Research Integrity


The Nagoya Protocol

The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (the Nagoya Protocol).


What is the Nagoya Protocol?

Each country has rights over the genetic resources that exist within their country such as animals, plants and organisms as well as the traditional knowledge associated with them.  The Nagoya Protocol focusses on the equitable sharing of genetic material (plant, animal, microbial, other) including the traditional knowledge associated with the genetic resources, and the benefits that arise from their use.

The Nagoya Protocol came into being in 2010, putting more detail to the 'Access and Benefit Sharing' (ABS) principles from the Convention of Biological Diversity in a legally binding way.  It was adopted by European legislation through 'Regulation (EU) No 511/2014' and came into force on 12 October 2014.  This was then implemented into UK law though the Statutory Instrument 'The Nagoya Protocol (Compliance) Regulations 2015'. 

From this date (12 October 2014) anyone who wishes to access genetic resources and/or the traditional knowledge associated with resources must comply with the EU Regulation.   

It does not apply to:

  • human genetic resources; 
  • genetic resources for which access and benefit-sharing is governed by specialised international instruments (such as the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture).

On the Access and Benefit-Sharing Clearing-House website you will find details of which countries are party to the Nagoya Protocol; meaning those that have implemented it into their own legislation and therefore giving users a route by which to seek access to genetic resources.   In addition, it is important to check the legislation of the country that holds the resources/knowledge (provider country) as they may have additional rules regarding access.


The following definitions are taken from Article 3 of the EU Regulations. 

Article 3

Genetic material means 'any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity'.

Genetic resources means 'genetic material of actual or potential value'.

Traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources means 'traditional knowledge held by an indigenous or local community that is relevant for the utilisation of genetic resources and that is as such described in the mutually agreed terms applying to the utilisation of genetic resources'.

User means 'a natural or legal person that utilises genetic resources or traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources'.

Access means 'the acquisition of genetic resources or of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources in a Party to the Nagoya Protocol'.

Utilisation of genetic resources means 'to conduct research and development on the genetic and/or biochemical composition of genetic resources, including through the application of biotechnology as defined in Article 2 of the Convention'.

Explanatory guidance on the Nagoya Protocol

The Access and Benefit Sharing website provides a number of helpful guidance documents, including the following to explanatory videos. 

o ABS - Simply Explained (5 minutes) - A short video explaining more about Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) and the Nagoya Protocol.

o People, Plants and Profit (25 minutes) - This video explains the background to the Nagoya Protocol and about Access and Benefit Sharing, and provides three examples where genetic resources were used prior to the Nagoya Protocol.   It also contains the above 'ABS - Simply Explained' video.

The Convention on Biodiversity website provides  fact sheets about the Nagoya Protocol as well as an ABS Information Kit.