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Environment MEPs back agreement on benefit-sharing of genetic resources




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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn agreement struck by EP and Council negotiators on access to genetic resources and sharing the benefits of their use was backed by the environment committee on 22 January. The agreement also covers traditional knowledge held by indigenous or local communities. The new rules should contribute to the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components.

“Negotiations were very difficult. Several member states seemed not to favour of biodiversity,” said Sandrine Bélier (Greens/EFA, FR), responsible for steering the legislation through Parliament. “The text is less ambitious than I would have liked, but it allows us to participate in the next COP Conference at the end of the year in South Korea,” she added. The regulation will oblige users, such as private collectors and companies, academic researchers or scientific institutions, to check that genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge have been accessed legally and that the benefits are shared fairly and equitably, on the basis of mutually agreed terms.

It provides that genetic material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin of actual or potential value is to be considered as a genetic resource. Biological diversity offers a reservoir for innovation in terms of scientific research and technological applications, as well as healthcare products, foodstuffs, cosmetics and other products. Under the new rules, users will have to obtain an international certificate of compliance, in order to prevent illegal access to resources.

The agreement also stipulates that collections, which are major suppliers of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, must be entered on an EU register established and maintained by the European Commission. EU countries will designate authorities to verify compliance by users of genetic resources with the legislation and will also establish penalties for infringing the rules. The scope of the new rules will be narrower than Parliament had originally hoped as EU countries did not agree that they should cover all derivatives of genetic resources. The Council also refused to agree to MEPs' demands for stricter conditions of access to genetic resources and tougher penalties for infringing them.

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