Biotechnology is a core technological driver of the new knowledge economy. It is mainly controlled by developed countries and relies on biological resources and, by extension, biological diversity. Given the preponderance of biological resources in indigenous and local communities in the developing countries and elsewhere, the latter are often depicted as providers of genetic materials while developed countries are the users. Consequently, biotechnology is implicated as a factor in the unidirectional transfer of the benefits of biological resources from indigenous and local communities to the developed countries. To address this perceived equity gap in the new knowledge economy, the concept of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) is designed to ensure that providers and users of genetic resources conduct their affairs in a fair and equitable manner. Under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the emphasis of the ABS process is on plant and animal genetic resources. Highlighting Canada’s unique and complex ecological profile, especially in the realms of Forest and Marine Genetic Resources, this paper argues that a holistic outlook on biological diversity that incorporates the two necessitates a re-thinking of the perceived disposition of Canada as a user, in contrast to a provider of genetic resources under the emerging global ABS process. Such a change in disposition presents an opportunity to factor the interest of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples as integral to Canada’s national interest in the nascent international ABS law and policy. It would call attention to the present reality in which the user/provider dichotomy is no longer mutually exclusive, and challenge the uncritical notion of the ecological bareness of the developed countries. Canada has a new opportunity to re-engage the subject of ABS through the ratification and committed domestication of recently concluded Nagoya ABS Protocol to the CBD.
Citation: Chidi Oguamanam, “Genetic Resources & Access and Benefit Sharing: Politics, Prospects and Opportunities for Canada after Nagoya” (2011) 22:2 J Envtl L & Prac 87.