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Biological diversity, or biodiversity, refers to the diversity of life at all levels and the linkages between these different levels (Wilson, 1992). Biodiversity is commonly interpreted at three levels: 1) genetic diversity – the genetic variation provided by species; 2) species diversity – the variety of species within a given area; and 3) ecosystem diversity – the variety of biotic communities and habitats and the diversity within ecosystems at the landscape or regional level. An extensive body of research has shown that biodiversity has intrinsic, ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic value, and that it is essential for the adaptation and evolution of systems and species and for maintaining the life-sustaining systems of the biosphere (Holling et al., 1995). Concerns over biodiversity loss stimulated the initiation of a formal global response, namely the Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD), in 1992. In December of that year, Canada became the first industrialized country to ratify the CBD, which entered into force on December 29th, 1993. It should be noted that while, to date, 187 countries are parties to the CBD, the United States has not ratified and is not a party to the convention. Subsequent to ratifying the CBD, Canada has developed, and continues to develop, a policy framework to help it meet its goals within the CBD. This article evaluates the potential for opportunity and/or constraints for Canadian agricultural systems as parties to the CBD develop programs and policies to meet their biodiversity objectives. The article begins by introducing those parts of the CBD that are relevant for agricultural systems and discusses, in general terms, the Canadian response to the CBD. The article then presents the specific biodiversity initiatives that have been developed by the Canadian government and discusses the potential impact of these initiatives on Canadian agriculture.


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