T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net
“Access and benefit sharing” (ABS) should, rightly, concern everyone. But what we seem to be witnessing are multiple ABS treaties that sometimes cause confusion.
For those engaged with biodiversity, there is the 2010 Nagoya Protocol on ABS. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO’s) Plant Treaty Multilateral System deals with exchange of food and forage crops; and the World Health Organization (WHO’s) Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework deals with sharing of bird flu samples, are two others.
“Any domestic regime will have to straddle through various, already existing ABS regimes, and international protocols involving ABS,” points out Shalini Bhutani, Campaign for Conservation ad Community Control over Biodiversity, a Delhi-based non government organisation.
Meanwhile at COP-11, I saw a paper by Norway’s Fridtjof Nansens Institutt (FNI), a foundation engaged in research on international environmental energy and energy resource management politics and law.
It says after the Nagoya Protocol, the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) under the FAO started discussing ABS for six sectors – plants, aquaculture, farm animals, forestry, micro-organisms and invertebrates; and ABS for plants outside the FAO’s multilateral system.
The new round of FAO discussions are apparently explained in the context of food security, need for exchange of genetic resources and “maintain” global governance in agriculture.
The FNI paper points out that the new CGRFA discussions leave out a core issue – that it is the intellectual property rights and concentration of ownership of food production.
It says the key feature divergence between the Nagoya Protocol and the CGRFA is decoupling of benefits from both the provider and the resources given, which “highly political” as it has the “potential to undermine the whole global principle of sovereign rights over genetic resources.”
Detaching the benefits from the providers will give receiver the material without having any contractual obligations with anyone claiming for a share in benefits. So no user of genetic resources for food and agriculture will be obliged to share benefits based on the specific use of the resource
Hopefully, the various agencies will not work at cross-purposes – but something tells me they will.
This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012.