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European Nations Join UN Genetics Resources Protocol

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Representatives from the European Union and 12 nations have joined an international treaty to share the Earth's genetics resources, the United Nations said late last week.

At a ceremony at UN Headquarters, the European countries signed the agreement to take steps to share the benefits of genetics resources in a "fair and equitable" way.

The plan, which was initiated last year in Nagoya, Japan, seeks to ensure access to genetics resources through the appropriate transfer of relevant technologies and through appropriate funding to contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of the planet's biodiversity.

The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources calls for the creation of an international regime that will develop ground rules on how nations cooperate in obtaining genetics resources, according to the 193-member Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which drafted the plan.

The most recent group of signatories includes Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the EU.

The protocol will apply to universities, research institutes, and private companies involved in a wide range of activities, such as development of pharmaceuticals, agriculture, horticulture, cosmetics, and biotechnology.

The benefits of the international effort may include the sharing of the results of research and development carried out on genetic resources, the transfer of technologies that use those resources, participation in biotech research activities, or economic benefits arising from the commercialization of products based on genetic resources, such as pharmaceuticals, according to CBD.

At a recent meeting in Montreal, the CBD's Intergovernmental Committee for the Nagoya Protocol discussed four main areas for the effort to pursue including the establishment of a pilot phase for an access and benefit-sharing clearinghouse; the drafting of a strategy to raise awareness about these issues based on global experiences; to submit views on the elements and options available for cooperative procedures and mechanisms that should be promoted; and development of a strategy to begin to build up important capacities based on domestic needs and priorities.