Five highlights in draft law on genetic resources

Women weave traditional baskets using local products in Musanze District. Photo: Sam Ngendahimana

On September 25, 2020, the cabinet approved the draft law governing biological diversity and wildlife that is about to be discussed in parliament.

The following are five things to know about the section on protecting genetic resources.

 

Genetic material is any material of plant, animal, microbial, bacteria or other origin used for research or product development that finally delivers commercially-valuable products such as medicaments.

 

Permit to access genetic resources

 

A person who intends to have access to any genetic resources or associated traditional knowledge applies for it, says the Article 26 of the draft law.

The article says that permission to access genetic resources or traditional knowledge is personal and cannot be assigned or transferred to a third party.

Article 27 clarifies that access permits to access genetic resources or associated traditional knowledge are classified in the following categories namely access permit for commercial and access permit for non-commercial purpose.

The agency in charge of the environment, in consultation with concerned institutions, will publish on an annual basis a list of types of applications for permits to access genetic resources or associated traditional knowledge.

Prior informed consent

Any access to genetic resources or associated traditional knowledge are carried out with prior informed consent of the provider and with negotiated mutually agreed terms between the provider and the user of genetic resources or associated traditional knowledge according to article 31.

A Ministerial Order will determine the modalities and requirements for consultation and negotiation process between the provider and the user of genetic resources or associated traditional knowledge.

Importation or exportation of genetic resources

Article 32 says that no person shall import or export any genetic resources unless such person has a genetic resources material transfer agreement and their importation or exportation permit issued by the Authority.

Meanwhile a Ministerial Order will determine conditions for issuance of the permit and those for conclusion of a material transfer agreement.

Benefits sharing principle

Article 34 indicates that a fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge is subject to mutually agreed terms signed between the user and provider.

Establishing a gene bank

The Prime Minister’s Order will establish a gene bank for preserving and conserving the genetic content of fauna and flora and determines modalities for its management and use.

In 2017, Rwanda started a journey to establish legal institutional frameworks to implement Nagoya Protocol that entered into force in 2014 to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits from genetic resources use.

The new law means that no one can simply come into Rwanda and get a hold of a plant or other species and take it without consent.

A Prime Minister’s Order will determine competent authorities in biological diversity and wildlife-related matters, their responsibilities and modalities for their coordination.

In 2019, Guideline and Toolkit for Access and Benefit Sharing of Traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources was developed.

The guideline looks at providers of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources, users of the genetic resources and regulators from national government agencies and authorities.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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