The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is in the process of revising the Guidelines on Access to Biological Resources and Knowledge and Benefit Sharing Regulation, 2014 (2014 ABS Guidelines). It has recently introduced a Draft (revised)Guidelines on Access and Benefit Sharing Regulation 2019 (2019 Draft ABS Guidelines) and invited public comments on the same.
The ABS Guidelines are notified under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 to primarily elaborate the mode of benefit sharing for accessing biological resources and knowledge for various purposes. It specifies different modes of benefit sharing when biological resources or knowledge are accessed for commercial utilization, for applying for intellectual property rights, for transferring research results and for other regulated activities under Biological Diversity Act, 2002 (BD Act).
The Guidelines are also meant to meet India's obligation under the Nagoya Protocol which is a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD). The Nagoya Protocol elaborates a legal framework for the implementation of the third objective of the CBD- fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the utilisation of biological resources with nations and local and indigenous communities that are conservers of biodiversity and creators and holders of associated traditional ecological knowledge.
Main proposed changes
At the outset, the draft ABS guidelines seem to be solely aimed at easing compliance for industries and other users of biological resources. There is some clarity for the users of their obligations to share benefits as different options for sharing benefits with the NBA and relevant State Biodiversity Boards are prescribed.
We discuss below certain problems with the 2019 Draft ABS Guidelines:-
Share Profits With Local Communities Under Biodiversity Act: Uttarakhand HC to Baba Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy [Read Judgment]
The 2019 Draft, therefore has only aided in the ease of doing business for companies with little attention to the fall outs from relaxation and oversight on local communities and biological diversity. The NBA should look at several of these aspects before finalizing the revised guidelines. As of now, the 2019 Draft ABS Guidelines, has only eased doing business for companies. The comments tothe Draft ABS Guidelines can be made till 23rd June 2019.
(Authors are associated with Dakshin Foundation. Views are personal)