Update on the CBD

IPWatch has reported on the meeting that industry representatives had last week in Geneva to discuss the legally binding regime that the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) intends to create for the access and benefit sharing (“ABS”) of national genetic resources and traditional knowledge.  Presumably this discussion was sparked by the Montreal meeting of 2-15 November (see our blog posted on 25 November).  The industry claimed that:

“A legally-binding international system on ABS may harm business interests and also fail to reach its objectives of protecting and preserving biodiversity. “

Further, Esther Schmitt, unit head of natural products at Swiss biotechnology company Novartis added:

“Successful collaboration between local communities and biotechnology companies requires legal certainty, exclusivity and  transparency and prior informed consent.”

I agree with Ms. Schmitt that the international community needs legal certainty, and IPWatch quotes Alan Oxley, chairman of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Centre at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University in Australia:

“Part of the difficulty in negotiation of the regime is that there is “no common agreement on what the problem is…There is “no legally-instructive definition of the key terms,” nor an agreement on the “means by which commitments are to be delivered”.”

And unless economic activities are encouraged, developing countries will not have real benefits to enjoy.

However, a question comes to mind: “whose business interests and whose biodiversity”?  It seems clear that the industry does not want to be legally bound to national rules as to ways of accessing and using the genetic resources of developing countries.  How many companies have really contributed towards the Secretary Fund of the ITPGRFA?  And how many companies complain about the requirement to compensate the international community for depriving it of its genetic resources (see the payment mechanisms of the SMTA, art. 6 and 7)?

Post written by Francesca Re Manning, consultant to CAS-IP

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