What is ABS?

What is ABS?

Genetic resources -whether from plant, animal or micro-organisms- may be used for different purposes. Currently users of genetic resources and/or traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources are part of different sectors including the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, food, among others.  Therefore, providing these users with international access to genetic resources will include its use for research, commercialization and sharing the benefits arising from their use.

With the Convention of Biological Diversity (CDB) entry into force, access to genetic resources was no longer considered freely available and it recognized States sovereignty over them. The measure was taken in order to avoid the exploitation of genetic resources without sharing any benefits with the countries providing the resources or the holders of the knowledge. The CDB introduces the “Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-Sharing arising from their utilization” (ABS) concept in Article 15. In short, according to the ABS concept, the Provider State shall facilitate access to their genetic resources while User State shall share in a fair and equitable manner the benefits arising from the access to the use of those resources. However, with the entry into force of the CDB, it became clear that challenges presented by the ABS in practice mainly related to access, benefit sharing and compliance need a new international instrument to regulate the subject.

Thus the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity (or simply the Nagoya Protocol) was born. The Nagoya Protocol aims to develop a more specific and comprehensive ABS legal framework and provide a greater legal certainty through the provision of genetic resources with certificates of compliance. It also seeks to contribute to nature’s conservation and that such benefits include an appropriate access to genetic resources, an appropriate technology transfer and an adequate funding.

The Nagoya Protocol covers genetic resources, its derivatives as well as traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources. One of the hardest works to make the Protocol effective, a part from the States ratification, is the establishment of national access regulations of countries providing genetic resources by requiring compliance and monitoring measures in third countries where these genetic resources might be used to promote the protection of genetic resources.


The information contained in this web page is based on Greiber, T. and Peña Moreno, S. et al. 2012. An Explanatory Guide to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.


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