Access and Benefit-Sharing

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Access and benefit-sharing (ABS) refers to the way in which genetic resources may be accessed, and how the benefits that result from their use are shared between the people or countries using the resources (users) and the people or countries that provide them (providers).

What is the Nagoya Protocol?

The Nagoya Protocol is an international treaty meant to provide clear provisions on accessing genetic resources and then sharing the benefits which arise from their utilisation, in order to better protect biodiversity and promote fairness and equity. Often these genetic resources have been acquired by pharmaceutical or cosmetic companies, and then developed into profitable products. However, genetic resources are also acquired and used by academic institutions, botanical gardens, and other entities, for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Scientist ensuring the genetic integrity of plantsSome observers believe that the Nagoya Protocol has the potential to substantially contribute to the sustainable use of biological resources, and to address the concerns of States and Indigenous Peoples who feel that their resources and knowledge are being taken without permission or compensation. Others point to the lack of measurable targets in the Protocol and the qualifying language of the provisions, or fear that the Protocol may further legitimize the commodification of nature.

The efficacy of the Protocol ultimately rests on the manner in which parties (including Canada) implement its provisions, through policies, legislation, capacity building, public consultations, and the like.

The Biodiversity Caucus & ABS

Through the support of Environment Canada, the RCEN Biodiversity Caucus has been an active participant in outreach, education, and policy development processes around ABS. In 2010, the Caucus hosted a public presentation on Traditional Knowledge and ABS at the RCEN Annual Conference. It also submitted two important policy input papers in 2010:

ABS Training Webinar
In March 2011, the Biodiversity Caucus organised an Educational Webinar on Access and Benefit-sharing that was attended by members of the RCEN, other ENGOs and participants from the federal government. The ABS online training webinar was divided in 3 parts (click on links to view presentations):

  1. Identifying the Issue: "What is ABS?" (PDF; 2MB), by Peigi Wilson, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
  2. The Road to the Nagoya Protocol: A History of ABS (PDF; 488KB), by Alexander Kenny, Centre for International Sustainable Development Law
  3. The Implications of the Nagoya ABS Protocol for Canada (PDF; 239KB), by Frederic Perron-Welch, Centre for International Sustainable Development Law

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