Inclusion of human pathogens in biodiversity and the use of derivatives of bio-resources are the non-negotiables for India at the upcoming Convention on Biological Diversity, wherein the country plans to fight for a legally-binding agreement on biodiversity.
“There are certain areas where the developed and the developing countries are at loggerheads. The developed countries don’t want a legally-binding agreement, while the developing countries do,” said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh here today. The Conference of Parties (COP-10) of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will be held at Nagoya, Japan, from October 18 to 29.
Almost 192 countries participate in the event, where they negotiate an international protocol on access and benefit sharing (ABS) under CBD. ABS intends to regulate and protect knowledge and genetic resources to facilitate access and ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits among countries.
India and Brazil are leading the developing countries to ensure that ABS covers human pathogens as a bio resource. The US was not a party to CBD, but the largest user of bio resources in India, he said.
Ramesh said the developing countries also wanted to know when the agreement would become operational. “Some African and central American countries want a retrospecific date, while the developed world wants the agreement to be operational from a certain date. India does not want to go back. We have a pragmatic position on this,” he said.
Further, the points of control are also an area of contention between the two sides, as the developing countries want these points to be the respective patent offices, while the developed countries are “uneasy” with the role of such offices.
The two sides have different views in terms of disclosure of bio-diversity resources. While India wants complete transparency, the developed countries want a graded system of disclosure.
In fact, India is the only country to have a domestic ABS that comprises the Biological Diversity Act of 2002. The Act contains provisions for access and benefit sharing and a National Biodiversity Authority that was set up at Chennai in 2003. Besides, India will host the eleventh COP to the CBD in October 2012. As part of this, beverage major Pepsi has paid Rs 37 lakh to 1,000 fishermen in Tamil Nadu to get access to seaweed on order to use its nutrients in energy drinks.
“It is important for us to have this international agreement, as we are a victim of bio-piracy. Moreover, we have 200 patents pending in the European Patent Office for Indian systems of medicine, with another 400 in the US, 100 in Australia, 40 in Canada and 30 in the UK,” Ramesh added.
India is also pushing for linking CBD with WTO’s agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips), so that the latter reflects the protection of bio-resources. “The European Union supports this linkage, but the US also needs to be taken on board,” Ramesh said.
Back home, the environment ministry has asked for a special grant of Rs 100 crore to strengthen the state biodiversity boards to curb illegal action.
China plays low key on biodiversity
China is playing a low key, as far as a legally-binding agreement for biodiversity is concerned, while a 17 mega diverse country bloc is actively leading the way. These countries are India, Brazil, Congo, Columbia, Malawi, among others. The BASIC group of countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – has met twice on the issue.
“A protocol on bio safety, that is transportation of hazardous living micro organisms, was signed yesterday. It puts the liability on the person who is transporting it,” said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.