Nagoya next

After the Copenhagen climate summit, another global meeting of importance to the whole world, especially to the developing countries, is being held in October this year in Nagoya in Japan. The Nagoya summit on bio-diversity, under the auspices of the UN, is expected to arrive at a legally binding deal on the use of biological resources by all countries. It has to find a new and better agreement in place of the existing Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to which 193 countries are parties, or at least strengthen it. India has an important stake in the success of the summit because it is very rich in bio-diversity and needs to protect it. It also has to prevent exploitation and unauthorised use of its resources by other countries. The CBD gives sovereign rights to countries over their biological resources but the developed countries have often succeeded in taking the best commercial advantage of them even in dishonest ways.

Biological resources cover traditional knowledge about their uses also. The importance of protecting such knowledge becomes clear from the fact that patents are sought in other countries on practices and items of India’s traditional systems of medicine, and even on yoga postures. India had to fight a protracted international legal battle to get the patents issued for basmati, neem and turmeric revoked. After that experience the country has taken some precautions like setting up a traditional knowledge digital library and making it available to patent offices abroad in order to prevent false patenting. A legally binding treaty on use of biological resources and traditional knowledge will make piracy and exploitation by companies like pharmaceutical firms or even individuals in developed countries difficult. That is perhaps the reason why developed countries are against a legally binding treaty.

Like Copenhagen, Nagoya also may not yield an agreement. There are hundreds of points of discord in the draft text under negotiation. An early and fair agreement is necessary to conserve and enhance the earth’s natural resources. The steady loss of biodiversity has to be stopped or reduced significantly to ensure a healthy future for the planet and its inhabitants. The UN has declared this year as the International Year of Biodiversity. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has called upon the international community to make the summit a success.

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