Countries have sovereign rights over the genetic resources found on their territory. When benefits arise from research or development on genetic resources, including when it leads to the commercial use of a developed product, these benefits should be shared fairly and equitably with the country providing these resources
Global biodiversity is protected by the international Convention on Biological Diversity (the CBD) to which the EU and its Member States are parties. The CBD recognizes that countries have sovereign rights over genetic resources on their territory and encourages them to ease access to these resources "for environmentally sound uses". But it also believes that any benefits arising from the use of genetic resources should be shared with the country providing these resources. This is the concept of "access and benefit sharing", or ABS.
The protocol on "Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilization", known as the Nagoya Protocol, was adopted in 2010 and signed by 92 countries. It aims to establish a clear, legally-binding framework determining how researchers and companies can obtain access to the genetic resources of a country and to the traditional knowledge associated with these resources. It also explains how the benefits arising from the use of these genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge will be shared.
The regulation brings EU law into line with these international obligations. The European Parliament and the Council adopted the new Regulation ((EU) No 511/2014) on 16 April 2014. It entered into force on 9 June 2014 and all of its provisions will apply from 12 October 2015.
The ABS rules apply when genetic resources, and the traditional knowledge associated with them, are used in research and development for their genetic properties and/or biochemical composition, including through the application of biotechnology.
Genetic resources can be used in research and development for many different purposes. Here are some examples:
You can find out more about the Nagoya protocol on the CBD website, including a list of the countries party to the Protocol and a Survey of Model Contractual Clauses, Codes of Conduct, Guidelines, Best Practices and Standards.
You can also access the ABS Clearing-House. It provides access to information shared by each Party on the ABS protocol, e.g. whether they have established access legislation and who are the competent national authorities. To find out the possible access measures of countries party to the CBD, including EU Member States, please consult their country profile on the international ABS Clearing-House.