Utilizing forest genetic resources equitably

Equitable benefit sharing in biological resource utilization
Benefit sharing from forest genetic resource exploitation
The [Convention on Biological Diversity] creates a new framework under which access to forest genetic resources will increasingly be subject to the negotiation of formal agreements with a range of stakeholders, offering a mechanism for more equitable benefit sharing.
Globally, forests contain the greatest proportion of biological diversity in terms of species, genetic material and ecological processes and have an intrinsic value for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The livelihoods of many rural communities are based in the conservation and sustainable use of forests and they represent essential national resources for present and future generations.

The genetic resources of forests are rich and diverse, comprising the genes and gene complexes of forest trees, plants and animals. Historically, we have exploited these genetic resources at the level of populations or individual organisms; new biotechnologies have the potential to make these resources available at the level of the gene or gene complex. The benefits arising from the utilization of forest genetic resources accrue variously to individuals, communities, enterprises and societies both in and ex situ, but there are as yet few mechanisms which capture or direct these benefits to those who have conserved or developed forest biological diversity.

Forest genetic resources have been sampled and tested for research and development purposes without restriction, and at nominal or no charge to the collector. Where forest genetic resources have been assembled on a large scale, for example the collection of tree seed for operational establishment or of plant material for pharmaceutical screening, some market price reflecting primarily short-run supply and demand has prevailed. The income generated has typically accrued principally to the collecting enterprise, variously a state agency or individual entrepreneur. In the latter case, some level of fee is usually levied by the state or the forest owner. In neither case has it been common for benefits to be shared with indigenous or local communities, except where their resource or property rights have been recognized explicitly.

Realizing the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of forest genetic resources depends fundamentally on political choice; in this case, about relative responsibilities, rights and values. The terms of discussion about these political choices reflect the diversity of opinions about: (a) the relative responsibilities and rights of various stakeholder groups, in the development and conservation of forest biological diversity, and; (b) the relative values of forest genetic resources, the products developed from them, and the technologies which effect that development.

Article 15(7) of the [onvention on Biological Diversity] entitled "Access to Genetic Resources", states: Each Contracting Party shall take legislative, administrative or policy measures, as appropriate, and in accordance with Articles 16 and 19 and, where necessary, through the financial mechanism established by Articles 20 and 21 with the aim of sharing in a fair and equitable way the results of research and development and the benefits arising from the commercial and other utilization of genetic resources with the Contracting Party providing such resources. Such sharing shall be upon mutually agreed terms.
Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 15: Life on Land