Sunday, October 17, 2010

India seeks to protect bio-diversity at Nagoya meet from October 18 part 1

by Punem sexsena  As the world faces its worst losses of animal and plant species, negotiators from over 190 countries will be meeting in Nagoya, Japan between October 18 to 29 to reach an agreement to protect the diversity of the earth’s natural resources. 

The UN has described the rate of loss of species as “alarming”, affecting clean air, food, and medicine — the whole gamut of human life. The grim news about the prospects of mass man-made extinction not withstanding hammering an agreement in Nagoya will not be easy. 

“The Nagoya meet, to be attended by 193 members, is crucial for developing nations like India which is seeking a single legally binding international pact to deal with access to and benefit sharing of bio-resources, a move vehemently opposed by the rich countries,” environment minister Jairam Ramesh said. 

Targets set eight years ago by governments to reduce biodiversity loss by 2010 have not been met. Instead just the opposite has happened—key eco systems like the coral reefs and tropical rainforests are now under threat. As one of the 17 mega diverse countries on the world, India has said that it will play a proactive role in ensuring that an international protocol on biodiversity to provide access and benefit sharing (ABS) is finalised at Nagoya. 

“The passage of ABS is important to India as it ensures benefit-sharing by foreign companies using our bio resources and preventing bio piracy. Next to the Amazon, India faces the grave threat of its bioresources being taken up without the local communities benefitting,” Mr Ramesh said. 

Access and benefit sharing is a regime that will provide for a mechanism to regulate and protect traditional knowledge and genetic resources with the aim of facilitating access at the same time ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of benefits accrued from these resources. 

At Nagoya, the industrialised countries will once again be ranked against poor developing countries. There are several points of contention that are likely to come in the way of a finalising the agreement. India has said it will insist on the inclusion of human pathogens or disease causing organisms and derivatives of bio resources within the purview of the access and benefit sharing. 

Industrialised rich countries are insisting on having separate regime for human pathogens and want to limit ABS to the primary bio resource and not extend the agreement to its derivative. Both these are key areas of difference between the developing and developed countries. “Human pathogens and bio resource derivatives are the make or break issues,” the environment minister said. These issues are non-negotiables for India. 

Other contentious issues include the difference of opinion between developed and developing countries over when the agreement comes into effect. 

Developed countries want the agreement to be implemented from a specific agreed upon date, while developing countries particularly African and Central American nations want the agreement to come into force with retrospective effect. India’s own position is pragmatic on this score that an agreement can’t be enforced with a back date. 

There are differences over the points of control, with the poor countries preferring a central role for patent offices as the first point of examination of a violation. Industrialised countries are uncomfortable with the idea, and want a different regime. 

Disclosure is another key area of difference with developed countries pushing for limited disclosure and developing countries for total transparency. ‘’There are four to five sticking points on which agreement has to be reached. Other than human pathogens and derivatives, India is flexible on all issues,’’ Mr Ramesh said. 

Another key area of disagreement is the linking of the convention on bio diversity with the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights agreement with the convention on biodiversity. However, the minister said that there was some good news on that front with the European Union backing India’s contention that trading in intellectual property rights had to take into account basic conservation of bio diversity. The US opposes this position. 

India has been arguing that generic sources of biodiversity was public property and could not be converted into private property protected by intellectual property rights and patents. This was the argument India fronted when there was an attempt by Indian origin scientists in the US to patent neem and turmeric with the US patents office.......punem sexsena 
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