Access and benefit-sharing (ABS)

Access and Benefit-Sharing for Research Involving Genetic Ressources

States have sovereign rights over the genetic ressources within their national jurisdiction, and are entitled under international law to define the modalities of access both for research and for subsequent utilization.

The Nagoya Protocol defines since 2014 the international legal framework for access and utilization of genetic resources and Traditional Knowledge. It also sets the general principle that benefits must be shared in a fair and equitable manner with the providing countries.

In the context of ABS, genetic resources have a broad meaning that goes well beyond DNA or RNA. They include any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity and that is of actual or potential value. Genetic resources can be wild, domesticated or cultivated. However, the rules on ABS do not cover human genetic resources.

Traditional knowledge includes the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

Use of genetic resources refers to research and development on the genetic and/or biochemical composition of genetic resources, including through the application of biotechnology.

The principles set by the Nagoya Protocol are implemented in the domestic legislation of the providing countries. It is up to them to decide whether they require the fulfilment of ABS obligations. The Protocol also sets out a number of compliance measures to ensure that access is given only with Prior Informed Consent and under Mutually Agreed Terms.

Prior Informed Consent means a unilateral declaration of the competent authority of the providing country.

Mutually Agreed Terms means a contract negotiated between the users and providers of genetic resources.

Access and Benefit Sharing principles apply to all research including non-commercial academic research. Therefore, researchers should never use genetic resources before veryfying the conditions for access and utilization.

Switzerland ratified the Nagoya Protocol in 2014. The Federal Act on the Protection of Nature and Cultural Heritage (NCHA) forms the basis for legal use of genetic resources. The Nagoya Ordinance (NagO) specifies the terms of the application of the Nagoya Protocol in Switzerland.

Researchers receiving EU funding may have certain obligations under the EU Regulation on Access and Benefit Sharing (EU ABS Regulation) if they use genetic resources. They should contact the relevant funding authority for any further questions about applicable obligations and/or procedures. For H2020 projects , please refer to the Administration and contractual/legal guidelines UNIGE (RS).


Further information

For advice on legal aspects in relation with the implementation of  the Nagoya Protocol (PIC, MAT) please contact Research Services at euresearch(at)unige.ch for activities under European and international research programs or at service-recherche(at)unige.ch for activities under national and lemanic programs.

For further information and questions on the Nagoya Protocol please refer to the Swiss National Focal Point at the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).  

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