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The Nagoya Protocol

What is the Nagoya Protocol?

The objective of the Nagoya Protocol (full title: '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') is the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources (plant, animal, microbial, other), including the traditional knowledge associated with the genetic resources, and the benefits that arise from their use.

The protocol supports appropriate access to genetic resources and the appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies, as well as recognising the need for appropriate funding, thereby contributing to the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components.

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.

Those countries that are party to the Nagoya Protocol (i.e. those that have implemented it into their own legislation) are therefore giving users a route by which to seek access to genetic resources. It is also important to check the legislation of the provider country that holds the resources/knowledge as they may have additional rules regarding access. This is best checked at the Access and Benefit-Sharing Clearing-House (ABSCH) website, which also provides a number of helpful guidance documents and explanatory videos. 

The Nagoya Protocol was agreed in 2010 and came into force through EU law on 12 October 2014. This was then implemented into UK law though the Nagoya Protocol (Compliance) Regulations 2015

What does the Nagoya protocol apply to?

Anyone in the UK who wishes to access genetic resources and/or the traditional knowledge associated with these resources must comply with the regulation. 

The protocol applies to the following types of materials where these are ultimately supplied from any countries that are party to the Nagoya Protocol:

  • genetic material - 'any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity'
  • genetic resources - 'genetic material of actual or potential value'
  • traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources - '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'.

The protocol does not apply to:


The protocol uses the following definitions:

  • User - 'a natural or legal person that utilises genetic resources or traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources'
  • Access - 'the acquisition of genetic resources or of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources in a Party to the Nagoya Protocol'
  • Utilisation of genetic resources - 'to conduct research and development on the genetic and/or biochemical composition of genetic resources, including through the application of biotechnology'
  • Biotechnology - ‘any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use’
  • Derivative - ‘a naturally occurring biochemical compound resulting from the genetic expression or metabolism of biological or genetic resources, even if it does not contain functional units of heredity’

How does the protocol affect my research?

If you use materials which fall under the protocol in your research, you may be asked to provide information about how you verified the original source of the material and the steps taken by you and/or your supplier to ensure that the protocol was complied with.

Further information

The Convention on Biological Diversity website is also a good source of further information.