Press release

New Handbook Promotes Good Practices for Use of Genetic Resources

January 21, 2008

GENEVA, Switzerland - The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) today announced the release of the first international voluntary standard for accessing and using genetic resources.

The ABS-Management Tool (ABS-MT) will assist companies and researchers to undertake fair and well-informed negotiation with countries and communities for the use of plants, animals and microbes containing potentially valuable genetic resources. Such genetic resources are the building blocks for many medicines, including 78% of all cancer drugs, as well as new agricultural, horticultural, cosmetic and industrial products. Genetic resources are being used to develop new crops to adapt to climate change and create new, enzyme-based, low-energy production systems.

There has been international concern about biopiracy—situations where genetic resources have been collected without the prior informed consent of governments or local communities, or without adequate terms for the sharing of benefits.

The ABS-MT—available in English, Spanish and French—addresses this problem by helping ensure that those who want to obtain genetic resources do so in a way which respects an internationally agreed set of procedures known as the Bonn Guidelines on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization, and follows best practices. The Bonn Guidelines are part of the global Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which has been ratified by 190 governments.

This is the first comprehensive, neutral advice for companies and researchers seeking genetic resources.

When used properly, the ABS-MT will benefit governments and indigenous and local communities by providing them with a clear set of outcomes and steps when negotiating appropriate terms for approving access to the genetic resources they own and manage.

Jorge Cabrera, a respected lawyer from Costa Rica, who led the negotiations of the Bonn Guidelines in 2002, said "the ABS-Management Tool will help give confidence and build trust between industry and researchers who search for genetic resources and governments or indigenous and local communities who own and manage these resources."

The ABS-MT was funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and prepared by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (Switzerland), Stratos Inc. (Canada) and Jorge Cabrera (Costa Rica).

Copies of this convenient handbook can be downloaded here.

For more information please contact:

  • Dave Boyer
    International Institute for Sustainable Development
    Phone: + 41 79 792 2452

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.