COP10/ Nagoya meet OKs historic genetic deal

by jeeg 3. November 2010 23:26

It went down to the wire, but delegates to the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10) here reached agreement early Saturday on legally binding international rules for sharing benefits from genetic resources used in food, pharmaceuticals and other products.

After last-minute maneuvering by host nation Japan to ensure substantive results from two weeks of fraught talks and eight years of prior negotiations, Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto declared the meeting closed around 3 a.m. following the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol, which governs the sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources, and the Aichi Target, which sets objectives for protecting biodiversity through 2020.

The protocol will take effect 90 days after at least 50 nations have ratified the agreement. Japan will have to seek ratification in the Diet, as well as the passage of laws required to implement the protocol.

Part of that new legislation will be the establishment of a new body to oversee procedures governing the use of genetic resources in the development of new products.

Matsumoto presented a chairman's proposal for the protocol on Friday, and it was eventually agreed with minor revisions.

The protocol establishes rules for sharing benefits from the use of genetic resources by companies, through payments to provider nations and joint research projects.

The protocol states that approval from the provider must be obtained before a genetic resource is used in a product, and that in each case contracts governing the distribution of benefits should be agreed by provider nations and users.

User nations are obliged to establish at least one organization to check that proper procedures are followed and prevent the illegal use of genetic resources.

In some cases, the benefits from derivative products, made with genetic material that has been improved or altered by the user, will also have to be shared with the nation that provided the original genetic resources. Whether such benefits are shared will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Developing nations had been seeking to make the protocol retrospective, meaning that genetic resources used before the protocol came into effect would also be covered, but that effort was unsuccessful.

Japan will fund the creation of a system to support developing nations trying to implement the new rules.

The fact that the protocol allows for case-by-case consideration of benefit sharing arrangements opens up the possibility of potential problems among companies trying to deal with specific provider nations. Leaving the scope of derivative products to individual contracts was criticized as ambiguous by Yuji Watanabe, chairman of the Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association's Intellectual Property Committee.

A main feature of the Aichi Target, which consists of 20 objectives for biodiversity protection through 2020, is the expansion of protected areas to 17 percent of the world's land and 10 percent of its waters. Another important goal is to halve the rate at which natural habitats are lost.

The target had initially been dubbed the Nagoya Target, but was formally named the Aichi Target at Matsumoto's suggestion.

Japan used a number of last-minute maneuvers to bring eight years of negotiations on the protocol to a conclusion.

At midnight Friday, Japan cut off working-level discussions and presented a final proposal that was a compromise of the opinions of advanced economies and developing nations.

Along the way, Japan announced a fund for developing nations of 5 billion yen ($62.2 million) over a five-year period on Oct. 22.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Naoto Kan pledged to provide an additional $2 billion to developing nations.

On Thursday, Japan presented a final proposal: to provide a further 1 billion yen to developing nations if the protocol was approved.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

 

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