An international agreement to combat biopiracy and share benefits from research on natural resources in an equitable manner was clinched, against many people's expectations, at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity held in Nagoya, Japan, last week (18–29 October).
Under the deal those seeking to use genetic resources or traditional knowledge, for research or commercial purposes, must first obtain approval from both the country and the indigenous communities involved — and agree on terms to share any monetary and non-monetary benefits, including intellectual property rights.
The deal is not retrospective — something that many developing countries had wanted. Instead it calls for a "global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism" to address cases in which genetic resources were acquired prior to the new agreement.
Some academics have welcomed the agreement: without one, they said, access to the field research permits in some countries could take up to two years.
Under the protocol, ratifying countries must designate a "national focal point for access and benefit-sharing" to provide information on permits. There should also be "simplified access procedures" for non-commercial research, says the agreement.
In return, all parties must share non-monetary benefits. For example, foreign researchers could allow joint authorship of scientific papers or acknowledge in their paper the use of traditional knowledge.