11 May 2017

Namibia: NA Passes Bill On Use of Genetic Resources

THE recent passing of the Access and Benefit Sharing and Associated Traditional Knowledge Bill, which seeks to regulate the use of genetic resources and related traditional knowledge in Namibia, is a step towards the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The bill was passed in the National Assembly last month and is set for review in the National Council.

Elize Shakalela, a Namibian environmental law consultant, welcomed the development.

The Convention on Biological Diversity calls for a fair and equitable benefit sharing in the use of genetic resources and related traditional knowledge.

Once operational, the bill would require the setting up of a unit in the ministry's department of environmental affairs to deal with the implementation of the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, to which Namibia is a party.

The Nagoya Protocol stipulates that access to genetic resources should be done through the systems of Prior Informed Consent (PIC) with the owners and the benefits arising from the commercial use of these resources should be arrived at through mutually agreed terms.

It is hoped that the Nagoya Protocol will help put an end to situations whereby rich and strong pharmaceutical companies have been plundering organic resources with medicinal value in developing countries without giving back anything to the rural communities where these resources were taken from.

Kauna Schroeder, the principal project coordinator and adviser to the Office of the Environmental Commissioner, said in the absence of the bill, the Interim Bioprospecting Committee (IBPC) has been advising and guiding the government on the application and matters related to benefit sharing issues.

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