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After 12 days of tough talks between developed and developing countries, the COP10 biodiversity meeting in Nagoya on Oct. 30 adopted the Nagoya Protocol. The protocol covers access to genetic resources — which are abundant in developing nations — as well as the distribution of profits derived from the use of these resources. COP10 also established Aichi Targets to prevent biodiversity loss through 20 specific goals, including a call for conserving at least 17 percent of the world’s terrestrial areas and inland water areas and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas as biodiversity protection zones. The protocol will legally bind 193 parties to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), adopted in 1992 along with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Although details must be worked out before COP11 is held in India in 2012, the protocol is a important, environmental-related legally binding international accord that will protect and sustain biodiversity, which provides humanity with food, medicine and other resources essential to our well-being.

As COP10 chair, Japan will continue to chair CBD-related meetings until COP11. It should strive to ensure that the Nagoya Protocol will have concrete rules in place to equitably distribute the profits generated by pharmaceutical and biotech firms in developed countries to the developing countries that supply the genetic resources.

At COP10, developing countries first insisted that the protocol cover profits that were generated long before the CBD took effect in 1993, but eventually they compromised on this issue. The Nagoya Protocol says among other things that if a firm wants to gain access to genetic resources, it must get prior informed consent from the party that provides such resources. Japan and other CDB parties should work together to convince the United States, the largest user of genetic resources, to join the CBD. At home, Japan must quickly ratify the protocol and enact laws to implement the accords adopted in Nagoya.

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