Gene database in the laboratory of the Africa Rice Center. The research institute aims to breed higher-yielding rice varieties in order to improve the food supply.

Benefit-sharing and biodiversity Equitable access and benefit-sharing

Many developing countries are home to plants, animals and microorganisms that provide important ingredients or genetic information for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, cosmetic products, food supplements, scents and fragrances or for plant and animal breeding.

Ensuring fair access to genetic resources and equitable sharing of the profits from their use is a key issue addressed in the Convention on Biological Diversity (External link) of 1992. An international legal framework for this Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) was created in the Nagoya Protocol (External link) of 2010, which Germany ratified in 2016.

A lab technician in a Mexican plant breeding company takes cells from a coffee plant leaf.
A lab technician in a Mexican plant breeding company takes cells from a coffee plant leaf.

The ABS agreement is designed to benefit both developing and developed countries. The developing countries, which are often the providers of genetic resources, receive just compensation for their biological treasures – in the form of money or services, such as technology transfer. This enables them to invest in conserving their natural resources and using them sustainably and to improve their domestic research capabilities.

In their turn, the users of genetic resources – who are usually based in industrialised countries – obtain reliable access to the resources on the basis of a valid trade agreement and are no longer open to accusations of bio-piracy. National laws implementing the Nagoya Protocol provide more legal and investment certainty for private industry.

The need for support

Many of the partner countries of German development cooperation require assistance to protect their traditional knowledge effectively and enforce their intellectual property rights. The areas in which support is needed include:

  • Enabling small and medium-sized enterprises and cooperatives to access national and international markets
  • Establishing biodiversity-based value chains
  • Developing an ABS-compliant legal framework for wild and agricultural genetic resources and developing the corresponding administrative and negotiating capacities
  • Developing user-friendly digital schemes for ABS approvals and for monitoring ABS agreements
  • Regional coordination and exchange of experience

German activities

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supports the scientific and political process at international level in order to promote the principle of equitable benefit-sharing. In addition, the BMZ has since 2008 promoted implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in 24 bilateral, regional and supraregional projects which have included work with India, Mexico, Morocco, the Central Africa Forests Commission (Commission des Forêts d’Afrique Centrale (External link), COMIFAC) and the Central American Integration System (Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (External link), SICA).

Logo: ABS Initiative

Cooperation in action The ABS Initiative Internal link

Under the direction of the BMZ, the Access and Benefit-Sharing Capacity Development Initiative (ABS Initiative) has since 2006 supported the process of negotiating a binding international legal framework for implementation of the third main goal of the Convention on Biological Diversity (access to genetic resources and equitable benefit-sharing). Since 2010, the Initiative has also been supporting implementation of the Nagoya Protocol.