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Access and Benefit Sharing in Relation to Crop Genetic Resources

SAWTEE, in association with the Fridtjof Nansens Institute (FNI), Norway, organized a discussion programme on “Access and Benefit Sharing in Relation to Crop Genetic Resources” on 5 August 2013 in Kathmandu. The programme was organized as part of a study project being implemented in Nepal and India by SAWTEE in collaboration with the FNI.

Speaking as the Chair of the Opening Session, Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Executive Chairman, SAWTEE, said that though crop genetic resources are important for agriculture as well as the country’s economy, issues related to access and use of such resources are becoming complex and controversial in recent years. Therefore, legal mechanisms that recognize communities’ rights over such resources and their knowledge are required for promoting fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of such resources. In that context, there is a need to harmonize the different international treaties and conventions that cover issues related to plant genetic resources (PGRs) and access and benefit sharing (ABS).

Ms. Tone Winge, Research Fellow, FNI, provided an overview of the project and said that conditions for the successful implementation of three international agreements—Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)—need to be identified so as to create synergies in the management of crop genetic resources and to address the turf struggles between these three agreements.

Mr. Puspa Sharma, Research Director, SAWTEE, said that India has already put in place legislation on biodiversity that includes issues on ABS, on plant variety protection and farmers’ rights, among others, and has had practical experiences of implementing them. On the other hand, despite efforts of more than a decade, Nepal has not yet been able to make substantial progress on this front. Therefore, he stated that the lessons that would be derived from the experiences of Nepal and India under this project would be beneficial to other developing countries and least-developed countries. He further said that the main objective of the discussion programme was to explore avenues for collaboration between relevant stakeholders in Nepal so that the project would have a greater impact.

Dr. Anitha Ramanna-Pathak, consultant from India, stated that although there are various ways to implement benefit sharing, only monetary transaction between government and industry has been realized in practice. Therefore, despite having enacted some of the relevant laws, India is still in the process of understanding how benefit sharing should be made to work for the communities.

In the technical sessions, participants discussed in detail about the above-stated three international agreements and issues related to their implementation in Nepal. About 35 participants representing government organizations, civil society and research institutions actively participated in the discussion programme.