Bioversity welcomes Nagoya Protocol

Posted: February 3, 2011 in Ecologia

30 October 2010   |   Permalink

For immediate release

Rome Italy

Delegates from more than 100 countries agreed the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization in the early hours of 29 October. The Nagoya Protocol sets terms on how countries will permit access to genetic resources, share the benefits arising from their use, and cooperate with one another in allegations of misuse. It will come into force 90 days after it has been ratified by at least 50 parties.

Emile Frison, Director General of Bioversity International, which has represented the Consortium of international agricultural research centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in all the negotiations leading up to the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol, was jubilant.

“The Protocol addresses issues that have pitted countries of the North and South against one other for decades. Its adoption should act as a balm on old wounds. It will help to create transparency and trust between countries, and trust is absolutely essential for countries to cooperate in using genetic resources in ways that promote food security and economic development.”

The adoption of the Nagoya Protocol (full text available as a Word document here) has ended six years of hard-scrabble negotiating. At issue were the conditions under which countries will provide access to genetic resources within their boundaries, the kinds of benefits that should be shared when those resources are used, and how far countries will cooperate with one another when there are allegations of illegal uses.

“The Protocol represents a delicate balance of compromises and concessions made by all parties,” said Frison, who had just returned from Nagoya.

Some of the most contentious issues in the last stretch of negotiations included the measures that “user countries” would take to monitor and enforce compliance with the agreements that provide access to genetic resources from other countries; whether the scope of the Protocol would extend beyond genetic resources to biological resources more generally; and how the holders of traditional knowledge related to genetic resources would be involved in procedures of access to such knowledge.

“As in all compromises, different countries may not have obtained exactly what they wanted,” Frison noted. “However, no country refused to go along with the consensus adoption of the text.”

Through the System-wide Genetic Resources Programme, the CGIAR centres have actively participated as observers at all the negotiating meetings of the Protocol. To highlight issues of particular concern to the centres, and to public agricultural research generally, the centres developed a series of policy briefs targeted to the protocol negotiators. The briefs gave negotiators necessary technical information about the status, use and benefits derived from genetic resources for food and agriculture (Background information, and the briefs themselves, are available at the Bioversity website.) The centres also organized side events with panel presentations to facilitate discussion between negotiators and  representatives from national agricultural research organizations, universities, and CGIAR centres.

“We are pleased that the Nagoya Protocol deals in acceptable ways with two issues that have been of particular concern to the CGIAR centres throughout the negotiations” said Frison.

First, the Protocol recognizes pre-existing norms for access and benefit sharing established by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. This is particularly important for the CGIAR centres because in 2006 they signed agreements with the Governing Body of the Treaty, placing the ex situ collections of PGRFA which they host (with approximately 700,000 accessions of crop and forage germplasm) under the Treaty’s framework. These agreements specified rules concerning access and benefit sharing, and since they became operative, in January 2007, CGIAR centre genebanks have distributed more than a million samples, the overwhelming majority of which have been sent to public research organizations in developing countries. It was important for the sake of efficiency and fairness that these prior arrangements were not going to be directly affected by the Protocol.

The Nagoya Protocol also explicitly creates space for the development of future specialized access and benefit sharing regimes that are consistent with the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Protocol. This is good news because it seems likely that it will be important in the future for the international community to agree to multilateral access and benefit sharing norms for other genetic resources used in agriculture and not covered by the International Treaty, for example agricultural microbial genetic resources or farm animal genetic resources.

“We hope that the Protocol will create momentum for the consideration of such norms in the near future, by some combination of the Governing Body of the Protocol, the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and the International Treaty,” said Frison.

Much of the delay in agreeing the Protocol was caused by two other decisions negotiators had to struggle with, the Financial Mechanism of the Convention and the ten year Strategic Plan to save biodiversity. Some countries did not want to agree any of these three, unless all three could be agreed to at the same time. In the end, that is exactly what happened.

For further information, contact  Michael Halewood, Senior Scientist, Policy & Law, or  Jeremy Cherfas, Communications Manager.


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