Source : Jakarta Post
June 14, 2011
By Adianto P. Simamora
A new treaty on the use of genetic resources could be “a double-edged sword” for Indonesia if the government fails to list the copyright of its native biodiversities. Indonesia could end up paying high royalties because a number of the country’s main export commodities, such as coffee, oil palm and sugar cane, are not originally from Indonesia. On the other hand, Indonesia is still struggling to list its endemic species amid poor awareness both from local people and administrations about protecting biodiversity.
Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta said that the Nagoya protocol on access to genetic resources and benefit sharing could greatly benefit Indonesia but could also cause financial losses. “If we know the country of origin of a genetic resource [from Indonesia], we could claim benefit sharing from the users and local people could of course get profits,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. “If we are not careful, we could suffer [financial] losses, because many genetic resources in Indonesia now come from other countries.”
Indonesia signed the Nagoya Protocol last month, bringing the total number of signatories to 21 countries. The protocol, adopted in Japan last year, required at least 50 countries sign it to make the treaty come into effect. Among the signatories were countries with huge biodiversity, including Brazil, India, Rwanda, Ecuador and the Central African Republic. The developed countries signatories include Japan, Norway and Switzerland.
Under the protocol, users who produce any products from genetic resources should provide fair benefit sharing with the country of origin of the genetic resource. The benefit sharing could be in form of money, technology transfers or capacity building. Minister Gusti said that benefit sharing would be discussed in bilateral talks between the user and provider. Indonesia said that it would lobby countries in ASEAN and rich nations to sign the protocol to ensure it became active. “The [Nagoya] protocol is a big achievement after 10 years of debate,” he said.
Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which produced the Nagoya protocol are scheduled to meet in India next year to discuss technical issues, including benefit sharing. The developed nations, which have long been the users of genetic resources taken from developing countries, have called for benefit sharing schemes to take effect from when the Nagoya protocol is adopted, a move deemed as a ploy to cut the royalties they would have to pay, including to Indonesia.
Some countries proposed the benefit sharing scheme be retroactive — dating back to before 1992, when the CBD was set up. Indonesia earlier said that it wanted the scheme to be based on biodiversity sharing post 1992 due to fears that many of strains of agricultural produce, such as coffee, palm oil and sugar cane were not originally from Indonesia, because they were brought in by the Dutch.
Gusti’s office has set up biodiversity centers in several provinces to help speed up the process to catalog the endemic species and patent them. “We are also in
intense talks with ministries of the forestry and agriculture as well as the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) to collect data on genetic resources,” he said. Indonesia has the second-largest biodiversity in the world — and is home to 10 percent of the world’s flowering species and 12 percent of all mammals.