Biodiversity regulation and sourcing practices

Scope widens for international biodiversity legislation

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dna Research and development

Recent biodiversity talks in Nagoya, Japan have clarified the scope for international legislation which is now set to cover research and development on the biochemical compounds present in plants, as well as their genetic resources.

The Nagoya Protocol has been adopted under the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and relates to the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from biodiversity.

In a series of articles investigating how the Protocol will affect cosmetics and fragrance companies using natural resources, looks at the scope of this new legislation and what resources it will cover.

Definition of genetic resources

In 1992, the CBD recognised the sovereign rights of a country over its genetic resources, the need for international companies to gain informed consent before commencing research and development and to share resulting benefits. However, exactly what was covered by the term genetic resources remained unclear.

This definition has now been clarified through discussions in Japan, and spoke to Maria Julia Oliva from the Union for Ethical BioTrade (which aims to promote the ethical trade of biodiversity-based products) to find out more.

According to Oliva, the definition has been expanded from research on genes and DNA with a focus on biotechnology, to cover naturally occurring compounds such as vitamins, enzymes, active compounds and metabolites.

“From a practical perspective this means that companies now have to think that access and benefit issues will be in play when doing anything linked to research and development on plants,”​ she said.

This is likely to have a more significant impact on cosmetics and fragrance companies, as it is the properties of the plants’ extracts and molecules that are often the starting point for new ingredients.

The Nagoya Protocol sets out the principle that companies need to ask permission before starting research on plants, and enter into a contract with the source country to share the resulting benefits.

This would apply to research on new ingredients that have never before been investigated, but could also apply to research into new potential uses for known compounds, Oliva explained.

Protocol needs to be ratified

Changes will not be effective immediately as the Nagoya Protocol has to be ratified by the countries that have signed the CBD and will only become international law once the fiftieth country has signed it. In addition, the international regime needs to be incorporated into national law.

However, Oliva advised companies to be proactive about the role of ABS in ingredients sourcing.

“If you are proactive, you have the scope to work with various stakeholders to work out a solution, it is another opportunity to shape what is happening in this arena,”​ she said.

Related topics Formulation & Science

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