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Past Activities 2015-2016

Terms of Reference for the AHTEG on Synthetic Biology

As per decision XII/24, the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group included balanced representation of Parties from all regions and include representation of indigenous and local communities and all relevant stakeholders, including other Governments, with knowledge of the Convention and its Protocols,1 and will report on its work to a meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice prior to the thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties.

With financial assistance from the European Union, the meeting of the AHTEG on Synthetic was held on 21-25 September 2015 in Montreal, Canada. The documentation for the meeting is available at https://www.cbd.int/doc/?meeting=SYNBIOAHTEG-2015-01. In accordance with its terms of reference, at that meeting, the AHTEG should:

  1. Take note of the exchange of views on how to address the relationship between synthetic biology and biological diversity;
  2. Identify the similarities and differences between living modified organisms (as defined in the Cartagena Protocol) and organisms, components and products of synthetic biology techniques to determine if living modified organisms derived from synthetic biology fall under the scope of the Cartagena Protocol;
  3. Identify if other national, regional and/or international instruments adequately regulate the organisms, components or products derived from synthetic biology techniques in so far as they impact on the objectives of the Convention and its Protocols;
  4. Work towards an operational definition of synthetic biology, comprising inclusion and exclusion criteria, using all relevant information, based on scientific and peer-reviewed studies;
  5. Identify the potential benefits and risks of organisms, components and products arising from synthetic biology techniques to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and related human health and socioeconomic impacts relevant to the mandate of the Convention and its Protocols;
  6. Building on the work on risk assessment and risk management undertaken by the Cartagena Protocol, compile information on best practices on risk assessment and monitoring regimes currently used by Parties to the Convention and other Governments, including transboundary movement, to inform those who do not have national risk assessment or monitoring regimes, or are in the process of reviewing their current risk assessment or monitoring regimes and to help those Parties and other Governments to regulate organisms, components and products from synthetic biology techniques appropriately;
  7. Identify if the existing arrangements constitute a comprehensive framework in order to address impacts of organisms, components and products resulting from synthetic biology relevant to the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Protocols, in particular threats of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity.


The Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group will be convened in accordance with the modus operandi of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, except that there will be 5 to 8 experts nominated by each of the five regions. 1