Biodiv Sci ›› 2016, Vol. 24 ›› Issue (1): 114-120.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2015151

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International negotiations on synthetic biology and China’s implementation strategies within the Convention on Biological Diversity framework

Minghao Qiu1, Yue Huang1, Jieqing Zhang2, Yi Huang1,*()   

  1. 1 College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Peking University, Beijing 100871
    2 Department of International Cooperation, Ministry of Environmental Protection of China, Beijing 100035
  • Received:2015-06-03 Accepted:2015-09-15 Online:2016-01-20 Published:2016-06-12
  • Contact: Huang Yi


Much attention has been paid to synthetic biology in recent years for its potential applications and unpredictable eco-risks. The 12th Conference of the Parties (COP12) of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), held in Korea in October 2014, formally addressed the topic of synthetic biology for the first time. Based on literature retrieved from CBD documents and technical reports, this paper reviews the process by which synthetic biology entered the agenda of CBD negotiations and provides the latest updates on this issue. Given the latest demands made and China’s current status in the development and risk assessment of synthetic biology, we analyze the challenges that China is facing in relation to negotiation and implementation. Research in synthetic biology in China is still in its early stages. Despite the surging investments in scientific research this field, wide application and commercialization is not to be expected in the near future. China's capacity to assess risks of associated technologies is rather limited and no government agency is explicitly in charge of bio-security in this respect yet. We propose that the Chinese delegation should argue for positions including strictly controlling risks, encouraging responsible development, and calling for more technical and technological support from developed countries during the negotiations of risk assessment. Further, we suggest that establishing accountability of the governing administrative department, promoting the development of risk assessment techniques, compiling a synthetic biology national database, and organizing professional risk-assessment teams are the key implementation strategies for CBD.

Key words: synthetic biology, eco-security, new and emerging issues, implementation strategy, international negotiations, risk assessment and management