Nagoya Protocol enters into force soon – October 2014

End of July 2014, we counted 51 countries that ratified the Nagoya Protocol, which includes, Madagascar, Mauritius, India, Vietnam, Republic of Laos, Switzerland, Benin, Uganda, Mozambique, among others. You can access the full list here.

As you might have already read, the Nagoya protocol has been adopted in October 2010 during COP10. This protocol aims to support the implementation of the 3rd objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity, “The fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of biodiversity” and also the other outlined basic principles such as prior informed consent and mutually agreed terms. Yet these principles remained largely unimplemented, with a range of difficulties and different views on ways of overcoming them. With the Nagoya Protocol, the fair and equitable sharing of benefits has been reaffirmed as a fundamental component of biodiversity strategies. In addition, a set of rules has been agreed upon to facilitate, promote and ensure its effective implementation.

The Nagoya protocol helps to:

Give a “price” to biodiversity to better protect it

Buyers of natural resources with the aim to use the genetical material or part of the resource that have an active component will have to commit to share the derived benefits of any commercial use to the supplier country.

Protect traditional knowledge

The protocol also look very closely to the associated traditional knowledge to the natural resources. Prior Informed Consent, Mutual Agreed Terms and Benefit Sharing also apply to access Traditional Knowledge. As well, patenting methodology needs to evolve in order to reflect these new regulations. You can read more on Patent and biodiversity here.

As detailed in the Union for Ethical BioTrade press release, the Nagoya Protocol establishes a framework for countries to regulate the ‘utilization of genetic resources.’ This term is defined as research and development on the genetic and biochemical composition of biodiversity. For example, research on plant extracts, oils and molecules to develop new ingredients with moisturizing, anti-ageing or other properties would fall within the realm of the Nagoya Protocol. Similarly, ABS would be relevant for companies looking to scientifically prove the antioxidants in a traditional medicinal plant and developing a health beverage based on these properties.

With its entry into force, countries will be required to implement the Nagoya Protocol through laws and regulations, defining the exact scope and procedures for ABS within their territories. For example, in March 2014, the European Union already approved a regulation on ABS, which will enter into force along with the Nagoya Protocol. The EU regulation establishes due diligence requirements for companies and other organisations utilising genetic resources within the European Union. They will need to ascertain that genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge used in research and development complies with ABS rules in the provider country. EU Member States will establish checkpoints to establish compliance with due diligence requirements.

For companies, there are significant consequences to the entry into force and implementation of the Nagoya Protocol. María Julia Oliva, Senior Coordinator for Policy and Technical Support at the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT), noted, “With the entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol, it becomes essential for companies to follow evolving national rules on ABS and adopt good practices in preparation for new and revised requirements”. Oliva emphasized the need for companies to identify the relevance of ABS to their operations, including taking into account possible issues in the purchasing, sustainability, research and innovation, product development, legal and marketing departments.

However, some aspects are still not very clear as for example the link between the derived product and the natural resource of origin. In some cases, the link is straight-forward: “if molecules found in the natural resources are used as prototype for an active component of a product” explains the IUCN. Idem, if the natural resources itself is the active component. But the link becomes weaker “if the molecule found in the natural resources needs to be modified through several steps before being added to a product”. There would be no link of the natural resources is used “as a tool in the research and development process, i.e. catalyser” explains the IUCN.


Read more:

New French regulation on Biodiversity

European Union memo on ABS and the EU regulation