Misappropriation of Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge: Challenges Posed by Intellectual Property and Genetic Sequence Information
By Nirmalya Syam and Thamara Romero
Improper acquisition of genetic resources (GRs) and associated traditional knowledge (TK) without prior informed consent and on mutually agreed terms, in accordance with national laws of the country providing the GR and associated TK, as well as without any fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from their utilization, has been a significant concern for developing countries. Intellectual property (IP) rights can serve as one of the means of such misappropriation. One of the mechanisms sought by developing countries to prevent it consists in the establishment of an effective multilateral legal mechanism for defensive protection against misappropriation, primarily through the introduction of a mandatory disclosure requirement about the source and country of origin of such resources in intellectual property right (IPR) applications. These negotiations have been taking place in different fora. However, there is an increased sense of frustration due to the lack of progress in achieving consensus during the last twenty years. Meanwhile, new modes of misappropriation of GRs are evolving through the use of genetic sequence information and data of GRs, and by applying technological developments in synthetic biology. This paper discusses the use of IP and genetic sequence information and data as modes of misappropriation of GRs and associated TK and the deficits of the current international legal framework in preventing such misappropriation. This paper also maps the state of play of the ongoing negotiations in the context of these issues in different fora, and, in conclusion, proposes possible alternative approaches for addressing these pressing issues at the multilateral level.
Proposals to Advance the Negotiations of the Post 2020 Biodiversity Framework
By Dr. Viviana Muñoz Tellez
Informal consultations are ongoing in virtual format towards the adoption of a Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Fifteenth meeting of the CBD-COP is scheduled to be held on 11–24 October 2021, in Kunming, China. For negotiations to succeed, the Framework must be ambitious, balanced and achievable, building on past commitments. All three pillars of the CBD must be equally advanced. The Rio principles in particular on common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), must be clearly reflected. This policy brief advances proposals towards advancing negotiations on the current zero-draft of the Framework towards realizing the 2050 global vision of living in harmony with nature.
South Centre Contribution in response to UPOV Circular E-20/246
The South Centre, as an intergovernmental observer to the UPOV Council, submits this contribution on views on the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers. The South Centre appreciates this opportunity to inform the possible development of guidance regarding the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers.
WIPO Negotiations for an International Legal Instrument on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources
By Nirmalya Syam
Over the past few years, Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have engaged in negotiations for concluding an international legal instrument on intellectual property and genetic resources. While developing countries have a major interest in securing through this instrument a mandatory requirement for applicants of IP rights over innovations that utilize genetic resources or associated traditional knowledge to disclose their source or origin, certain developed countries that are major markets for such products are absolutely opposed to recognizing the disclosure requirement as an objective of the legal instrument under negotiation. Other developed countries are agreeable to a disclosure requirement with a narrow scope, broad exceptions, and weakened remedies against non-compliance. This Policy Brief analyses the current state of play in the negotiations considering the different positions as reflected in the draft negotiating text, as well as a proposal by the Chair of the WIPO intergovernmental committee where the negotiations are taking place, to bridge the difference and take the negotiations forward. This brief concludes that any meaningful international legal instrument on IP and GRs in WIPO must recognize the fundamental issue of misappropriation of GRs through the IP system that should be resolved through a mandatory disclosure requirement as the principal mechanism. It would also be critical to ensure that the WIPO instrument is coherent with other related international legal instruments such the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing; specialized instruments like the FAO Plant Treaty as well as related mechanisms or fora like the WHO (on use of pathogens as a genetic resource) and the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) negotiations on marine genetic resources beyond areas of national jurisdiction.
The Nagoya Protocol International Access and Benefit Sharing Regime
By Viviana Munoz Tellez
The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force in October 2014. Ten years have now passed since the adoption of the Protocol by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, now with 129 Parties. The Protocol requires countries to set up access and benefit sharing rules and procedures for the Protocol’s implementation at the national level. This policy brief describes the main characteristics of the Protocol and makes recommendations for countries to advance in its implementation. Importantly, the Protocol’s language empowers countries with considerable policy space for the design of domestic access and benefit-sharing rules.
Digital Sequence Information (DSI) and national measures: approaches and perspectives
By Jorge Cabrera Medaglia
Digital sequence information (DSI, or genetic sequence data) is an emerging aspect of synthetic biology which involves certain functional genetic sequences being shared by different means. The genetic sequences from plants, animals or micro-organisms could be used to support conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, to develop and commercialize new products and processes, or for other purposes. The regulation of the use of DSI for both commercial and non-commercial entities may have huge implications for the access and benefit-sharing (ABS) regimen established in the international instruments, ongoing processes and regional and national legislation that implement these conventions. International guidance is needed to promote a coordinated approach to secure fair and equitable sharing of benefits while avoiding a negative impact on the non-commercial benefits arising from the genetic data.
Comments by the South Centre on the CESCR Draft General Comment on science and economic, social and cultural rights Art. 15: 15.1.b, 15.2, 15.3 and 15.4
The South Centre welcomes the opportunity to submit its comments on the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Right (CESCR) Draft General Comment on science and economic, social and cultural rights Art. 15: 15.1.b, 15.2, 15.3 and 15.4 and commends the Secretariat of the CESCR for this initiative. We recognize the paramount importance of the ESCR and of Art. 15, which is a crucial element to ensuring other rights and the development of all countries. We further acknowledge and reinforce the importance of the draft text to address multiple emerging and long-established issues, such as the risks and promises of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the relation of science and the right to food as two examples.
The Status of Patenting Plants in the Global South
Over the last few decades, the number of patents on plants and plant parts has greatly increased in various parts of the world. This has triggered social debate about possible negative consequences for the breeding sector, farmers and society. Despite the urgency of these questions, most research and literature has focused exclusively on developed countries – the USA and European Union, in particular – while little is known about the extent to which plants are being patented in other parts of the world. This research report, conducted and written by Prof. Carlos M. Correa, aims to fill this information gap by providing an overview of the status of patenting plants in the developing countries and emerging economies of the Global South.
Towards the Adoption of a UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working In Rural Areas
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas has been constructed by an Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group over six years of open and transparent negotiations. The text has significant support from members of the Human Rights Council. Accordingly, member States of the Human Rights Council should adopt the Declaration through an upcoming Resolution at the 39th Human Rights Council Session (10-28 September 2018).