Chapter 1: Introduction
Genetic resources form a vital shared global resource with key importance to agriculture, food security and the maintenance of biodiversity, and to scientific and medical research. They are defined in Article 2 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as ‘genetic material of actual or potential value’ (with genetic material defined as ‘any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity’). Scientific advances mean that the range of genetic material considered to have actual or potential value has expanded rapidly in recent years. States have long relied on exchange of seed to maintain and renew their agricultural resources and, therefore, it is unsurprising that genetic resources have a long history as a matter of international concern. An array of rules, processes and other governance initiatives have arisen around them, creating a diverse, complex and dynamic governance environment. The term refers to the genetic material of any biological organism. This material is collected, stored, used and consumed for scientific and medical purposes, in agriculture and across a range of industries.