Accessing genetic resources and sharing the benefits: Lessons from implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity

International Workshop, 29–31 October 2003
MU II, Davis Campus, University of California, Davis CA USA

Agenda | Participants | Conclusions

Sponsors: University of California Pacific Rim Research Program, University of California Genetic Resources Conservation Program, The Ford Foundation, The Institute of International Education, Environmental Law Programme–The World Conservation Union (IUCN), Andean Finance Corporation, United Nations University–Institute of Advanced Studies.

Countries around the world have struggled to draft policies to regulate access to genetic diversity and find ways to share the benefits from using genetic resources. The tenth anniversary of the launching of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) provided a good opportunity to identify areas of progress and obstacles meeting the goals of that convention. With this in mind, scholars at the University of California have conducted a large international study of the status of national genetic resources access and benefit-sharing (ABS) policies and intellectual property right (IPR) policies among countries on the Pacific Rim and produced a comparative analysis of that material. This International Workshop will review the findings of that study, draw lessons from it, and design strategies to facilitate the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity regarding genetic resources: promote conservation, improve access, and provide for benefit sharing from their use.

Workshop objectives

  • To present the results of the comparative analysis about ABS policies, IPR policies for genetic resources, and bioprospecting initiatives in the Pacific Rim countries that signed the CBD;
  • To report on recent developments in the area of ABS laws and policies;
  • To identify common problems and suggest solutions to overcome obstacles to fulfilling the CBD mandate; and
  • To offer recommendations that could facilitate a model international regime on ABS of genetic resources.


In 1992, the CBD provided a mandate for countries to develop national ABS policies. In the last ten years, however, countries have been burdened by the development process of these policies, encountering multiple obstacles and problems. Further motivation for developing national ABS policies was provided by the 2001 Bonn Guidelines on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of the Benefits Arising out of their Utilization. In addition, the Plan of Implementation that came out of the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development recommended (a) promotion of the wide implementation of and continued work on the Bonn Guidelines on ABS as an input for countries developing ABS policies and (b) the negotiation of the development of an international regime to promote the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. But to date, only a limited number of countries have developed and implemented ABS policies. Results of difficulty in implementation of ABS policies include the slowing of the flow of genetic resources and reciprocal benefits between countries.

Given the importance of maintaining the flow of genetic resources, benefit sharing, and conservation, a large-scale and comparative analysis of different national experiences was warranted. To this end, three scholars (Santiago Carrizosa, GRCP and Stephen Brush and Brian Wright at the Davis and Berkeley campuses of the University of California, respectively) launched a study of ABS policies and their implementation among 40 countries on the Pacific Rim. This is the largest such comprehensive study to date and included 11 of the 17 so-called megadiversity countries. The study involved assembling detailed country reports from eight countries: The United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Australia. The key objectives were to describe the processes of drafting national access, benefit sharing, and IPR policies and the experience of implementation. In addition, experts from 32 other Pacific Rim countries responded to a survey that addressed similar issues. Over 60 experts from the 40 Pacific Rim countries that signed the Convention on Biological Diversity contributed to this project.

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