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Beyond Access and Benefit-Sharing: Lessons from the Law and Governance of Agricultural Biodiversity

Tsioumani, Elsa

The concept of fair and equitable benefit-sharing emerged in the early 90s as a corollary to the principle of national sovereignty over natural and genetic resources. In the context of agricultural biodiversity use, it can be conceptualized in three ways: as a defensive tool to balance the injustices enshrined in the intellectual property rights system; as a development tool to reap part of the benefits of the emerging biodiversity market; and as an incentive, to reward and enable farmers’ continued contribution to conservation. This paper seeks to assess the potential of the concept in operationalizing fairness and equity in agricultural biodiversity governance, in an increasingly complex legal and policy landscape of conflicting rights and policies. After explaining its emergence in the context of the evolving principles of governance of agricultural biodiversity, it concentrates on the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing established by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, a system for the exchange of plant genetic resources and sharing of the benefits arising thereof, which is arguably the most sophisticated one in international law. On the basis of a technical examination of the ITPGR experience in the framework of IPR- and human rights-related processes, it identifies linkages, challenges and key lessons, which are useful for a wide range of processes within and beyond the international environmental law realm.

BENELEX Working Paper No 9.-- Edinburgh School of Law Research Paper No. 2016/18.-- Last revised 19 Nov 2016
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