Biodiversity convention's 'access and benefit sharing' protocol must protect traditional knowledge

News, 19 October 2010
With UN negotiations underway in Nagoya, Japan, to agree new international rules to provide transparent access to biological resources and a fair sharing of any benefits arising from their use, IIED urges negotiators to ensure that the rules protect traditional knowledge.

To support its call IIED has published studies from China and India that show how traditional knowledge and customary laws are central to community-based conservation of genetic resources.

"In 1992, governments adopted the Convention on Biological Diversity, which required access to genetic resources to be accompanied by equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use," says IIED researcher Krystyna Swiderska. "Industrialised countries agreed to share the benefits with poor countries in return for their agreement to conserve biodiversity. But this North-South deal that lies at the heart of the CBD has yet to materialise."

"Industrialised countries are arguing that traditional knowledge relating to genetic resources should be addressed by WIPO – the World Intellectual Property Organisation – instead of by the new protocol that negotiators are due to agree at the current meeting in Nagoya."

The Chinese study focuses on the genetic resources and traditional knowledge of poor farmers who have been working in partnership with crop breeding institutes in a participatory plant breeding project in the southwest of the country.

The Indian study describes of how the traditional knowledge of the Yanadi people in Andhra Pradesh is under threat from national forest and wildlife conservation laws that have pushed people away from the resources they have used for generations.

Download the reports from the following links….

Displaced and Marginalised: Protecting the Traditional Knowledge, Customary Laws and Forest Rights of the Yanadi Tribals of Andhra Pradesh

Use it or Lose it: Protecting the Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources and Customary Laws of Marginal Farmers in Southwest China

Equitable benefit-sharing or self-interest? An IIED briefing paper by Krystyna Swiderska


For interviews or more information, please contact:

Krystyna Swiderska (


Mike Shanahan
Press officer
International Institute for Environment and Development
3 Endsleigh Street
London WC1H 0DD
Tel: 44 (0) 207 388 2117
Fax: 44 (0) 207 388 2826

Notes to editors

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development (see:

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