Access to and Use of Marine Genetic Resources: Legal Framework | Marinebiotech

Access to and Use of Marine Genetic Resources: Legal Framework

Published 16 May 2014

The legal landscape surrounding the access to and utilization of marine genetic resources (MGR) will change following ratifications of the Nagoya protocol from 2010. With the aim to raise awareness of these issues for the marine scientific community, a paper was published in Natural Products Reports describing the legal frameworks relevant to scientists. It is this aspect of potential challenges of collecting MGR that scientists are often less aware of. Of particular relevance in this regard are the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and its Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits (ABS) Arising  from their Utilization, as well as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The complex framework of national regulations and international conventions were originally not designed to cater for the harvesting of material for biodiscovery purposes. However, when the Nagoya Protocol enters into force all signatories will be expected to have a national regime which meets global standards, thereby enabling users to know what to expect whenever they wish to access and utilize MGR.

The paper is freely  accessible: Laura E. Lallier et al. (2014) "Access to and Use of Marine Genetic Resources: Understanding the Legal Framework", Nat. Prod. Rep., 31 (5), 612-616.

This paper has been published within the framework of the PharmaSea project. The overall aim of the PharmaSea project is to collect samples from some of the hottest, deepest and coldest places on the planet with a focus on biodiscovery and the development and commercialisation of new substances from marine organisms. These samples will be screened to uncover marine microbes and new bioactive compounds to evaluate their potential as novel drug leads, antibiotics or ingredients for nutrition or cosmetic applications. One of the objectives of the project is to assess and report on the existing ABS landscape relevant to the sustainable use of MGR for academic and industrial research (WP6). The focus is on current efforts towards harmonizing European legislation on ABS, options for an ABS system for MGR in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJs), and the disparity between the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the need to protect research investments by securing intellectual property rights.

The PharmaSea project will also focus on the current efforts from key stakeholders including the European Commission to create a pan-European approach on the access, benefits sharing and IPR of MGR and harmonization of relevant policies/legal instruments. A workshop will be organized later in the project with the main stakeholders, the European Commission and EU Member State experts and representatives to provide critical inputs to contribute to the actual policy agenda. ERA-MarineBiotech will actively contribute to the discussions and report on the synthesis of discussions, main findings and recommendations of the workshops.

PharmaSea is funded by the European Union under its FP7 programme. The collaborative project will build upon a highly interdisciplinary consortium of 24 partners from 13 countries from industry, academia and non-profit organisations.