Benefits of Biodiversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity includes provisions on “access and benefit sharing” (or ABS for short), which led to the recent Nagoya Protocol. The issue of “liability and redress” for potential harms caused by living modified organisms (LMOs) are dealt with in the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety and the most Nagoya – Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol. We’ll review the texts of these international legal instruments closely during class.

Much of our discussion will be oriented around the recent successes of a working group on access and benefit sharing, whose last marathon meeting (in a six-year series of meetings) began in Cali, Columbia, continued in Montreal, Canada, and finally wrapped up in Nagoya, Japan — hence the “Nagoya Protocol.” You can read the news reports about the conclusion of those negoatiations and subsequent developments here, here and here, as well as in this press release. More generally, the best source of news on the topic of biodiversity and genetic resources is Intellectual Property Watch.

As for what you should read about the CBD and Nagoya Protocol for the purpose of our in-class negotations simulation, or an exam response to this issue, I suggest this awareness-raising material on ABS.

If you’re either confused or interested in more details about the CBD in general, I can’t think of any better, more comprehensible introduction than this book chapter:

  • Susan Bragdon, Kathryn Garforth and John E. Haapala Jr., “Safeguarding Biodiversity: The Convention on Biological Diversity,” in Geoff Tansey and Tasmin Rajotte eds., The Future Control of Food: A Guide to International Negotiations and Rules on Intellectual Property, Biodiversity and Food Security (Earthscan/IDRC/QIAP, 2008) 82-114.

And, if you wish to delve into even more detail about how the CBD’s provision on access and benefit sharing dovetail with similar provisions under the FAO’s “plant treaty” (to be studied in the next lesson) please take a look at:

Finally, it is important to note that the Nagoya Protocol to the CBD isn’t the only instrument relevant to ABS. There is a WIPO intergovernmental committee (known as “the IGC”) working on traditional knowledge, genetic resources and traditional cultural expressions (TK, GR and TCE). Look at the mandate and purpose of this alphabet soup to find out how it is supposed to come up with a proposed legal text (i.e. a potential new treaty), which is already overdue.