This Policy Brief discusses issues concerning trade, intellectual property, and technology transfer that are most relevant for consideration at the 13th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC13) in February 2024 and inclusion in its outcomes.
The following recommendations are proposed:
TRIPS non-violation and situation complaints: MC13 Decision on the scope and modalities of non-violation and situation complaints under the Agreement on Trade related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). A second option is to extend the moratorium.
TRIPS, diagnostics and therapeutics for COVID-19: MC13 Decision that extends the MC12 TRIPS waiver Decision (only applicable to vaccines) to diagnostics and therapeutics
Relationship between TRIPS and the Convention on Biological Diversity: to be addressed in the MC13 Outcome Document
Follow up to the MC12 Declaration on the WTO Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Preparedness for Future Pandemics: to be addressed in the MC13 Outcome Document
Relationship of trade and technology transfer: include in the MC13 Outcome Document to reinvigorate and give direction to the Working Group on Trade and Technology Transfer (WGTTT) and increase attention in all relevant bodies on how the WTO can promote technology transfer
Identifying Legal Challenges for Farmers’ Innovation
By Saurav Ghimire
On 9 October 2023, an expert workshop on “Identifying Legal Challenges for Farmers’ Innovation” was organised at the Centre for Private and Economic Law, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in collaboration with the South Centre and Université Catholique de Louvain. The hybrid event gathered experts to discuss the challenges for farmers’ innovation, particularly those emerging from regulatory regimes. The workshop brainstormed policy and regulatory hindrances to farmers’ involvement in plant breeding, namely, in access to breeding materials, access to the market and reward/protection for the innovation.
The expert workshop was organised as a part of a joint research project, “Farmers as Plant Breeders: Legal Mechanisms to Foster Farmers’ Innovation”, led by Prof. Christine Frison (Université Catholique de Louvain), Prof. Kim Van der Borght (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), and Prof. Carlos Correa (South Centre). The research project is funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO).
The WHO CA+ Discussions on Pathogen Access and Benefit Sharing: State of Play
By Nirmalya Syam
This brief explores the scope of a World Health Organization (WHO) pathogen access and benefit-sharing (PABS) mechanism as a possible outcome of the negotiations ongoing in the WHO Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) for a WHO Convention, Agreement or other Instrument (WHO CA+) for pandemic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery (PPRR). After seven sessions of the INB, substantial differences remain between developed and developing countries on the PABS system. While the text contains specific obligations on rapid sharing of pathogen material and genetic sequence information reflective of the primary interest of developed countries to get such access outside the framework of the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity through a specialized WHO instrument such as the PABS system under the WHO CA+, the current text continues to be weak in terms of effectively operationalizing fair and equitable-benefit sharing. To that end, it is critical that detailed provisions on standard material transfer agreements, data access relating to their genomic sequence information and specific obligations on monetary and non-monetary benefit-sharing by recipients of pathogen material and sequence information are included in the provisions establishing the PABS system. Therefore, it is important that the proposals that have been made in this regard by developing countries are incorporated in the draft negotiating text.
A Breakthrough in Negotiations on Intellectual Property, Protection of Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge in WIPO?
By Dr. Viviana Muñoz Tellez
This Policy Brief provides a brief summary of the current negotiations in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for an international legal instrument or instruments relating to intellectual property to ensure the balanced and effective protection of genetic resources (GRs), associated traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs). The General Assembly in June 2022 took a significant decision to schedule a Diplomatic Conference in 2024 to conclude a treaty on the protection of GRs and associated TK. However broader protection for TK and TCEs is not part of the decision. The 44th session of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), held on 12–16 September 2022, focused on advancing text-based negotiations on these issues and two more sessions will follow. Developing countries must coordinate closely, in parallel to the IGC sessions, to agree on a common negotiating position for the treaty to be concluded no later than in 2024.
Movement Forward on ABS for the Convention on Biological Diversity: Bounded Openness Over Natural Information
by Joseph Henry Vogel, Manuel Ruiz Muller, Klaus Angerer, and Christopher May
“Access to genetic resources” and “fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising [from their] utilization” is the third objective of the 1992 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The expression is included in the full title of the 2010 Nagoya Protocol (NP). Neither agreement defined “material” in the phrase “genetic material” which resulted in misinterpretation that the object of access for R&D is tangible. Unfairness ensues: competition among provider Parties leads to the elimination of economic rents, which is desirable for tangibles but undesirable for intangibles. Once interpreted as natural information, the economics of information justifies a Global Multilateral Benefit-Sharing Mechanism (GMBSM) (Article 10 NP) which collects and distributes rents on value added to genetic resources. “Bounded openness over natural information” is the modality proposed for the GMBSM. The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Secretariat of the CBD recognized the argument in the 2021 Note “Digital Sequence Information on Genetic Resources”.
Farmers, Seeds & the Laws: Importing the Chilling Effect Doctrine
By Saurav Ghimire
As an increasing number of countries are formulating Plant Variety Protection (PVP) laws, a growing number of farmers are affected by plant breeders’ rights. In addition, the seed certification law also affects farmers’ relations with seeds. Discussing the farmers’ interaction with the PVP law and seed certification law in Indonesia, this article establishes that the farmers have internalised the law beyond the scope of the legal text, such that they self-limit breeding, saving, and exchanging of seeds even in legally permissible situations. Based on the chilling effect doctrine, this article argues that the related laws should be relaxed to ensure that they do not over deter farmers from exercising their rights. This article calls for both negative and positive state obligations to address the chilling effect on farmers arising from both state and private actors.
SOUTH CENTRE STATEMENT FOR CBD SBSTTA AGENDA ITEM ON BIODIVERSITY AND HEALTH
The draft Global Action Plan on Biodiversity and Health should support mainstreaming biodiversity and health linkages in national policies, strategies, programmes and accounts.
The South Centre suggests the following amendments to the draft Action Plan on Biodiversity and Health to ensure consistency with the objectives of the Convention and the Nagoya Protocol with regard to fair and equitable benefit-sharing…
Marine Genetic Resources Beyond National Jurisdictions: Negotiating Options on Intellectual Property
By Siva Thambisetty
Negotiations on marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) convene after a significant hiatus during which intellectual property monopolies have come under intense normative and pragmatic scrutiny. This paper historicises developments in legal arrangements over intellectual property and biodiversity to propose several negotiating options on the control, use and circulation of marine genetic resources of areas beyond national jurisdiction. The text-based options presented here operationalise an equitable approach taking into account the interests of low power groups, cross-cutting issues and the often ignored question of the ownership and use of marine genetic resources through intellectual property rights.
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture: Saving, Sharing and Taking Care of the Plants and Seeds that Feed the World
By Dr. Kent Nnadozie
This Policy Brief provides an introduction to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and its contribution to conserve, sustainably use and fairly and equitably share the benefits of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, for sustainable agriculture and food security. The brief also provides an update on the involvement of the ITPGRFA in the prevailing issues under discussion in various biodiversity-related fora, including ongoing negotiations for a Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Governing Seed for Food Production: The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
By Nina Isabella Moeller
Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) are part of the foundation of agriculture and of central importance to food sovereignty. These gain an increasingly pivotal role in the context of climate crises, which are threatening predictable crop production, and the erosion of agricultural biodiversity. The main instrument for the governance of PGRFA is the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Strengthening the Treaty is crucial. The Treaty establishes a binding international framework for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their use. Since 2013, negotiations have been underway to enhance the functioning of the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing. Current informal consultations may pave the way for constructive negotiations at the next Governing Body meeting in May 2022.
Statement by the South Centre to the Third meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group on the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF)
The South Centre, the intergovernmental think tank of developing countries based in Geneva, is pleased to participate in the third meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group on the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). There is a lot of work to be done until COP-15. The new draft of the GBF improves on the previous version, yet several areas require significant improvements.
South Centre Submission to the 18th Session of the CGRFA
The South Centre presents its compliments to the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) and is pleased to send to the Commission the following information on its programmes and activities relevant to the prioritized themes for the 18th session of the CGRFA.