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Nagoya protocol enters into force in Finland

Published: 7/10/2016
Photo: Sámi — indigenous people of the European Arctic. Credit: Ernmuhl/Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Sámi — indigenous people of the European Arctic. Credit: Ernmuhl/Wikimedia Commons

A new act on the Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol and related EU regulation entered into force in Finland on the 1st of September 2016. The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) is an international supplementary agreement to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity. It sets out how countries should share benefits arising from the use of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way, thereby contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It favours negotiations of bilateral access and benefit-sharing agreements between providers and users of genetic resources and traditional knowledge.

Because Finland has chosen not to regulate access to its plant genetic resources (with the exception of Sami traditional knowledge) those resources are not covered by the Nagoya Protocol.

“That will be important for FGR research,” says Mari Rusanen from the Natural Resources Institute, one of the designated competent authorities along with the Finnish Environment Institute.

If, as Rusanen expects, other European countries also choose not to regulate access to their plant genetic resources, it will be much easier to conduct certain kinds of research, for example provenance trials with material from several countries.

For those who bring genetic resources into Finland from a country that regulates its genetic resources, the act requires them to report these to the competent authorities in Finland within a month of acquisition. That will give the authorities information on users and will help to oversee the legitimacy of the acquisition and use of genetic resources in Finland.

Traditional knowledge protected

A key driver in the Nagoya negotiations was the rights of indigenous people to their genetic resources and relevant traditional knowledge. Finland, adopting the protocol, took care to ensure that if the utilisation of the Sámi people’s traditional knowledge is included in the use of genetic resources, prior informed consent must be acquired.

The Sámi are the only indigenous people in Europe. They live in Lapland across the north of Norway, Sweden and Finland and have a special status in each of those countries. The Sámi Parliament will establish and administer a database for the traditional knowledge of the Sámi people that relates to genetic resources, which can then be accessed through the competent authorities and used for research and development.

Many aspects of the details of the implementation remain open.

“I am really looking forward to seeing what will be the impact of the law after many years of discussing the subject”, says Mari Rusanen.  We have to keep in mind that the fundamental goal is to insure that genetic resources remain available for research and development and that the benefits arising will be shared in a fair and equitable way.

Other countries in Europe and the European Union have already adopted the Nagoya protocol and all the EU countries have to implement the corresponding EU regulation.

The European Commission is preparing a Guidance Document for the Plant Breeding sector. The document aims to help people, in particular researchers and breeders, as well as competent national authorities, to establish whether activities fall within the scope of the EU ABS Regulation, in harmony with the General Guidance Document on the scope of Regulation.

The Guidance Document will support countries’ understanding of the terms 'utilisation' and 'research and development' in relation to plant breeding and will provide guidance on everyday operations. The document will provide a general description of the use of genetic resources within the sector and examples of activities within or outside the scope of EU Regulation (No) 511/2014, illustrated with concrete cases.

Once the Guidance Document for the Plant Breeding sector has been, more information will be published on the EUFORGEN website.