Genetic Resources, Equity and International Law

Genetic Resources, Equity and International Law

New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series

Camena Guneratne

This book examines current developments in international law which regulate the uses of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, and the various property regimes which are applied to these resources by these international agreements.

Chapter 5: The international environmental regime on plant genetic resources and traditional knowledge

Camena Guneratne

Subjects: development studies, law and development, environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, human rights, intellectual property law, international economic law, trade law, law and development, public international law, politics and public policy, human rights


This book will analyze two international legal regimes which deal with issues of access to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) and traditional knowledge. These are the environmental/ conservation regime and the trade and intellectual property rights regime. In this chapter I will examine the former regime consisting of the Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992 (CBD) and the FAO Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture of 2001 (FAO Treaty), and the institutions relating to them. The primary objective of these agreements is universal access to genetic resources and the equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of them. Both have devised systems to achieve this objective, and to some extent they serve as a foil to the intellectual property regime whose aim is the imposition of private property rights over these resources. Consequently, they are perceived by developing countries as the preferred fora in which to further their goal of achieving equity in the use and benefits of PGRFA. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an introductory overview of the two treaties, their evolution, conceptual framework, scope and structure. This will help to put in context the processes which have taken place within them in relation to PGRFA, and the way in which their respective fora have addressed the issue. This chapter will also consider their provisions on the conservation and use of PGRFA both in situ and ex situ. The CBD is unusual among international environmental treaties and there are many different objectives in the conceptual framework underlying it.

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