The Last Extinction

The Convention on Biological Diversity, signed in 1992, promised an international regime on access and benefit sharing of the world's genetic resources. But those resources have been dwindling at an alarming rate ever since, because the world has failed to translate international agreements into legislation and action at the national and regional levels.

BONN – Farmers across Africa are currently engaged in an unequal struggle against a pestilent fruit fly whose natural home is in Asia. The fly, first detected in 2004 in Mombasa on the Kenyan coast, has since swept across the continent, decimating mangoes and other crops and devastating livelihoods.

In a bid to counter the fly, a team from the world-renowned ICIPE institute in East Africa recently went to Sri Lanka looking for a natural predator. Researchers have now pinpointed one, which, after careful screening, has been deemed safe to release into Africa’s environment and appears likely to defeat the unwelcome invader.

But the pioneering work is now on hold, as are the hopes of millions of farmers for an effective, environmentally friendly answer to the crisis. Countries in Asia – indeed, countries throughout the developing world – are simply not exporting their abundant and economically important genetic resources.

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