The Chair noted that the issue of ownership, and access to, ex situ genetic resources is not provided for in the Convention. Hence, the Interim Secretariat had invited the FAO to prepare a background paper in the context of Resolution 3 of the Nairobi Final Act.
As the COP is not required to deal with the issue at its first meeting, the ICCBD was asked to begin to identify possible areas of interest for future work, including examining the legal status of: national ex situ plant collections; future ex situ collection centers; and the current status of ex situ centers of plant, animal or other organisms.
India stated that as custodians of domestic plant and animal diversity, farmers need a legally-binding regime that would recognize their rights as inviolable. Japan did not believe that the FAO's international undertaking on genetic resources could become a legal instrument under the Convention, as the Convention did not provide for this. Norway recognized the importance of resolving the issue of ownership of, and access to, ex situ genetic resources in a legally-binding instrument, perhaps a protocol. Kenya proposed: the strengthening of regional gene banks to be funded under the Convention; repatriation of gene duplicates to the country of origin; sharing in the commercial and technological benefits with the gene resource's country of origin; and a legally-binding document. Malaysia noted that the ex situ collections were contributed by developing countries on the understanding that they would be freely accessible. Greece, on behalf of the EU, said that the COP should provide guidance for the conservation, characterization, collection and utilization of genetic resources and stated that germplasm collections have to respect existing property rights and laws. The FAO gave a brief history of the organization and noted that ex situ gene banks established before the entry into force of the Convention are being brought into harmony with the Convention. Brazil, on behalf of the G-77 and China, stated that any multilateral agreement on ex situ collections should refer to the ex situ collections existing before the entry into force of the Convention.
The report (UNEP/CBD/IC/2/L.2/Add.4) notes that Resolution 3 of the Nairobi Final Act recognizes the need to seek solutions to the outstanding matters on access to ex situ collections not acquired in accordance with the Convention and the question of farmers rights within the FAO global system for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and sustainable agriculture. It also states that many representatives supported the work of the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources, which is an intergovernmental forum established within the FAO. To this end, the FAO should be invited to present a progress report on this subject to the first COP. The report stresses that COP should provide guidance for the interpretation and further development of these issues, and that there was strong general support for the re-negotiation process of international undertaking of plant genetic resources. In addition, it refers to the linkage between farmers or indigenous/local communities who are often the providers of germplasm. The report notes the NGOs' concern that the COP, when discussing and determining the status as to ownership, control and rights of ex-situ collections of biological materials, give priority to recognizing and formally establishing the rights of farmers and indigenous people.
[Return to start of article]