Workshop “Access to Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in the European Union”

Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) refers to the international and national regulation of access to and use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge, and the sharing of benefits stemming from this use between providers and users. An important international instrument governing ABS is the ‘Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from their Utilization’, adopted in 2010. The Nagoya Protocol rests on three main pillars: measures relating to access, measures relating to benefit-sharing, and measures relating to compliance. The Nagoya Protocol came into force in the European Union on 12 October 2014, through EU Regulation 511/2014 which applies to all users of genetic resources in the European Union.  

Whereas EU Regulation 511/2014 gives provisions on compliance, it does not regulate access to genetic resources in the EU, which remains the responsibility of individual member states. Therefore, from 25 and 26 February 2016, a workshop was held in London, United Kingdom, to raise EU-wide awareness about access measures of EU Member States, including perspectives, motives and expectations behind such measures, and on the resulting obligations and procedures for users in the EU. 

In the workshop, people working on regulation of access to genetic resources in EU member states (policy makers) were brought together with people using genetic resources or representing user groups. The workshop was organised by the Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands (CGN) in collaboration with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), UK, and was attended by 35 invited participants from 15 countries. The participants included experts from universities, research institutes, botanical gardens, museums, government departments, international organizations and private companies. 

In the framework of the workshop, 6 key presentations were given:

  • Agricultural Biodiversity & the Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in the European Union (Fulya Batur, Catholic University of Louvain (UCL), Belgium / Arche Noah, Austria).
  • Regulating Access to Genetic Resources: the Case of Spain (Alejandro Lago, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (URJC), Spain).
  • Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit- Sharing (ABS) in France (Patricia Larbouret, Ministry of Agriculture, France).
  • Regulating Access to Genetic Resources in the United Kingdom (Julian Jackson, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), United Kingdom).
  • Access Policy and Legislation and EU Research Projects (Licia Colli, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy).
  • Access Policy and Legislation and Transboundary Commercial R&D (Szonja Csörgő, European Seed Association (ESA), Belgium). 

After the presentation sessions, working groups were formed to discuss the subjects, aided by a number of questions formulated by the organisers. After each session, the conclusions of the working groups were reported in a plenary session, with some time for additional discussion as well. At the end of the workshop, a final plenary discussion was held, and conclusions were formulated. 

The Workshop took place in the context of the study launched by DG AGRI of the European Commission called ”Preparatory action on EU plant and animal genetic resources” (www.geneticresources.eu). This study started in July 2014 for a duration of 2 years, and aims to create an overview of actors, networks, activities and issues regarding conservation and sustainable use of GR in Europe.