forests was not a only a matter of aesthetics or love for nature, but one of crucial economic importance for millions of people in the developing world.

    "The ability of cloud forests to strip and retain moisture from cloud and fogs is key to abundant, clean and predictable water supplies in many areas, especially during dry seasons. The cloud forests of La Tigra National Park in Honduras provide over 40 per cent of the water for the 850,000 people living in the capital, Tegucigalpa," the report pointed out.

    It further noted that all the water used in Dar es Salaam, Tanzanian during the dry season originates in the cloud forests of the Uluguru Mountains.

    Similarly, the forests of Mount Kenya guarantee dry-season river flows to the semi-arid lowlands with the headwaters of the River Tana supplying water to over five million people.


The study, compiled by researchers from UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC)

    and UNESCO is the first major report of the Mountain Cloud Forest Initiative (MCFI).

"If we are to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals and the World Summit on Sustainable

    Development's Plan of Implementation in areas such as improved provision of drinking water supplies

    and reversing the rate at which biodiversity is being lost, we need sound science upon which to act," said UNEP executive director Klaus Toepfer, about the report.

    "I hope this study will not only trigger improved awareness of the need to conserve cloud forests, but lead to new partnerships and initiatives to conserve and restore them," Toepfer said.

    While acknowledging that some countries were already working along that line, he insisted that UNEP's report "underscores how much more is needed, particularly in Africa and areas of Asia, now known to be holding significant reserves of these fragile mountain habitats."

    The findings will also be presented to environment minister and experts attending the 8th Special Session of UNEP's Governing Council and 5th Global Ministerial Environment Forum billed for late March in Jeju,

    South Korea.


     Say no to white asbestos

    It‘s high time the government bans the production and use of this carcinogen, says Gopal Krishna

Published : February 12, 2004

    White asbestos continues to be in use in India although other kinds such as blue and brown asbestos are banned. It is used mainly for water pipes or as roofing sheets in the construction industry.

    Asbestos dust can be inhaled while drilling a hole, cutting a pipe, repairing, renovating or demolishing a building. Its effects are far-reaching, affecting everyone from the person mining it to the ultimate consumer. Clinical reports show that asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer can show up even 25 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos.

    On August 18, 2003, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare and Parliamentary Affairs Sushma Swaraj said in the Rajya Sabha: ―Studies by the National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, have shown

    that long-term exposure to any type of asbestos can lead to the development of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma .‖ Although this clearly implies that white asbestos is hazardous and a health hazard, Indian government representatives, astonishingly, objected to the extension of prior-informed consent to cover white asbestos as a material subject to trade control at the Rotterdam Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Convention in Geneva in November 2003.

    India joined Canada which exports more than 95 per cent of all the asbestos it produces, most of it to India

     to scuttle attempts to include the material in the international list of chemicals under the Convention. The PIC Convention, which will come into force in February 2004 under the United Nations Environment

    Programme (UNEP), is a globally-binding instrument that provides an early warning system and transparent information on chemicals that have been banned or restricted by at least two countries.

    The Indian government‘s stance at Geneva went against the interests of Indian workers and citizens. India

    must disassociate itself from Canada, which successfully blocked consideration of a proposed UN ban on the import of white asbestos until September 2004 with support from Russia and 13 other asbestos-producing countries.

    The year 2003 saw the global movement against asbestos gaining ground. The latest countries to ban asbestos are Japan and Australia. Japan‘s health, labour and welfare ministry announced that asbestos would not be


manufactured, imported, transferred, provided or used by the country starting October 1, 2004. Australia has

    banned all new uses of asbestos and materials containing asbestos from December 31, 2003.

    The World Trade Organisation‘s Dispute Settlement Panel on September 18, 2000, and its appellate body on

    March 12, 2001, accepted that chrysotile, also known as white asbestos, is an established carcinogen and that

    ―controlled use‖ is not an effective alternative to a national ban.

    Health statistics and the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour

    Organisation (ILO) have led governments across the developed world to recognise the hazards of asbestos and

    ban its use in their countries.

    Member states of the European Union stopped using asbestos in 1999 and bans are already in place in more

    than 30 countries worldwide. Says ILO Director of Safe work Jukka Takala, ―The ILO has updated its

    estimates on global accidents and diseases related to work. …a single substance, asbestos, causes some

    100,000 of these fatalities.‖ Unmindful of the fact that ―poison‖ does not become ―non-poisonous‖ as a result of advertising and public

    relations campaigns, the Canadian government recently announced its continuing support for safe and

    responsible use of white asbestos.

    It renewed its funding to the Montreal-based Asbestos Institute for the promotion of white asbestos throughout

    the world. It has announced a contribution of $ 775,000 for the promotion of asbestos.

    In India, even as the demand for a global ban on all forms of asbestos was once again made at the World

    Social Forum in Mumbai in January, the Maharashtra government is pursuing its request to the Union rural

    development ministry for permission to use asbestos sheets in rural housing projects.

    And the asbestos industry has flooded national dailies with sponsored features like ―scientific findings squash

    asbestos cement myth ― and ―only blue asbestos ‗causes‘ mesothelioma‖.

    Unlike Maharashtra, Goa seems to be on the right track. ―No low-income housing group structures should be

    covered by asbestos sheets as they are highly carcinogenic and harmful to the residents. The previous

    government‘s short-sightedness should not be repeated,‖ says Matanhy Saldanha, MLA from the United Goan Democratic Party, a part of the Goa‘s ruling coalition.

    There is no single product in day-to-day use at work or at home that needs to be made from deadly asbestos.

    Even then, over 3,000 workplace- and home-based products contain this poison.

    Cellulose fibre, PVA fibre, clay, stone tiles and steel are all substitutes for asbestos. Although expensive at

    first, they work out cheaper in the long run because of their long life.

    If the Indian government is concerned about the health of its citizens, it must approve alternatives to asbestos,

    especially for roofing. White asbestos is a convicted mass killer. Its use should not be perpetuated.


    The Herald

    12 February 2003

    ‗Safe‘ amalgam fillings classed as toxic waste

AMALGAM fillings are to be officially classed as poisonous to the environment, even though they are deemed

    safe to put in people's mouths.

    The fillings, which contain 50% mercury, a liquid metal that is one of the most poisonous substances known,

    are to be designated as toxic waste by the Scottish Executive later this year.

    The silver paste, which was first used by the Chinese in the seventh century to fill decayed teeth, has

    historically been considered suitable for human use, but serious doubts have been raised about its safety.

    It has been linked to ailments including Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, kidney failure, asthma, and

    other auto-immune illnesses.

    In the interest of protecting their citizens' health, countries such as Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark,

    Austria, Finland and Canada have taken steps to limit or phase out the use of amalgam fillings.

    Studies show that every day each filling releases up to 10 micrograms of mercury as a vapour into the body

    through chewing. But experts are at odds over whether this is at levels that would cause concern.

    However, dental amalgam is to be classified as hazardous in amendments to special waste regulations in


    Scotland, which will come into force this summer and have been drawn up to protect the environment. Under these it will be illegal to dispose of waste amalgam into the public water system. The executive's stance emerged after the UK was given a final written warning by the EU for failing to comply with waste legislation that forbids the leaking of toxic amalgam into the environment through waste water systems.

    Non-compliance could mean a fine of ?370,000 a day until the executive conforms.

    The law insists that amalgam filters or separators are used, and that the waste is treated as hazardous, so that it is not disposed of with domestic refuse, as the regulations require.

    The problem is that treatment plants separate waste water into water and sludge but mercury does not disappear through this process.

    The amendments will ensure the waste is properly accounted for and handled by licensed waste management companies.

    Dental practices will have to complete records of all waste and how it was disposed under a mandatory tracking system overseen by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

    It is thought that many dentists and NHS facilities where dental patients are treated will need to install filters to capture dental amalgam in their drains.

    Ray Watkins, Scotland's chief dental officer, has already warned all dentists that it is "not acceptable" to dispose of amalgam with ordinary waste.

    However, while the executive is ahead of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in pushing legislation forward for Scotland, it is not considering restrictions over its use in teeth. An executive spokeswoman said: "It is considered hazardous to dispose of, because it contains heavy metals that accumulate when they are flushed into water, and not disposed of correctly."

    She added: "It is considered safe and effective and recommended for use as fillings, though. All the research has shown that."

    However, Stephen Challacombe, professor of medicine at Guy's Hospital in London and one of Britain's top dentists, who has been calling for further research into the safety of amalgams for 10 years, said more work needs to be done. "It's a logical extension to question whether amalgam is safe in your mouth when it is not recommended for the environment," he said.

    Lloyd Jerome, who runs one of a growing number of mercury-free dental practices in the UK and is based in Glasgow, said: "It is clearly double standards that something that is seen to be toxic waste can be used in dental surgeries."

    The United Nations


    February 11, 2004, Wednesday 7:37 AM Eastern Time

     Fed: Depressed Broadway star dies in Australia while on retreat

    BYLINE: By Samantha Baden



    A young American Broadway and television star retreated to Australia, a country he loved, to deal with personal problems stemming from his fame.

    But Jason Raize's quest ended in death when he took his own life on a property in southern NSW, friends said today.

He was just 28.

    Raize, one of the stars of the original Broadway production of The Lion King, was found dead at the Yass property on February 7, according to Yass Police.


    Following a successful career on stage and on TV, Raize arrived in Australia six or seven months ago, declaring he wanted to deal with his depression, said Australian friend, artist and gallery owner Peter Crisp.

    "He had been depressed and was going through a lot of issues," said Mr Crisp, who had met the New York-based performer, whose real name was Rothenberg, during his earlier 2001 visit to Australia.

    "He came to Australia to retreat and probably to deal with issues stemming from his fame."

    Raize spent time in Sydney and Armidale before moving shortly before Christmas to a property near Yass, to whose owner he had been introduced by Mr Crisp.

    There he had been doing odd jobs in exchange for food and board, according to the property's owner, who asked not to be named.

    Raize was last seen on the morning of February 2 and was reported missing to police the next day.

His body was found in a hay shed on February 7.

    Mr Crisp said Raize had looked forward to returning to Australia since his first visit in 2001, when the young star was shooting a series of wildlife programs for US TV called Keeping It Wild.

    "He loved the experience he'd had in Australia previously, (and) he talked about it as one of his happiest times ever," said Mr Crisp, who is based in Yass.

    "Once he got back to America, he always talked about Australia and wanting to come back here, and he did exactly that."

The owner of the Yass property remembered the entertainer as "an adorable person".

"I didn't know Jason very well. He was an adorable person," she said.

"I knew he was having a few problems, but I didn't know terribly much about them."

She said Raize did not speak much about himself.

"He was a beautiful person and he had a smile that would just light up the world.

"Perhaps he's been a victim of all the good things that had happened to him."

    Raize made his name in the original Broadway production of The Lion King, a production of which is currently playing in Sydney.

    Raize played the older Simba in the musical, based on Disney's animated film and which opened on Broadway in November 1997. He kept the part for nearly three years.

    Disney Australia Theatrical Production managing director James Thane said Raize had attended an October preview of the Australian production of The Lion King.

"Other than that we've had no contact with him," Mr Thane said.

    Raize, from upstate New York, had performed in a variety of stage productions including a "Jesus Christ Superstar" tour with Ted Neeley and later a "King and I" tour starring Hayley Mills.

    He also used his talents to address concerns for the environment and was named an Ambassador of Goodwill for the UN Environment Program.

    Raize most recently lent his voice to the character of Denahi in Disney's 2003 animated feature film Brother Bear.



    The Sun Chronicle

    Young actor dies


    WRENTHAM -- Jason Berl Raize Rothenberg spent the summer of 2002 with his mother Sarah MacArthur in this quaint little town.

    It was a far cry from playing Simba in `` The Lion King'' on Broadway for three years, or Pontius Pilate in the touring company of `` Jesus Christ Superstar'' or his TV show, which showcased environmental issues, or the wilds of Yass, Australia, where the handsome performer killed himself on Feb. 3 at age 28. `` Something happened. We're not sure what,'' his mother said from her Wrentham home. `` Life got harder for him.''

    The cause of death was confirmed as suicide, said Chris Boneau, a spokesman for the Disney Co., producer of `` The Lion King.''

    Jason Raize Rothenberg was a young teenager growing up outside of Oneonta, N.Y., with his mother and father, starring in Oneonta High School plays and numerous productions at the West Kortright Centre. There, his obvious talent was nurtured by artists who came up from New York City to put on community shows. `` A lot of people in the area were doing extraordinary stuff,'' Rothenberg's mother said Tuesday. `` There was a woman doing shows with adolescents. She was the one who first recognized that Jason had this talent.'' The young actor-singer began starring at the Orpheus Theater in Oneonta, a community theater that brought major talent up from New York City to play the leads in their musicals.

    While Rothenberg was performing in `` West Side Story,'' he worked under and came to know the Broadway choreographer of `` Fiddler on the Roof,'' and began making subsequent theater connections. `` He had a very good business sense,'' his mother said. `` After the show, he sent out `Thank you' cards to everyone. He stayed connected.''

    Rothenberg dropped his last name for the stage name Jason Raize.

    Following training at The American Musical & Dramatic Academy, he toured the country as Pontius Pilate in `` Jesus Christ Superstar,'' then again hit the small cities on tour in `` Miss Saigon.'' While rehearsing for a production of `` The King and I,'' Raize read about auditions for Disney's staging of its popular feature film `` The Lion King'' as a Broadway production.

    He somehow was able to get an audition while still under contract to the `` King and I.'' `` He had outrageous determination,'' his mother said with enormous pride. `` He got the part, and they released him from his contract.

    `` I still remember opening night. He was thrilled, and it was televised. There was a party afterwards. The whole thing was really heady.''

    Raize became best known for this signature role as the original adult Simba, the lion cub prince who flees his pride in disgrace, but returns as an adult to avenge the death of his regal father.

    He played the adult Simba for almost three years, beginning in 1997. Raize was just 21 when he landed the role.

    By this time, his mother had divorced, moved to Wrentham and remarried.

    An environmentalist, she said her son inherited her love of nature, often taking long walks with her through the fields and back woods of Oneonta.


    `` He was always interested in environmental issues. We'd go for wonderful walks,'' she said. `` He loved it and saw the need to preserve it.''

    Because of his fund-raising efforts, the United Nations appointed him Ambassador of Goodwill for the U.N. Environment Program.

    He began hosting a television series called `` Keeping It Wild With Jason Raize,'' which grew out of his strong desire to promote alliances between the environment and entertainment communities.

    Through the program, he showed children in particular that exciting career possibilities existed, his mother said.

    `` He went to places where they were doing really cool things,'' she said. `` He did three or four shows in Australia. He liked the people there and returned there.

    `` He had been so intense about pursuing his career for so long, that he wanted to get away from it all for so long.''

    Last year, Raize provided the voice of Denahi, an Ice Age boy who does battle with a bear who turns out to be his younger brother, in the Disney animated film `` Brother Bear.''

    Just three weeks before he died, MacArthur received photos of her son from Yass, Australia, doing what he did best -- singing and bringing joy to others at a party.

    `` It sounded like a really cool place,'' she said. `` There were several international groups and they functioned as a family. He had charisma like you can't believe.

    `` There are people from all over this planet who have been touched by him.''

    In addition to his mother, Raize is survived by his father, Robert Rothenberg of Oneonta; a sister, Lisa Williams of Poughquag, N.Y.; a stepmother, Monet Rothenberg; and a stepfather, Jim Kidd. He was predeceased by his first adoptive mother, Geraldine Bakalar Rothenberg, and brother Andrew Rothenberg.

    A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Society, 12 Ford Ave., Oneonta, N.Y.

Dawn Internet Edition

    Provinces to submit proposals - Consensus on water issue

    By Our Reporter

    ISLAMABAD, Feb 9: Participants of a national workshop on 'water, dams and development' from the four provinces here on Monday resolved to work out their differences through dialogue and propose an acceptable solution to the highest level of decision-making.

    The workshop organized by an entity calling itself, "Building Partnerships, Promoting Sustainability" was attended by representatives of the federal government, members of provincial assemblies of Balochistan, NWFP, Punjab and Sindh besides representatives of international organizations.

    Opening the discussion, National Reconstruction Bureau chairman Daniyal Aziz said water was one of the priority areas and the bureau would soon hold a convention of local bodies on the subject.

    Sindh minister for provincial coordination Nadir Akmal Laghari emphasized that national interest and development were primary to all concerns. He assured full support of his government in resolving the issue of water and dams.

    During the workshop, five presentations on various aspects of its theme were made. Prof (Dr) Dogan


    Altinbilek, president of International Hydropower Association, UK, said hydropower was responsible for 19 per cent of the world's electricity production and was being used in 150 countries with no emissions. The US, Canada, Brazil, China and Russia account for 50 per cent of the world hydropower generating nations, he added.

    Egyptian water resources ministry representative Dr Khalid M. Tobar said the Aswan High Dam in his country had converted the desert into a "blooming garden". "Certainly people were displaced and environmental sacrifices made but the Government of Egypt had mitigated both these factors," he added.

    The UNEP/DDP Nairobi, Kenya, coordinator, Alberto T. Calcagno, dwelling on the world commission of dams report, emphasised that there was a case both for and against the dams.

    The report had outlined certain principles which, if followed in true letter and spirit, would yield positive results in case of dam construction, operation and resolution of socio- environmental issues. The affected people, he went on to stress, should be the first among the beneficiaries of any resettlement programmes.

    The Asian Development Bank country director, Mashruk Ali Shah, said dams were an important choice in face of the current water scarcity and Pakistan's future needs.

    Le Monde

    La Convention sur la biodiversité va discuter du brevetage du vivant

    LE MONDE | 10.02.04 | 16h11

    La communauté scientifique déplore l'impuissance des politiques devant l'érosion de la biodiversité. "On est tous plus que sceptiques : découragés. La Convention sur la biodiversité ne va nulle part, on ne sait

    plus quoi en attendre." Anne Larigauderie, secrétaire du programme Diversitas de l'ICSU (Conseil

    international pour la science), exprime le sentiment général de la communauté scientifique : l'état de la biodiversité ne cesse d'empirer, mais les instruments politiques pour enrayer son érosion sont impuissants Et la septième conférence des parties de la Convention sur la diversité biologique, qui s'est ouverte pour deux semaines le 9 février à Kuala Lumpur, en Malaisie, s'annonce de nouveau comme un exercice assez vain. Le constat est simple et indiscutable. La diversité des espèces vivantes et la richesse des écosystèmes se réduisent à un rythme jamais observé dans l'histoire de la planète. Un des indicateurs les plus pertinents, publié fin 2003 par l'Union internationale pour la conservation de la nature (UICN), est la liste des espèces menacées. Selon l'UICN, 24 % des espèces de mammifères et 12 % des espèces d'oiseaux présentent un "haut risque

    d'extinction" (mammifères et oiseaux sont les groupes les mieux connus parmi 1,5 million d'espèces


    Pourtant, aucun instrument politique n'est en mesure d'enrayer ce phénomène d'érosion de la biodiversité, moins parlant que le changement climatique, mais aussi important, dans la mesure où il met en cause les bases écologiques de la vie sur terre.


    L'opposition des Etats-Unis à la Convention sur la biodiversité, adoptée à Rio de Janeiro en 1992, et qu'ils n'ont pas ratifiée, est un des éléments expliquant l'impuissance de ce traité. Mais la difficulté à exposer les enjeux de la biodiversité à l'opinion publique et aux décideurs est un facteur qui n'est pas moins important. Pour pallier ce déficit pédagogique, l'idée est ainsi née de constituer un comité scientifique international, qui saurait, comme l'a fait le Groupe intergouvernemental sur le changement climatique (GIEC) pour la question climatique, produire une expertise scientifique adaptée aux décideurs. Officialisée par Jacques Chirac lors du G8 d'Evian, en juin 2003, cette idée se traduira par un grand colloque scientifique en janvier 2005, ouvrant la voie à un tel comité international.

    L'acceptation de cette proposition, promue par la France avec l'appui des organisations des Nations unies concernées par la biodiversité, sera un des enjeux de la conférence de Kuala Lumpur.

    Le thème dominant de celle-ci devrait cependant porter sur l'ouverture de négociations relatives au "partage

    des bénéfices de l'accès aux ressources génétiques". L'idée sous-jacente est que la valorisation économique des

    ressources biologiques peut être une garantie de leur maintien. Mais, plus concrètement, il s'agit de définir un régime de brevetage du vivant pour les applications biotechnologiques, en faisant en sorte que les pays d'origine d'une plante ou d'un animal reçoivent une partie des recettes des médicaments ou produits qui pourraient en être issus.


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