(c) Kim Aigner

A long way to go...

The Nagoya Protocol is an international agreement which aims at sharing the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way.

The “Nagoya Protocol” is a binding international agreement adopted on 29 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, which entered into force on 12 October 2014[1]. Its roots lie with the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, which aims to conserve biodiversity through an ecosystems approach, and where claims of “national sovereignty” over genetic resources have triumphed over an understanding of “common heritage of mankind”. The Protocol is embedded in equity considerations, and aims to redress historical and political imbalances in the use of genetic resources for research and product development.

Access to genetic resources is subject to the “Prior Informed Consent” of the “Party providing genetic resources that is the country of origin of the resources or a Party that has acquired the genetic resources in accordance with the Convention”. In accordance with the Protocol’s market approach, benefit-sharing is left to the contractual terms that will be mutually agreed upon by the provider and user of genetic resources. In the meantime, users of agricultural plant genetic resources today need to understand the articulation between the FAO Seed Treaty and the Nagoya Protocol, which is no easy task. The European Union is a party to both instruments. More precisely, the Nagoya Protocol is implemented by Regulation 511/2014. Access to genetic resources however remains an issue of Member State sovereignty, and thus continues to be regulated at national level. The real implementation of the Protocol will as a result show important differences from one European Member State to another. Needless to say, it has become an arduous task to establish clearly the rights that accompany the access and use of genetic resources.

As a non-governmental seed savers organisation, ARCHE NOAH remains deeply attached to the sustainable but also equitable use of plant genetic resources. That is why we have set up a sound and diligent strategy of both communication and compliance for the new rights and obligations that arise from the Nagoya Protocol and its implementation at European Union level, and which today accompany the agricultural plant genetic resources that we manage.

[1] The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force 90 days after the deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification, i.e. on 12th October 2014 (Article 33).