what was at stake
green position
what we achieved
what we did not achieve

Industrial use of genetic resources from developing countries

'Biopiracy' is the commercial use of genetic material without paying proper compensation to the community from which it originates. This is a major problem in developing countries, where biochemical multinationals patent traditional knowledge, taking it from their source communities.

Genetic resources from plants, animals and micro-organisms have become increasingly important in many economic sectors. More than a quarter of all new drugs approved over the last 30 years stemmed from natural products.

At the same time, these resources are not only essential for sustainable agriculture and food security in developing countries, but also for species survival and biodiversity.

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted in 1992 introduced the first ever obligation to share the benefits of genetic resources. The Nagoya Protocol to the Convention, adopted in 2010, sets out the legal framework for this. In this vote, Parliament decided how to implement the protocol in the EU.


What was the Greens' position?

The Greens want European law to comply with the Nagoya Protocol, making the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources legally binding. We also want the EU to remain engaged in the global biodiversity agenda and are championing the entry into force and full application of legal instruments under the CBD.

Genetic resources should be used justly and fairly. The intellectual property rights pertaining to resources originating from poorer countries and regions must be protected against biopiracy, and any benefits derived from the use of such resources or the associated traditional knowledge must remain accessible, especially for communities in developing countries. 


Did other MEPs accept the Greens' position?

The settlement reached prohibits the use of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge unless such utilisation complies with mutually agreed terms, based on the legislation and regulatory requirements of the country of origin. For example, if a company wants to use a plant from a developing country, e.g. a rainforest herb, it will have to furnish proof of prior consent from that resource's country of origin and negotiate benefit-sharing arrangements.

The Greens also managed to ensure that the terms of the agreement clearly cover sales of genetic material or knowledge, so that any profits earned must be shared with the community of origin.


Which points did the Greens lose?

We advocated clearer rules on how to monitor current research on genetic resources intended for commercial exploitation, but did not obtain the necessary majority.

Our proposal to go beyond the rules in the protocol and allocate to biodiversity protection any benefits derived from the use of 'historical' genetic resources or resources originating from areas beyond national sovereignty (e.g. the deep ocean) was also rejected.


Procedure:Ordinary legislative procedure


Lead MEP:Sandrine Bélier (Greens/EFA)

Green MEP responsible:Sandrine Bélier


Staff contact:Terhi Lehtonen (Email)

Outcome of the vote
Below you find the results of the final vote in plenary. How did the political groups vote? What about national delegations? And what was the position of your MEP?