Pretoria — South Africa has ratified the Nagoya Protocol which provides for measures to regulate the utilisation of the indigenous fauna and flora of a country as well as their associated traditional knowledge.
On Sunday, the Department of Environmental Affairs announced that South Africa was the first country in 2013 and the 12th country overall to ratify the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation to the Convention on Biological Diversity - popularly referred to as the Nagoya Protocol on ABS.
South Africa became Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1995.
The Nagoya Protocol is a legally binding agreement outlining a set of terms prescribing how one country will gain access to another country's genetic resources and how the benefits derived, will be shared.
The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, said: "It is indeed a pleasure for South Africa to be counted amongst the first 50 countries that will contribute to the early entry into force of the Protocol. South Africa ranks amongst the top three world's most biologically diverse countries and possesses a wealth of associated traditional knowledge."
South Africa ratified the Nagoya Protocol on 10 January 2013, joining Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, India, Jordan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mauritius, Mexico, Panama, Rwanda and the Seychelles.
South Africa is one of the first countries to regulate the protection and use of indigenous biological resources and associated traditional knowledge.
In April 2008, regulations for bioprospecting, access and benefit sharing came into effect to manage access to South Africa's bioresources. Through the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, 2004 it is illegal for bioprospectors to obtain and utilise any extracts from indigenous fauna or flora for commercial use without a permit.
Thus far, the department has issued nine bioprospecting permits.
In leading regulations regarding the protection and utilisation of indigenous biological resources, Molewa last year launched a document setting out guidelines for providers, users and regulators of bioprospecting.
These guidelines aim to assist the different role players in understanding the legal requirements of the bioprospecting regulations, their rights and responsibilities under the law.
"South Africa will be greatly assisted by the provisions of the Protocol as it strongly encourages user countries to respect and also ensure compliance with the national legislation, policies and procedures of the provider countries," said Molewa.
The Nagoya Protocol will enter into force on the 90th day after the date of deposit of the 50th instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.
"As both a user and provider country, South Africa considers the early into force of the Nagoya Protocol on ABS to be an important milestone in global efforts towards the balanced and effective implementation of the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity" said the minister.