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GlobalWG 5.1 – Equitable Use of Genetic Resources



Chair: Tania Bubela
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Research Problem and Objectives

Access to genetic resources and associated local and indigenous knowledge from many sources and countries is critical to the success of iBOL, but gives rise to complex and intertwined social and scientific concerns relating to the equitable distribution of benefits arising from science, the protection of indigenous values and the progress of science.

GE3LS researchers will focus on the implications of barcoding on international and domestic implications for access and benefits sharing (ABS) under the Convention on Biological Diversity's new regime for ABS.

Genetic resources and ABS will have a dual impact in iBOL. First, there is the issue that iBOL involves the collection of genetic material, which some might see as problematic if benefits sharing is not assured. Second, there is the ability to use iBOL technology to monitor the uses of genetic material which might be seen as a benefit by some communities.

Furthermore, the role of barcoding in the identification and monitoring of species of economic value allows for more precise claims regarding provenance of species, but equally, barcoding can be used to show that two different countries share the same biological resource and need a system to equitably access and share the benefits of that resource.

On March 28, 2010 the Secretariat of the CBD released a statement that 500 participants at a United Nations meeting on ABS had negotiated a Draft Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing. Besides access to genetic resources, the Draft Protocol commits Parties to the CBD to designate a national focal point and competent national authority. It also establishes an ABS clearing-house and information sharing on national ABS mechanisms, laws and policies.

The most controversial components, with the potential to undermine final consensus, are the compliance and enforcement provisions. In addition, the uses of genetic resources that trigger ABS have expanded definitions that include all biotechnological applications, including non-commercial research.

Milestones and Deliverables

The GE3LS team will focus on:
1. Identification of the types and origins of materials and associated knowledge to be used in iBOL research;
2. A comparative legal review of international and national treaties, laws, regulations and procedures relevant to those materials;
3. Provision of that review to iBOL researchers in an accessible format;
4. Semi-structured interviews with iBOL researchers on ABS issues and examination of iBOL's data, intellectual property and materials transfer policies compared with those of other interested stakeholders such as policy makers, funders, industry, NGOs and indigenous peoples; and
5. An evaluation of indigenous communities' attachment to the materials and associated knowledge.

Research Team

Tania Bubela, University of Alberta
iBOL designate
David Schindel, American Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Invited members
Ronnie Vernooy, International Development Research Centre
Edson Beas-Rodriguez Jr., University of São Paulo
Des Mahon, Environment Canada


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