Sunday, March 3, 2013

Side Event on Proposed EU ABS Regulations

On 28 February 2013, the ABS Capacity Development Initiative held a side event on the draft EU ABS regulations during the 7th Pan-African Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) workshop in Phalaborwa, South Africa. The draft regulations were presented by Soren Jensen of the ABS focal point at the Danish Ministry of the Environment. 

With regard to the process of adoption, he recalled that the draft regulation was published on the 4 October 2012 by the European Council. The draft is being discussed in the EC but the European Parliament will have the final say. A council of ministers is scheduled for 21 March 2013. He further outlined the definitions, scope and objectives of the draft regulations. The objective of the regulations is to implement 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 in the EU and to enable it to ratify Protocol.

Mr Jensen mentioned that the proposed regulations set out obligations for users of genetic resources and traditional knowledge (TK) associated with genetic resources in the EU. They would oblige all users to exercise due diligence to ascertain that genetic resources and TK associated with genetic resources used were accessed in accordance with applicable legal requirements and that, where relevant, benefits are fairly and equitable shared upon mutually agreed terms. To that end, all users would need to seek, keep and transfer to subsequent users certain information relevant for ABS. The proposal sets out minimum features of due diligence measures. Per Mr Jensen, the EU draft regulations also foresee a system of EU-trusted collections that would substantially lower the risk that illegally acquired genetic resources are used in the EU.

In the responses from participants, some stated that African countries should be extremely vigilant in accepting the use of resources because this provision shifts the burden of compliance to Collections. Participants were also of the view that the notion of “due diligence” in the draft should be clarified. They were also concerned by the fact that misappropriation of TK is not considered an offence in the draft regulations. Furthermore, participants were also concerned that the only TK that is protected under the draft regulation is TK included in Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT). They argued that it is worrying that this excludes a whole range of TK that has not been covered in the relevant MAT contracts.

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