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Existing instruments, guidelines, codes of conduct and tools addressing ABS

Different types of genetic resources (e.g.: animal, plant, microorganisms) are used by different types of users (e.g.: botanic gardens, academic researchers, private companies) for different purposes (research, commercialization) in a variety of sectors (e.g.: agriculture, pharmaceutical, horticultural, cosmetics, biotechnology).

The following provides an overview of instruments, guidelines, codes of conducts, policies and other tools developed for different types of users of genetic resources to assist with the implementation of the access and benefit-sharing provisions of the Convention by responding to the particular needs of their constituents.

Agricultural sector

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) is an international agreement with the overall goal of supporting sustainable agriculture and global food security. The Treaty, which entered into force in 2004, allows governments, farmers, research institutes and agro-industries to work together by pooling their genetic resources and sharing the benefits derived from their use. Facilitated access is granted for the first time at the international level through its Multilateral System and its Standard Material Transfer Agreement to 35 food crops as well as 29 genera forages listed in the Treaty. The fair sharing of benefits arising from the use of these resources is also granted in a multilateral way thanks to the Funding Strategy and the financing of small scale projects, particularly in developing countries.

International Code of Conduct for Plant Germplasm Collecting and Transfer

The International Code of Conduct for Plant Germplasm Collecting and Transfer aims to promote the rational collection and sustainable use of genetic resources, to prevent genetic erosion, and to protect the interests of both donors and collectors of germplasm. Among other elements, it sets out minimum responsibilities of collectors, sponsors, curators and users of collected germplasm, in the collection and transfer of plant germplasm. The Code is addressed primarily to governments and is to be implemented in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity and other legal instruments protecting biological diversity or parts of it. The Code, a voluntary one, was adopted by the FAO Conference in 1993, and negotiated through what is now the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which also has the responsability to oversee its implementation and review.

Guidelines on Access and Benefit-sharing in research projects

The Guidelines are one of the outcomes of the GEF Project “In situ/On farm Conservation and Use of Agricultural Biodiversity (Horticultural Crops and Wild Fruit Species) in Central Asia”, supported by UNEP-GEF and coordinated by Bioversity International. They were developed taking into account the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in order to facilitate the implementation of access and benefit-sharing agreements in the context of the In situ/On farm project. The Guidelines also propose a model prior informed consent agreement, a model transfer material agreement, a model benefit-sharing agreement and a model information-sharing agreement.

Botanic gardens

Online resource for access and benefit sharing between botanic gardens around the world

The site has been developed in conjunction with Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the International Plant Exchange Network (IPEN) and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). It contains among others information on how to develop an ABS policy, features the Principles on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-sharing for Participating Institutions developed by a number of botanic gardens and herbaria, as well as some case studies.

Principles on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-sharing

28 botanic gardens and herbaria from 21 countries developed a common approach on access and benefit-sharing that includes Principles on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-sharing for Participating Institutions; Common Policy Guidelines; and an explanatory text. The Principles promote the sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources acquired prior to the entry into force of the Convention, in the same manner as for those acquired thereafter.

International Plant Exchange Network (IPEN) and its Code of Conduct for botanic gardens governing the acquisition, maintenance and supply of living plant material

The IPEN was established by European botanic gardens in order to comply with the access and benefit-sharing provisions of the CBD. It covers the noncommercial exchange of plant material between botanic gardens. Botanic gardens that want to join the network must adopt the IPEN Code of Conduct and use its common documents for plant material transfer. It covers acquisition, maintenance and supply of living plant material by the gardens as well as benefit-sharing.

Micro-organisms culture collections

Micro-organisms Sustainable Use and Access Regulation International Code of Conduct (MOSAICC)

With respect to microbial genetic resources, the MOSAICC was developed by the Belgian Coordinated Collections of Micro-organisms (BCCM) in 1997, with the support of the European Commission. It is a voluntary code of conduct which covers the terms of access to microbial genetic resources, including the terms of agreement on benefit-sharing, access to and transfer of technology, scientific and technical cooperation as well as technology transfer.

Academic research community

German Research Foundation - Guidelines for Funding Proposals Concerning Research Projects within the Scope of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

The Guidelines for funding proposals concerning reasearch projects within the scope of the CBD were drafted by the ABS-Working Group of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). These guidelines aim to enable scientists to comply with the principles of the CBD when designing research projects in order to avoid problems later during implementation, as well as to promote transparency and trust. Since 2008, adherence to these guidelines is a prerequisite for DFG funding.

Access and Benefit-sharing – Good Practice for academic research on genetic resources

In 2006, the Swiss Academy of Sciences published a brochure to create awareness among the academic research community to the access and benefit-sharing provisions of the CBD entitled "Access and Benefit-sharing - Good Practice for academic research on genetic resources". The brochure contains information on the ABS system, case studies and step-by step procedures. The brochure is available in English, French and Spanish. It can be downloaded at the ABS website of the Swiss Academy of Science. The site also offers checklists, and updates on current international policy developments.

Professional societies or organizations

A number of professional research societies in fields such as anthropology, ethnobiology, pharmacognosy and ecology have developed documents to articulate ethical values embedded in research and set standards for best practice. These documents are variously referred to as codes of ethics, voluntary codes, codes of practice, statements on ethics, guidelines and research protocols. Elements of these codes of ethics and research guidelines generally address, inter alia, prior informed consent, research behaviour including benefit-sharing and the publication and distribution of data. Examples of these include:

Society of Economic Botany (SEB): Guidelines of Professional Ethics

International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE): Code of Ethics

Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA): Ethical and Professional Responsibilities

Private sector

Guidelines for BIO Members Engaging in Bioprospecting

These guidelines are a set of general principles and practices that BIO believes are appropriate to follow when an entity engages in bioprospecting activities. They identify certain "best practices" that can be followed by companies that elect to engage in these activities. They also direct BIO members to identify any applicable requirements to follow in any specific jurisdiction in which they engage in bioprospecting.

Also see BIO's Model MTA

Guidelines for International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Association (IFPMA) Members on Access to Genetic Resources and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising out of their Utilization

The IFPMA is a non-profit, non-governmental organization with members across the globe representing the research-based pharmaceutical industry, including the biotechnology and vaccine sectors. Members of the IFPMA comprise leading international companies as well as national and regional industry pharmaceutical associations in both developing and developed countries. Its Guidelines on Access to Genetic Resources and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising out of their Utilization lists certain “best practices” to be followed by companies engaging in the acquisition and use of genetic resources.

Other tools applicable across sectors

ABS Management Tool (ABS-MT)

The ABS Management Tool (ABS-MT) is a best practice standard and a handbook that provides voluntary guidance to the users and providers of genetic resources - a tool on ABS practice to help companies, researchers, indigenous and local communities, and governments to comply with the ABS requirements under the Convention on Biological Diversity, including the Bonn Guidelines and the Nagoya Protocol.

The ABS-MT was first published in 2007. The updated ABS-MT of May 2012 accommodates new language of the Nagoya Protocol and assists the users and providers of genetic resources to apply current best practices. It also includes a new section providing guidance to the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to prepare for the introduction and further implementation of the Nagoya Protocol.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme