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ERGA promotes Access and Benefit Sharing

ERGA, in collaboration with the Global Genome Biodiversity Network (GGBN) and the Earth Biogenome Project (EBP), held a webinar on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) with a special focus on the Nagoya Protocol on April 8th, 2024. We organized this seminar in response to frequent questions from the ERGA community regarding this topic, which highlights its complexity and relevance. ERGA’s goal for this seminar was to enhance understanding and provide clarity on ABS regulations, especially in relation to the Nagoya Protocol, an agreement that governs the fair and equitable distribution of profits arising from the utilization of genetic resources. The main speaker, Scarlett Sett (CSIRO ACDP), delivered an outstanding presentation, shedding light on the complexities and necessities of ABS in biodiversity research. The event was a success with over 90 participants from 29 countries around the world. 

Participating researchers from a few countries were working with genetic samples originating from over 50 different countries. This underscores the global nature of biodiversity research and highlights the critical need for clear and effective ABS regulations. However, the seminar also revealed that the bureaucracy associated with these regulations can significantly slow down research projects. This is particularly concerning during this period of the sixth mass extinction when swift scientific progress is essential. While the seminar focused on raising these challenges, it set the stage for future discussions on how to streamline bureaucratic processes without compromising the Nagoya Protocol goals.

We recognised the necessity of highlighting the concrete benefits of the Nagoya Protocol for researchers, local communities, indigenous people, and stakeholders. Europe lacks comprehensive information on these benefits. We encourage the community to share their insights and experiences regarding the positive impacts of the Nagoya Protocol:

  • How has it benefited your research, local communities, or indigenous groups in Europe?

  • What successes or improvements have you witnessed?

If you have insights or data on these benefits, please contact us at . Your contributions can help demonstrate the value of ABS regulations and support ongoing research and conservation efforts globally. The benefit should outweigh the bureaucratic burden, which has been highlighted by Italian researchers' negative experiences: 

“Italy adhered to the Nagoya Protocol on June 23, 2011, at the same time as the European Union and 11 of its member states. Although the Nagoya Protocol entered into force on October 12, 2014, coinciding with the holding of COP 12 of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), Italy has not yet ratified the Protocol. As a result, as of today, access to all genetic resources present on Italian soil is not regulated, meaning that any violation of the Nagoya Protocol does not result in any legal prosecution. As the Nagoya Protocol has not yet been ratified, researchers are facing challenges in complying with the principles of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), challenges that are further exacerbated by the absence of an authority to consult either at the university level, regional level, or national level. This has led to very unclear and opaque guidelines, that are often unclear to the experts themselves, who are often unwilling to answer clarification requests, as they do not want to take responsibility for misleading or misguiding researchers. As researchers are in dire need of clarification and guidelines, a “do-it-yourself” approach has started to be applied for the most studied species. Although this approach should be discouraged, it seems researchers must go with it while waiting for the establishment of a centralised authority for the regulation of the Nagoya Protocol. The lack of abundant resources in academia has also led researchers to be protective over the data collected or generated throughout the research, hampering the full compliance of ABS. Research findings are also not often communicated to the lay public and local communities as this step in the research process is not considered a priority. Early signs of improvement have emerged since the implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR), but only the coming years will tell whether these improvements have been successful or not.“

The seminar on ABS and the Nagoya Protocol was a productive event, providing a deeper understanding among participants and emphasizing the importance of efficient and fair access to genetic resources. We extend our gratitude to Scarlett Sett for her fantastic presentation, to GGBN for their collaboration in organizing this seminar, and to Amber Scholz (DSMZ) who made this webinar possible. For those who missed the event, the slides are available here and a recording of the presentation is available on YouTube.

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