Nature & Parks

The First National Report - Chapter 6

[International Cooperation] The First National Report under The Convention on Biological Diversity

Chapter 6. Guidelines for Implementation of Measures

6.7 Conservation and Use of Genetic Resources

[Conservation of Genetic Resources]

The biological diversity on earth provides many of the resources essential for humans such as food, clothing, paper, and medicine. The potential use of genetic diversity has increased because of advances in biotechnology; on the other hand, species are increasingly facing extinction on a global scale due to factors such as decline in tropical forests. Thus, conservation of genetic diversity has become an urgent global issue.

The following institutions address issues related to the conservation of genetic diversity.

MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) established the Genebank System in 1985 to collect, evaluate, and preserve genetic resources of agricultural plants, animals, microorganisms, forest trees, etc. The genetic resources are fully utilized through, for example, plant breeding. Currently, about 210,000 accessions are conserved in the MAFF Genebank System. It plans to increase to 250,000 accessions in the system by 2000. In addition, the National Research Institute of Brewing of the National Tax Administration Agency collects and stores microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria utilized in the products of alcoholic beverages. The Institute for Physical and Chemical Research conducts gene bank projects to collect, preserve, and distribute cultured cell lines and cloned genes, as well as microbial preservation projects to collect, identify, and distribute microorganisms.

[Use of Genetic Resources through Biotechnology]

Application of biotechnology to the use of genetic resources has tremendous potential. Generally, only a small amount of genetic material is needed for biotechnological production and thus, biotechnology will provide a sustainable way to use biological diversity. The use of genetic resources in Japan is designed to reduce adverse effect on wild genetic resources.

At present, relevant organizations are conducting studies to develop technology for bioremediation utilizing the capability of microorganisms for purifying polluted soil or groundwater, as well as to assess environmental impacts, apply recombinant DNA technology to develop medicine, analyze resistant genes to tackle various plant pests, breed new plant varieties and animal breeds, and conduct experiments on the gene operation of yeast for liquor brewing, etc. Sustainable use of genetic resources will be promoted with consideration to the afore-mentioned points.

[Safety of Living Modified Organisms Resulting from Biotechnology]

Safety standards at the stages of experimental and industrial applications for living modified organisms resulting from biotechnology are ensured by the following guidelines formulated and implemented by the relevant ministries and agencies.

To ensure safety at the experimental stage, the "Guidelines on Recombinant DNA Experiments in Universities and Other Research Organizations" were formulated in 1978 and the "Guidelines for Recombinant DNA Experiments" in 1979. These guidelines have been reviewed as required. The number of researches following the guidelines has been increasing yearly. The guidelines will be reviewed and revised based on accumulated scientific knowledge at any times in the future to update the safety standard.

For safety at the stage of industrial application, the appropriate application of recombinant DNA techniques are ensured through the formulation of the following guidelines based on the OECD Council Recommendations issued in 1986, which pointed out "there is no scientific basis for specific legislation to regulate the use of recombinant DNA organisms," and also by the "Recombinant DNA Safety Considerations."

For food production using recombinant techniques and the application of recombinant DNA organisms in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, the "Guidelines for Application of Recombinant DNA Organisms in Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, the Food Industry, and Other Related Industries" were formulated in 1989. Surveys and researches are carried out to promote the appropriate application of recombinant DNA organisms and to ensure the safe use of recombinant DNA organisms with a view to developing methods for ecological impact assessment and appropriate management practices concerning the intentional release of recombinant DNA organism into the environment.

For the mining and manufacturing industries, the "Guideline for Industrial Application of Recombinant DNA Technology," which indicates the basic requirements for safety when utilizing the DNA reassembling technology for industrial processes, was developed in 1986. In accordance with this Guideline, 317 items with individual plans for the industrialization of DNA reassembling technology have been certified that they conformed to the Guideline (as of September 1997).

In the field of environmental preservation, studies about the methods for environmental impact assessment and methods for evaluating safety in applying bio-remediation using living organisms have been conducted.

Because the utilization of genetically-operated living organisms in open system including application to environment purification technology is expected to increase in the future, issues such as the establishment of an environmental impact assessment method for intentionally releasing genetically-operated living organisms into the environment, the development of guidance and standards for safety assessment, the establishment of monitoring and control methods for the environment, and the measures to obtain national consensus are being studied.

With respect to the Protocol on Bio-safety prescribed in Article 19, Paragraph 3 of the CBD concerning living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology, which is currently examined by the Open-Ended Ad Hoc Working Group on Bio-safety, Japan makes efforts to support the Working Group in reaching reasonable conclusions based on scientific ground.

[International Cooperation] The First National Report under The Convention on Biological Diversity

Chapter 6. Guidelines for Implementation of Measures

6.8 Education and Public Awareness

In order to conserve biological diversity and to use its components in a sustainable manner, the understanding and cooperation of the public are essential. Therefore, the role of education is extremely important in deepening the public's understanding of the conservation of biological diversity, including the structure of nature and the relationship between nature and humans through contact with nature.

The following activities are carried out in Japan as measures for raising public awareness of the importance in the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components.

Education relating to biological diversity, the conservation of animals and plants, and the relationship among living organisms are being taught mainly in science classes in primary, junior high, and high schools. Especially in primary and junior high schools, activities are carried out to deepen understanding about the mechanism or diversity of life through observation and experiments on familiar animals and plants as well as through nature experiences.

Besides school education, natural monuments, including visits to their facilities, provide the opportunity for learning about the environment and its conservation. In Natural Parks endowed with excellent nature, nature observation gatherings, nature seminars at visitor centers, and nature observation walks are held with the assistance of volunteers. These nature-experience activities are instrumental in deepening the understanding of the Japanese people about the importance of nature and biological diversity.

On the other hand, local governments and private organizations also conduct activities such as nature observation gatherings at seashores and mountain villages, bird watching gatherings, nature experience tours, and nature seminars, etc. Other activities are conducted in cooperation with volunteers, such as the Survey of Widespread Participation of Volunteers to find out the distribution of cicadas, swallows, and other common animal species in the nation. Assistance is provided to the Junior Eco-Club activities in which children learn by experience and participate in environmental conservation activities. These are activities for raising environmental awareness for the conservation of biological diversity in neighborhood environments.

Measures for forests include providing assistance to the activities of the All Japan Green Friends Federation to create opportunities for the young generations to come into contact with forests, to enhance their understanding of the concept of greening, to provide forest instructors to give instructions for out-door activities, and to facilitate the utilization of forest spaces for relaxation and forestry experiences. Measures for rivers include the development of shores as a venue for environmental education and establishment of framework to support children activities at the shores in cooperation with local residents. Beach cleanup campaigns are also held.

In addition, seminars, exhibitions, and other activities have been held to promote the public's understanding of the usefulness and safety of biotechnology, and of the need for conservation and the sustainable use of biological diversity. Furthermore, national holidays and other special days related to biological diversity have been instituted such as the Greenery Day (April 29), the Bird Week (the first week of May), and the Environment Day (June 5). During these holidays, nature observation gatherings, symposia, and various events are held to raise public awareness of the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components.

Issues such as the importance of the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components, the impacts or problems of artificial influences on biological diversity, etc. will be focused on as subjects for the various environmental education activities in schools and other occasions.

[International Cooperation] The First National Report under The Convention on Biological Diversity

Chapter 6. Guidelines for Implementation of Measures

6.9 Understanding Biological Diversity through Surveys and Researches

For securing the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components, it is necessary to find out the status of biological diversity.

[National Survey on the Natural Environment Based on the Nature Conservation Law]

In compliance with the Nature Conservation Law, the government has been conducting the National Survey on the Natural Environment since 1973 in order to collect information and analyze the current state and long-term change of natural environment throughout the country. As the result, a vegetation map (scale of 1: 50,000), covering the entire area of national land as well as data relating to the distribution of plant communities needing protection, seaweed beds, tidal flats, coral reefs, and the extent of modifications to rivers and coastlines, was prepared.

The Biodiversity Survey is also conducted to find out the national distribution of all vertebrate species except pure marine species and major invertebrates species.

[Various Surveys in Respective Fields]

Various surveys are carried out in the respective fields. Surveys for collecting fundamental information about animals and plants are conducted on a continuous basis at rivers and dammed lakes and at their peripheral areas nationwide to promote proper management of rivers as the habitat for wildlife.

Except some valuable fish species, no systematic studies have been conducted on the aquatic life living and breeding along shores. A survey was carried out to find out the distribution of species whose populations have remarkably declined or whose existence is being threatened. The results of the survey will be summarized in the Data Book for aquatic life.

[Development of Information Infrastructure for Biological Diversity]

In the National Survey on the Natural Environment, information about the distribution of vegetation, animals and plants species are collected with the support of researchers and specialists. In order to obtain more information concerning biological diversity through this survey, it is necessary to work closely with these researchers and specialists. In addition, survey information shall be accessed easily for use in various activities.

An information system on biological diversity has been introduced to ensure the collection, storage, and distribution of information on biological diversity in an integral manner. A geographic information system (GIS) is being prepared using the survey results, to be put into operation from 1998 as a clearing-house under CBD.

To provide an information base for the conservation of biological diversity from the viewpoint of solving global environmental problems, a global map is being prepared to be used as a supporting tool for predicting environmental changes.

[Promotion of Researches Related to Biological Diversity]

To promote the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components, it is necessary to enrich the fundamental study about the mechanism of existence and maintenance of biological diversity.

In Japan, national research institutions have carried out studies relating to the evaluation method of biological diversity; the protection and management of species, groups, and the habitats of wildlife; and the impacts on biological diversity from development activities and so on. As a part of the research studies on global environmental conservation, international joint studies on the deviation of biological diversity are carried out in the Asia-Pacific region.

Research organizations have conducted studies in the various fields of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. The researches included the development of methods to forecast the impact of global environmental deviation on the agricultural ecosystem;, analysis of the mechanism of agriculture on the development of forestry ecosystems; method to forecast the impacts of natural disasters and human activities on the forestry ecosystem; development of technologies for evaluating and utilizing genetic resources, studies about the impacts of deterioration such as sedimentation on the growth of corals; and a study about the impacts of the acidification of the environment have on freshwater fish.

The construction of a research facility in harmony with nature is under way. It will be equipped with one of the largest experimental rivers in the world to carry out studies on the development and conservation of good habitats at rivers.

Studies on biotechnology are carried out, including the human genome analysis research, sequence of the genome of a hyperthermophile that can live at high temperature, analysis of DNA information on the rice genome, research of DNA recombination, and analysis of the structure and functions of protein, etc.

[International Cooperation] The First National Report under The Convention on Biological Diversity

Chapter 6. Guidelines for Implementation of Measures

6.10 International Cooperation

Conservation of the global environment, including biological diversity, is a common task for all mankind, which cannot be performed by just one country, not to mention that many environments containing fertile biological diversity are found in developing countries Therefore, it is essential to promote conservation and sustainable use in developing countries to protect biological diversity on a global scale.

Based on such principle and understanding, Japan will actively take part and cooperate in activities implemented under the international framework for the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components. Japan will also cooperate in promoting the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components in developing countries, as well as the conservation of world heritage sites that are valuable to the international community.

6.l0.1 Cooperation through International Framework

[Contribution to Global Environment Facility (GEF)]

Since its pilot phase, Japan has actively participated in and contributed to the GEF, which is designated as the interim institutional structure operating the financial mechanism of the CBD. To date, Japan has donated about 45.7billion yen (U.S.$415 million), equivalent to about 20% of the total amount of the GEF-phase1. Japan has long held the belief that the GEF should be designed as the permanent institutional structure to operate the financial mechanism of the CBD. Therefore, Japan will cooperate from this standpoint.

[Cooperation on Information Exchange of Biological Diversity]

Japan is preparing an information system on biological diversity to correspond to the clearing-house mechanism, that is an information exchange mechanism based on the CBD.

This system consists of a database on the distribution of vegetation, animals and plants species and so forth, accumulated through the National Survey on the Natural Environment. In addition, a network of research institutions and specialists relating to the protection of the natural environment will be established. Information on biological diversity will be made available to the public through the Internet.

[Cooperation for Conservation of Wildlife and Ecosystem]

#International Cooperation for Migratory Birds Conservation

Japan has concluded bilateral conventions and treaties for the protection of migratory birds species and their habitats with the United States of America, Russian Federation, China, and Australia respectively. Under these conventions and treaties, collaborative research projects concerning migratory route and status of migratory birds have been implemented. Japan also undertakes a cooperative project with the Republic of Korea for the protection of migratory birds based on the agreement of cooperation for the protection of environment between Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Japan promotes the establishment of "the East Asia-Australasian Shorebird Reserve Network" in which 24 sites of 10 nations have participated. The Yatsu Tidal Flat (Chiba Prefecture) and the Yoshino River Estuary (Tokushima Prefecture) are the two participating sites from Japan to the Network.

Japan has also taken initiative to promote "the North East Asian Crane Site Network," which was launched with the participation of 16 sites in 5 countries. Namely, the Kushiro-shitsugen (Kushiro Marshes), Akkeshi-ko/ Bekanbeushi-shitsugen (Lake Akkeshi Bekanbeushi Marshes), Yatsushiro, and Asarco join the Network.

#Cooperation for Conservation of Coral Reefs under the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI)

Japan has added the conservation of coral reefs to the Japan-United States of America Common Agenda and is promoting activities based on "the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI)." Japan supported the 1st Workshop of ICRI held in 1995 in the Philippines and the 1st East Asian Seas Regional Workshop held in 1996 in Indonesia. In addition, Japan sponsored the 2nd East Asian Seas Regional Workshop in 1997 in Okinawa. Japan will continue to actively participate in the conservation of coral reefs.

[Cooperation of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries by Multilateral Framework]

#Cooperation for Consultative Group International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)

Japan donated the second largest amount after the World Bank to organizations affiliated with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which carries out studies on agriculture, forestry, and fisheries in developing countries. Japan also actively cooperates by dispatching researchers and conducting joint research.

#Cooperation for Promoting Sustainable Forestry Management

Japan donated funds for the operation of the " Inter-governmental Panel on Forestry (IPF)," established in the 3rd meeting of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development held in 1995. It also actively participated in and supported the Panel, for example, by co-sponsoring the 1996 Kochi Workshop, one of the IPF intercessional meetings.

Japan has voluntarily donated the largest amount among participating countries to the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), which aims at achieving compatibility between the conservation and use of tropical forests. Japan has also taken an active role in implementing the International Tropical Timber Agreement (the 1994 Agreement), which entered into force in January 1997, by subscribing to the Bali Partnership Fund.

#Cooperation with International Whaling Commission (lWC)

In order to monitor the resource condition of whales and the ecosystems surrounding whales, Japan has continuously provided IWC financial and technical supports for its research programs such as the IDCR (International Decade for the Cetacean Research) since 1978 and SOWER (Southern Ocean Whales and Environment Research) since 1996, which succeeded both the IDCR and Blue Whale Research in Antarctica conducted by Japan since 1994. In addition, in accordance with the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), Japan has been conducting research on minke whale by taking limited whale samples in the Antarctic Ocean and the Western North Pacific Ocean for collecting scientific information that could not be collected by any other research. The results of this biological research are highly regarded by the IWC Scientific Committee.

[Cooperation for Study Relating to Biotechnology Safety in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)]

Japan has made voluntary financial contributions to the OECD Committee for Science and Technology Policy since 1991 and to the OECD Committee for Environment Policy since 1997 to support activities on biotechnology safety. In the future, Japan will actively contribute to the applications of biotechnology to the field of environmental conservation.

[Participation and Cooperation for International Joint Research Programmes]

#International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (lGBP)

The International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP) aims to study the physical, chemical, and biological processes controlling the environment of the earth and their interactions and to clarify the mechanism of global environmental change. In Japan, these tasks are mainly undertaken by research institutions such as universities. Following the completion of the first 5-year plan (from 1992 to 1996), the second 5-year plan has been undertaken since 1997.

#Antarctic Research Expedition

Japan has been carrying out the Antarctic Research Expedition since 1956 and is contributing to the monitoring of global change in biological diversity through the observation of biota, etc.

#Basic Study for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Ocean

To prepare the infrastructure for the conservation of biological diversity in the ocean, Japan is carrying out the highly-precise ocean observation in the North Pacific Ocean as a part of the World Ocean Circulation Experience (WOCE) in conjunction with relevant countries. To clarify the impacts of nutritious salt on the marine environment, Japan is conducting an international joint study useful for clarifying the material circulation mechanism in peripheral seas.

#Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme of UNESCO

The establishment of a network between the biosphere reserves in respective countries recognized under the MAB Programme is being promoted. A joint study relating to the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components is conducted. Japan is actively contributing to the study.

6.10.2 Cooperation with Developing Countries

[Effective Use of Official Development Assistance (ODA)]

Environment is one of the areas emphasized in the philosophy of the Japanese Official Development Assistance Charter. The "Initiatives for Sustainable Development toward the 21st Century (ISD)," presented to the 19th special session of the United Nations General Assembly held in June 1997, introduces Japan's environmental policies centering on Japanese ODA with emphasis on biological diversity.

To support the development of systems and organizations for the conservation of biological diversity, Japan is promoting the development of facilities and technology transfer to facilitate capacity building and the gathering of basic information on biological diversity.

Recognizing that the activities of private sectors have played an important role in the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components, the Japanese government will continue to support the activities of the private sector in developing countries.

Furthermore, ODA will be provided based on the recipient organization's consideration for the conservation of biological diversity in compliance with "the Guidelines for Environmental Considerations. "

[Cooperation for Wildlife Conservation and Management of Protected Areas]

Japan is participating in a comprehensive project for the conservation of biological diversity in Indonesia under trilateral collaboration among Japan, the United States of America, and Indonesia. Japan is preparing for a center for the conservation of biological diversity. Its function is to store samples of animal and plant species and to accumulate information related to biological diversity. The development of facilities and transfer of technology are under way for the conservation and management of the Gnun-Harimun National Park where valuable species inhibit.

Japan is cooperating in projects such as the in-situ conservation and captive-breeding of crested ibis (Nipponia nippon) in China, the protection and management of the World Natural Heritage areas in Indonesia, the development of the conservation and management plan for coral reefs in the Philippines, capacity building and training for coral reefs conservation in developing countries, and so on. Japan will continue these cooperative projects in the future.

[Cooperation in Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries]

Recently, particularly in developing countries, useful genetic resources such as landraces and their wild relatives are in danger of extinction due to development and the modernization of agriculture.

In order to overcome this problem, Japan participates in the activities of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture of FAO, and collaborates with developing countries in conducting joint research on the conservation and use of genetic resources. Japan is committed to continue the cooperation.

In terms of forestry, Japan has been conducting surveys on new forest management methods, taking into account vegetation shift and the conservation of habitats for wildlife. Japan also carries out studies of tropical forests in Indonesia, Brazil, and so on, through bilateral cooperation. Japan will continue to promote cooperation in the management of forests that have valuable ecosystems and in systematizing technology for the management of natural forests, etc.

While Japan has long cooperated in supporting the sustainable development of marine living resources in developing countries, Japan will continue to seek balance between sustainable use of marine living resources and the conservation of biological diversity.

[Cooperation for Conservation of Bio-resources in Tropical Zone]

Japan has been carrying out joint studies for the conservation of species in the tropical forests and the sustainable use of genetic resources utilizing biotechnology in conjunction with Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia since 1993. Through the development of technology for the identification of species that can be applied easily in the field and technology for the sustainable use of living organisms, Japan will cooperate with developing countries to promote the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components.

Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan

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