There are several ways in which BioTrade has come to the forefront of environmental organizations’ concerns.  BioTrade is additionally a multifaceted problem in the sense that it affects various sectors of the international system such as the global economy and climate.  Recently, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has undertaken several measures to define what qualifies as BioTrade and the best ways in which to introduce it within a state’s preexisting agricultural and industrial system.

Image courtesy of CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture, © 2010, some rights reserved.

Throughout the article BioTrade, as defined under UNCTAD, will be focused upon.  UNCTAD defines BioTrade as “those activities of collection, production, transformation, and commercialization of goods and services derived from native biodiversity under the criteria of environmental, social and economic sustainability.”  First, it is necessary to address the history of BioTrade.  The advent of the movement towards sustainable trading was witnessed in 1996 when UNCTAD first put BioTrade on their agenda.  Since this initial recognition, there have been several meetings on this issue.  The most recent meeting of nations on this topic was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on the 20-22nd of June, 2012.  From this conference came several positive conclusions, however, there are still lasting concerns.  It is much more economically lucrative to remain with original agricultural structures rather than invest in creating environmentally sustainable infrastructure.  Within this same idea, there is little economic incentive for countries to involve themselves in such endeavors.  That being said, there are several environmental organizations that provide monetary assistance to those companies looking to change their ways.  An example of one of these organizations is Ecociencia, a South American based non-governmental organization that aids the amazon basin in implementing green initiatives.

UNCTAD underlines five major approaches to the issue of BioTrade.  The first initiative that UNCTAD attempts to manage is through the “Policy Framework.”  Within this component, UNCTAD attempts to provide advice to member states of the United Nations.  One of the major problems is that with the United Nations specifically, there is very little that can be enforced on member nations for fear of impeding upon sovereignty.  That being said, there are several commissions and committees that UNCTAD has set up to brainstorm policy changes within member states.  For instance, there is the Commission on Sustainable Development which is divided into three sections: the Andean-Amazonian Investor Forum, the Andean BioTrade Programme, and the BioTrade Facilitation Programme.  The commission in this sense acts as an NGO to which nations can look for policy advice and development.  Beyond the Commission on Sustainable Development but under the same policy umbrella, UNCTAD has also initiated the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Another way by which UNCTAD tries to initiate BioTrade initiatives is through a collection of data in the establishment of the BioTrade Impact Assessment System.  There are three approaches by which this can occur: value chain, adaptive management and ecosystem.  The value chain refers to the detailing of the production of goods.  Through this way, nations can record their progress.  The idea of adaptive management is such that if there is uncertainty in a system, it can be remedied through a series of steps.  The ecosystem refers to the scientifically calculated effects that biotrading has on climate.

UNCTAD also focuses on climate change as a key priority on its agenda.  Within this sphere, UNCTAD has begun several projects such as “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.” Climate change is recognized as one of the foremost causes of resource degradation.  In this vein comes a direct link to BioTrade.  If there is control on the amount of carbon emissions that occur from countries that are known for deforestation such as Brazil, then the rest of the world’s agricultural systems will benefit greatly.

A fourth measure by which UNCTAD attempts to control BioTrade is one that is effectively unique within the context of this topic: peacebuilding. There have been launches of programs such as “Joint Initiative on using BioTrade as a Reintegration Option for ex-combatants,” that serve to initiate agricultural products in war ridden territories.  This provides not only a source of labour for BioTrade initiatives, but also a new life for those previously involved in conflict. Not only is BioTrade beneficial to the environment but also to world peace as it is a source of reintegration.

The final way in which UNCTAD initiates BioTrade is one of the most important factors: private sector engagement.  There is more difficulty within this realm as UNCTAD can directly speak with nations but not quite as much to the private sector.  Thus, there are several ways by which UNCTAD does interact with the private sector.  One of the biggest ways that UNCTAD has done this is through associating themselves with the fashion industry.  They have created a partnership with the fashion industry not only because it is a sector in which there is a lot of room for BioTrade but also because of its popularity with the public. UNCTAD expresses the hope that many other alliances and partnerships can be formed to help bridge the gap between the UN and private industry.