Nagoya Protocol

The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from their Utilisation is an international treaty under the Convention on Biological Diversity which came into force on 12 October 2014. The UK is a signatory to the Protocol and will ratify it in October 2015. Defra is the UK Government Department taking the lead and has delegated compliance to the Enforcement Authority of the National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO)

Plant and seed collecting is still governed by the laws of the countries of the plants’ origin, but the Nagoya Protocol will ensure that anyone wishing to develop or research these plants has the relevant contracts which permit them to do so. These contracts, between the collector and the country, will lay out mutually agreed terms for sharing the benefits arising from any research or development conducted using the plants.

The Protocol affects the Hardy Plant Society in that ‘seed’ is regarded as a ‘genetic resource’ and the principal objective of the protocol is the ‘Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits’ (arising from utilisation of genetic resources).

As the prime outcome of the HPS Seed Distribution is essentially ‘growing seed in a different location from the parent plant’ as distinct from scientific or commercial exploitation, most if not all of the ‘obligations’ as set out in the Protocol are not relevant to HPS. However we need to be aware of two particular areas which are minor parts of our activity:

  • Donation and supply across national borders,
  • Involvement with collection of wild seed.

Since the onus is on the user of the genetic material to ensure that it was collected in accordance with the Protocol, anyone donating wild-collected seed would need to assure the potential recipient (via the HPS as proxy) that they had complied with the Protocol and that the Access and Benefit Sharing Agreement allowed them to share the seed with specified or unspecified third parties. Anybody who then grows the seed would need to know the terms of the ABS, before passing on any plants or seeds to a third party.

In some cases national governments already have strict phyto-sanitary regulations which apply to HPS seed entering their countries. Our present modus operandi requires the client/recipient to clear the regulatory requirements and to attach copies of the relevant approval documentation along with their seed orders.

There have been four separate occasions on which wild-collected seed has been included in our seed lists. This has resulted from financial support via a Kenneth Black Bursary/Project. Such support is NOT contractual and there is no defined outcome. There is an informal expectation that a successful collection expedition will lead to some seed being available to the HPS, but there is no formal requirement for this. Our support is based upon a view that this is beneficial to horticulture in general (including plant diversity) rather than some sort of quid pro quo in return for the seed which enters our list. Trustees have taken the view when we started this sort of involvement that knowledge of, and compliance with local regulations is part of the seed collector’s duty. This is in line with the requirements to the Nagoya Protocol.

Trustees have endorsed the following statement:

“Any seed collected from the wild after October 2014 from a country which has ratified the Nagoya Protocol must have been collected in accordance with the Protocol and can only be offered to third parties if that is permitted by the contract between the collector and the source country. The Hardy Plant Society requires any person donating wild-collected seed to confirm that they have complied with the requirements of the Nagoya Protocol and that the agreement they have with the source country permits the sharing of the seed in this way.”

Cathy Rollinson

5 November 2015