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Access and Benefit Sharing

Nagoya Protocol 10 years

10th anniversary of the Nagoya Protocol

The agreement was intended to prevent biopiracy and ensure the equitable distribution of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. After 10 years it is time to take stock.

In the context of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol, the UNDP-GEF Global Access and Benefit-sharing (ABS) Project, in partnership with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, has organised an online conference, consisting of 5 different events at the end of october and november (see Global ABS Conference 2020).

For a long time, the contracting parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) had been struggling for an international regime for access and benefit sharing which would ensure that each country can sovereignly determine whether and under what conditions plants, animals or other creatures may be taken from its territory and used. In addition, it should lead to users agreeing with the country of origin on how the profits generated from research and product development from the respective genetic resources are to be shared. Ten years ago, an additional protocol to the CBD was adopted in Nagoya, Japan, which provides a legally binding framework for access to genetic resources and benefit sharing (ABS) (see Nagoya Protocol).

Expectations of the Protocol were particularly high in developing countries rich in biodiversity. Hopes for "green gold" were fueled, as were hopes that the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol would allow countries to  control the chain of use from the original genetic resource to the resulting products on the market by tracing and tracking.

The Nagoya Protocol was part of the so-called Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020 of the CBD which set out the framework for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. The balance after 10 years is predominantly critical: neither the loss of biological diversity worldwide could be stopped, nor have significant amounts of money based on the Nagoya Protocol arrived developing countries.

The forthcoming UN biodiversity summit, which was postponed to 2021 due to the COVID 19 pandemic, is therefore expected to adopt a new, more ambitious global framework for biodiversity for the next 30 years after 2020 (post2020 Global Biodiversity Framework). For this reason, many studies, research projects and discussion forums worldwide are currently focusing on the question of how the envisaged benefit sharing from the use of genetic resources can be better achieved, while at the same time ensuring that access to and use of biological diversity in urgently needed research and breeding is not hindered by the regulations.

Is the Nagoya protocol still up-to-date?

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Nagoya Protocol, many stakeholders raise the question whether the Nagoya Protocol still stands up to a reality check. Is it really possible for a country tby impplementing ABS regulations to trace the path from the specific plant or animal found in its territory to the commercial product and to claim a share of the benefits for each product? Each country adopts its own regulations and sets up competent authorities that, with an enormous amount of bureaucracy, try to keep control over the value chain, which in reality is not a chain but a richly ramified network.

The biotechnological progress of the last 20 years has created new opportunities for innovation and international cooperation in the use of genetic resources. At the same time, it poses even greater challenges to the claim to control over genetic resources: A large amount of online available data on gene sequences ("digital sequence information", DSI) makes it possible that some areas of research and product development can take place without access to physical resources. In the UN negotiations on genetic resources, for example, there are calls everywhere for a regulatory instrument for DSI. At the same time, open access to DSI is indispensable.

For more information on the DSI debate see digital sequence information.