Brazil’s Practical Experience with Access and Benefit Sharing and the Protection of Traditional Knowledge

Date period
8 July 2010

SummaryThe use of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge (ATK) has been characterized by lack of regulation and unfair benefit sharing. This picture began to change only in 1993, when the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) came into force recognizing national sovereignty over genetic resources and the need for benefit sharing as a fair return for the asymmetries between users and providers of biodiversity. The CBD also obliges its members to respect indigenous peoples' and traditional communities' rights related to the use of their traditional knowledge subject to national legislation.

Access to genetic resources and benefit sharing (ABS) is a recent theme with a new perspective that is still little practiced. So far, few countries have developed specific laws and policies on ABS.1 Brazil has made some progress on ABS, although its experience is still recent, and therefore incomplete. Before ABS legislation, negotiations about bioprospection were treated with deep suspicion, raising questions and heated public debates. Lack of clarity about who the beneficiaries should be, the legitimacy of stakeholders to negotiate contracts, the level of confidentiality of the contracts, and the
role of state and private actors in these activities gave rise to uncertainty that discouraged sustainable business around biodiversity.