Genetic resources are genetic material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin, containing functional units of heredity (DNA), and of actual or potential value. Genetic resources are both the country’s natural biological diversity (plants, animals) and strains of microorganisms, collections of varieties and seeds, agricultural crops, genetically modified organisms, etc.
Essential to know: the Nagoya Protocol does not extend to human genetic material!
More and more food, cosmetic, biotechnological and medical products, as well as scientific advances, are based on genetic resources, and traditional knowledge associated with them provides researchers with valuable information about special properties and/or benefits of those resources and their possible utilization to develop, for example, new medical or cosmetic products.
Prior to entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol, unique species of animals and plants (the ones such countries as Asia, Africa and Latin America are rich in) often used to become the objects of biopiracy – appropriation, patenting and commercial use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge of local communities without their permission and compensatory payments to them.
Since not many countries have capabilities and technologies for independent research and commercialization of their results, quite often innovative products developed on the basis of genetic resources and traditional knowledge bring benefits to many countries, apart from the provider country of those resources or knowledge.
Compliance with the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol implies ensured legal access to genetic resources and/or associated traditional knowledge, including provisions on sharing of benefits arising from transferred genetic resources in agreements between the providers and users of genetic resources, and channelling some of the benefits derived towards the conservation of biological diversity.