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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Australia Releases Model for Implementing Nagoya Protocol

By Alicia Akporiaye, Lawyer

The Federal Government has recently released for comment its preferred model for domestic implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (the Nagoya Protocol). The Nagoya Protocol aims to put in place a transparent legal framework for regulating the use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge for biodiscovery.

The term 'biodiscovery' refers to scientific research on the genetic or biochemical make-up of a plant, animal, fungus or microbe with the purpose of developing a product or process that has commercial or other value. Practically speaking, the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in Australia has the potential to affect a wide range of businesses, including biotechnology companies in the medical, pharmaceutical, agricultural and industrial sectors.

Existing Commonwealth legislation already regulates the taking of biological resources of native Australian species in Commonwealth areas for biodiscovery. However, the Federal Government is currently of the view that legislative reform is required in order to meet all of Australia's obligations under the Nagoya Protocol. This means that, for the first time, researchers (such as biotechnology companies and research institutions) will be subject to new laws regulating the use of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge for biodiscovery.

The Federal Government is currently seeking submissions on the preferred approach for implementing the Nagoya Protocol in Australia. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, research institutions and venture capital/investment funds with an interest in biodiscovery should consider making a submission by 31 May 2014.

For more information, see our 'Focus' article.

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