Nordic Ministerial Declaration. Access and Rights to Genetic Resources 2003 Nordic Council of Ministers (Fisheries, Agriculture, Forestry and Food) Kalmar, 25 June 2003 Nordic Council of Ministers (Environment) Oslo, 28 October 2003
At the meetings of Nordic ministers (for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food and environment) in August 2002, the issue of access and rights to genetic resources was discussed. The respective Councils of Ministers approved a declaration that established principles and objectives for how the Nordic countries should deal with the issue of access and rights to genetic resources.
Based on recommendations by the Nordic Genetic Resources Council (NGRC), the ministers decided to resume discussions on the issue no later than summer 2003.
The ministers also urged NGRC to follow up the Nordic gene banks’ and the Nordic countries’ implementation of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), including its guidelines that regulate the access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing (“Bonn-guidelines”), as well as the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (IT-PGRFA).
In its project “Rights and access to genetic resources”, the Nordic Genetic Resources Council analysed the international developments in the field, and made some recommendations for the implementation of Nordic cooperation in the field of genetic resources, Nordic national genetic resource efforts and the CBD and IT-PGRFA. This work was carried out by a separate project group, and resulted in the publication of the report Access and Rights to Genetic Resources – A Nordic Approach (Nord 2003:16).
The need for Nordic action
In the past few decades, there have been rapid developments in the field of international law and national regulations governing the access and rights to genetic resources. The advance of modern biotechnology has enabled a dynamic development in crop and livestock breeding, the food industry and other biologicallybased industries. It is now possible to extensively protect such developments through various forms of intellectual property rights. Many countries, especially developing countries, have introduced stringent regulations regarding the access to genetic resources.
The general principle of these regulations is that permission is needed for all forms of genetic resource collection, as well as the right to compensation for the application of genetic resources in research, development and, above all, commercial activities.
The developments have led to an intensification of the debate on property rights and the need for regulating access to genetic resources. Throughout history, genetic resources were regarded as part of the human common heritage and freely exploited. This has now changed. Limited access to genetic resources affects research activities and the gene banks’ collection and dissemination of genetic material. Even in countries that have chosen not to introduce national regulations, the need to clarify the legal status of genetic resources has arisen, both in their natural surroundings (in situ) and in gene banks (ex situ).
The Nordic countries have played an active role and have held leading positions within international cooperation aimed at developing international law in the field. At the same time, the Nordic countries have not given much priority to the issue of access and rights to genetic resources on a national level. In principle, there are presently no regulations regarding genetic resources in the Nordic countries. However, Norway has appointed a “Biodiversity Law Committee”, which shall, inter alia, evaluate a new law on access to genetic resources.
Due to the international developments described above, the Nordic countries must now assess the legal status of Nordic genetic resources. This includes determining if genetic resources shall be private or public property, and whether the ownership rights to genetic resources follow the ownership rights to the biological material or not. It is also necessary to decide whether or not the access to genetic resources shall be nationally regulated, i.e., if permission shall be required for the collection of genetic material or if certain requirements must be met in order to gain
access to domesticated genetic material or genetic material administered by various gene banks, including the Nordic Gene Bank (NGB). Finally, it is also necessary to consider other measures the Nordic countries could introduce in order to promote the implementation of the recent international regulations in the field, above all, making it easier for the developing countries to implement the new conventions.
In addition, the project report Access and Rights to Genetic Resources – A Nordic Approach (Nord 2003:16), represents an important tool for the Nordic Genetic Resources Council in its continued efforts to disseminate information and increase awareness for these issues among the relevant parties.
The ministers’ declaration will thus represent an important standpoint, which hopefully will serve as a source of inspiration for the activities in other countries and regions regarding this issue.
The Nordic Genetic Resources Council therefore proposes that the Nordic Council of Ministers adopts the following recommendations.
Access and Rights to Genetic Resources in the Nordic Countries
The NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERS responsible for fisheries, agriculture, forestry, food and environment have agreed upon the following declarations and recommendations, on the basis of their discussions at the ministers’ meetings on 24–26 June and 28 October 2003.
The NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERS
was established in 1971. It submits proposals on co-operation between the governments of the five Nordic countries to the Nordic Council, implements the Council’s recommendations and reports on results, while directing the work carried out in the targeted areas. The Prime Ministers of the five Nordic countries assume overall responsibility for the co-operation measures, which are co-ordinated by the ministers for co-operation and the Nordic Co-operation committee. The composition of the Council of Ministers varies, depending on the nature of the issue to be treated.
was formed in 1952 to promote co-operation between the parliaments and governments of Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Finland joined in 1955. At the sessions held by the Council, representatives from the Faroe Islands and Greenland form part of the Danish delegation, while Åland is represented on the Finnish delegation. The Council consists of 87 elected members – all of whom are members of parliament. The Nordic Council takes initiatives, acts in a consulta-tive capacity and monitors co-operation measures. The Council operates via its institutions: the Plenary Assembly, the Presidium and standing committees.
theKalmarDeclaration.pdf (Swedish & English version)
Director Lise Lykke Steffensen