Twelve nations and the European Union have added their signatures to a United Nations treaty on the equitable sharing of the planet’s genetic resources.
Representatives from Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom and the European Union signed the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, which calls for “fair and equitable sharing” of the utilization of genetic resources.
The protocol, adopted last year in Nagoya, Japan, will enter into force 90 days after the 50th country ratifies it.
The protocol would set up an international regime on access and benefit sharing of genetic resources, which will lay down the basic ground rules on how nations cooperate in obtaining genetic resources, according to the administrative offices of the 193-member Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which drafted the protocol.
It outlines how benefits—for example, from when a plant's genetics are turned into a commercial product, such as medicine—will be shared with countries and communities that conserved and managed that resource, in some cases for millennia.
Genetic resources, whether from plant, animal or micro-organisms, are used for various purposes from basic research to the development of products. Users of genetic resources include research institutes, universities and private companies operating in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, agriculture, horticulture, cosmetics and biotechnology.
The benefits derived may include sharing the results of R&D carried out on genetic resources, transfer of technologies that make use of those resources, participation in biotechnological research activities or monetary benefits arising from the commercialization of products based on genetic resources, such as pharmaceuticals, according to the CBD.