ABS updates from the 2015 UEBT Conference

Thanks to the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) expertise on Access and Benefit Sharing, we had the opportunity to receive some updates on ABS during the 7th Edition of the ‘Beauty of Sourcing with Respect’ Conference.

Several countries presented their work and where they stand on the development/revision of their national regulation. I will provide here key information from these countries.

brazil flagBrazil: Thiago Luz Farani from the Brazilian Ministry of Environment presented the distinctions between the 2001 and 2015 regulations. As already discussed in previous posts, Brazil reviewed its 2001 regulation with the aim to lighten the administrative process. You can read more information here and here.


SA flagSouth Africa: Cyril Lombard from PhytoTrade Africa presented the South African case with the new amendment (May 2015) – Biotrade ABS Amendment that requires:

  • Biotrade permit – required by any person engaging in biotrade within RSA or for export
  • Integrated biotrade and bioprospecting permit
  • Benefit sharing agreement to be completed in commercialization phase

According to Cyril, key success factors to ensure that national regulations would be understood and applied are:

  • Regulators who engage with and understand the needs of industry
  • Confidentiality as appropriate, competitive advantages of parties maintained
  • Institutions with visibility across the value chain and along the whole process

india flagIndia: Balakrishna Pisupati from the Ministry of External Affairs presented the Biological Diversity Act (2002) and Rules (2004) and how India is addressing ABS through this regulatory framework. Benefit Sharing is decentralized to the Province level with the creation of State Biodiversity Board (SBB).

The Indian regulation is quite comprehensive, however issues are raised as the process to get a permit last between 1 to 2 years and it also depends if the access is made by an Indian or a foreign company. As well the Benefit Sharing implementation is closely linked to the SBB and therefore when there is still no SBB in the considered province, the Benefit Sharing process (e.g. contact, negotiation, agreement, implementation, etc.) might take some time.

Mexico, Madagascar and Morocco took part in a session where they also gave updates on their work. Morocco and Madagascar are working with existing laws until ABS rules are developed, while Mexico is expecting to have a regulatory instrument by end of 2015.

All countries emphasized that new rules will aim to have simpler, streamlined procedures for ABS. To do  this, countries have started the process of discussion with businesses, in order to better understand approaches and activities. In this context, Mr. du Plessis explained the importance of the African Union guidelines on the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol (not yet publicly available), both at the strategic and practical levels. The aim to set up rules that provide decision-makers with confidence to make decisions on ABS and users with the tools and incentives to “do the right thing.

The ABS Capacity Development Initiative (ABS CDI), the Cameroon Nagoya Protocol Focal Point and the requested Company presented in one of the session their experience of getting an Access and Benefit Sharing agreement while no ABS regulations were existing. Here are some take home messages of this experience:

  • Start the process as early as possible in your R&D work: i.e. contact with local partners, national Focal Point, Ministry(ies), local communities, etc.
  • Respect the national and customary hierarchy, the customary processes, etc.
  • Look for external funding to support the costs;
  • Have time!

Clearly in this experience, the expert support of the ABS Capacity Development Initiative and local partners have been key to the outcomes and the capability to consider all the political and diplomatic issues.

With this in mind, UEBT, ABS CDI and PhytoTrade Africa have formed a strategic partnership open to businesses that want to access their expertise in applying ABS regulations. This partnership will be founded through projects and they will act as consultants to companies interested in their expertise. Watch this short video introducing the partnership.

Video Credit ©UEBT, ABS Capacity Development Initiative and PhytoTrade Africa