UN agrees to biodiversity measures

BONN, Germany "They haven't agreed to specifics and they haven't agreed to specifics in the past," said Gordon Shepherd, international director for global policy for WWF, which is also known as the World Wildlife Fund.

He said a timeline would make the effort transparent and enable observers to see whether targets were being achieved.

Approximately 5,000 delegates from 191 countries agreed to work on drafting regulations that would be approved at the next conference in Nagoya, Japan in 2010.

Several governments at the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity pledged funds to protect undeveloped forests, with Norway announcing plans to spend $930 million annually for the next three years and Germany saying Wednesday that it will commit $775 million over the next four years.

"From the financial point of view at least they've agreed to finance," Shepherd said. "But they haven't agreed to a sum. We would have preferred something more specific."

Germany's environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said he had not expected "real progress to be made on so many points," hinting at doubts before the conference that delegates would be able to agree on the issues.

Delegates pledged to stem bio-piracy -- the claiming of unauthorized ownership of a natural organisms for profit -- and reaffirmed a commitment to drastically slow species loss by 2010.

Part of the plan to halt bio-piracy -- which should be finished in 2010 -- is a new plan to reimburse biodiverse developing countries that provide wild strains that strengthen crops in industrialized nations against disease, Shepherd said.

A major point of discussion during the conference was the questionable ecological benefits of biofuels and the strain that large-scale production of the fuels might put on crop and forest land. Delegates agreed to take a more definitive stand on biofuels at the 2010 conference.

Shepherd welcomed a plan for High Seas Marine protected areas, which would be declared off-limits to human activity, saying the move was a first for the conference.

Delegates also ruled that genetic engineering to produce new varieties of trees should be allowed only after weighing the risks of each individual research project.

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