The purpose of the legislation is the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits of genetic resources. The legislation requires users of genetic resources to show that they comply with the legislation on genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge in the country from which the genetic resources come.

“If you intend to engage in research on a genetic resource or traditional knowledge about how a specific resource can be used, you need to assess whether the research comes under the ABS Regulation or local legislation on genetic resources and traditional knowledge,” says Johan Dixelius, Research Advisor in the University Administration.

Dixelius has coordinated a project to develop support for researchers to help them comply with the legislation.

“The legislation can apply to pharmaceutical or medical research based on genetic material, for example. Other examples might include materials research based on spiders’ webs or analyses of fungi from samples collected in other countries. The legislation is also relevant for museums and collections.”

Naturally, it is difficult to estimate how many research projects at the University are likely to be affected by the legislation. Dixelius guesses that the University should have around a dozen agreements in accordance with the ABS Regulation, but at present we do not know which agreements exist.

Support for researchers

The legislation does not differentiate between basic research and more applied research with clearer commercial tie-ups. In the case of basic research, benefit-sharing often means sharing knowledge gained in various ways. Where research linked with commercial activities is concerned, on the other hand, benefit-sharing may take the form of money.

The legislation basically consists of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the Nagoya Protocol and the EU’s ABS Regulation, which was introduced in Sweden in 2015 and applies to activities from 2012 onwards. In addition, many countries have their own domestic legislation.

“Many researchers are probably aware of the Nagoya Protocol and the ABS Regulation but they may be less aware that they can receive help from the University in dealing with the legislation.”

Prerequisite for publication

The support service that has been built up offers assistance both in assessing whether your research is affected and in writing contracts and agreements.

“It’s important to have the necessary agreements in place, partly because research publications are beginning to make requirements when publishing research studies and doctoral students can run into problems if their doctoral project doesn’t have the necessary permits.”

What is the first step?

“The first step is to read through the information page on the Staff Portal and then go on to the ABS Clearing House website (see the fact box for the link) to make an assessment. Also, feel free to get in touch with one of the University’s contact persons for support. The assessment often quickly leads you into various legal considerations so we have a legal expert attached to the team.”

Looking ahead

Apart from starting a support service, it is of course important to spread information about the legislation.

“We would like all doctoral students and researchers recruited by the University to receive basic information about the legislation, the Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences has made it a part of their courses, for example.”

Looking at the future of the legislation, it is notable that agreement was reached at the latest UN conference on biodiversity (COP15) in December 2022 to work on broadening the legislation. At present, sequencing of genetic material deposited in databases is not considered to be affected by the ABS Regulation. However, the overarching global goal C on benefit-sharing from COP15 also mentions digital sequence information on genetic resources.