There is some legislation struggling through the EU at the moment that could have a big impact on UK plant science – not least, a potential mountain of paperwork for sharing certain genetic material. It is the EU Regulation to implement the Nagoya Protocol, a section of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). For those of you who (like me!) are new to regulations surrounding plant genetic material and breeders’ rights, I’ve given a simple background summary before explaining the new goings-on.
The Convention of Biological Diversity
The CBD is based on the principle that biodiversity is valuable – scientists and industrialists have been ‘bioprospecting’ for centuries, hoping to find something of scientific interest, and preferably also economic worth. The CBD reaffirmed the sovereign rights of a country over the genetic material found within its boarders, and aimed to ensure the states that signed up to it conserved their own biodiversity, used its components sustainability, and shared benefits arising from it responsibly and fairly. It came into force in 1993 after 168 parties had signed up, and now covers over 180 countries.
The Plant Treaty
A second significant agreement linked to the current Nagoya Protocol discussions is the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (often referred to more easily as ‘The Plant Treaty’), which sets out special treatment for 64 important agricultural crops that between them provide 80% of human food globally. It was adopted in 2001 and recognizes the rights of all stakeholders in significant plant genetic material – the country of origin, scientists, breeders and farmers. Now, 13 years on from the adoption of the treaty, there is a well established Standard Material Transfer Agreement for access and benefit sharing of genetic materials, which is relatively simple to use, pragmatic and well understood by the plant breeding community. (more…)