The Commercial Use of Biodiversity


The commercial use of biodiversity has sparked considerable debate in recent decades. Known as bioprospecting, or biodiscovery, it is located at the juncture of a range of developing ethical, legal, scientific and political concerns. The Convention on Biological Diversity created the legal and institutional framework for access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits from their use. More than twenty years later, however, providers and users of genetic resources are caught up in an environment characterized by mistrust and regulatory confusion, and dramatic scientific, technological and business change. The Nagoya Protocol will be implemented in a very different environment to that encountered by negotiators to the CBD in 1992.

People and Plants International collaborates with a wide range of groups to help develop more effective and equitable ABS policies. PPI undertakes critical research in areas that remain opaque and confusing to policy-makers, brings the voices and perspectives of marginalized groups into the policy arena, produces publications tailored to a wide range of audiences, and participates in national and international policy processes.


The Commercial Use of Biodiversity Publications


Access and Benefit Sharing: Key Points for Policy-Makers, 2015. 

Sarah Laird and Rachel Wynberg, 2015. 

A series of policy briefs were produced in November 2015 by the GIZ’s ABS Capacity Development Initiative, People and Plants International, and the University of Cape Town. Through infographics and accessible text, the briefs communicate key points for policy-makers seeking to develop and implement effective ABS (access and benefit-sharing) measures. Trends in markets, research, and law and policy are highlighted for the pharmaceutical, agricultureindustrial biotechcosmeticbotanical, food and beverage industries.


Bioscience at a Crossroads: Access and Benefit Sharing in a Time of Scientific, Technological and Industry Change.

Sarah Laird and Rachel Wynberg, 2013. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

In 2013, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity published a series of policy briefs and fact sheets, Bioscience at a Crossroads: Access and Benefit Sharing in a Time of Scientific, Technological and Industry Change. These documents make policy recommendations for Nagoya Protocol implementation and review and analyze recent scientific, technological, market and legal developments in the pharmaceutical, agriculture, industrial biotech, food and beverage, cosmetics, and botanicals industries. The Bioscience at a Crossroads policy briefs and fact sheets are the product of a collaboration between People and Plants International, the University of Cape Town, the CBD Secretariat, the United Nations University, UNEP, GEF, and the Japan Biodiversity Fund.



Access and Benefit-Sharing in Practice: Trends in Partnerships Across Sectors

Sarah Laird and Rachel Wynberg, CBD Technical Series No. 38, 2008.

Despite widespread interest in access and benefit-sharing partnerships since the CBD entered into force more than twenty years ago, there have been surprisingly few studies to track their evolution. This report, launched by the CBD Secretariat at the Conference of Parties in Bonn, Germany, in May 2008, is based on a review of ABS partnerships, and commercial demand for access to genetic resources.   Download PDF English.




Queensland Biodiscovery Collaboration: The Griffith University AstraZeneca Natural Products Discovery: An Access and Benefit-Sharing Case Study. 

Sarah Laird, Catherine Monagle and Sam Johnston, United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS), 2008.

Commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Environment, Water, Heritage, and the Arts, this study examines a fourteen year partnership between AstraZeneca, Griffith University and others that involved the collection of marine and terrestrial samples, primarily from Queensland, but also China, India, Papua New Guinea, and Tasmania. The report was launched at the CBD Conference of Parties in Bonn, May 2008. Download PDF English



Selected articles:

Laird, S.A. and Wynberg, R.P. 2016. Locating Responsible Research and Innovation Within Access and Benefit Sharing Space of the Convention on Biological Diversity: the Challenge of Emerging Technologies. NanoEthics: Studies of New and Emerging Technologies 10(2), June 2016.

Wynberg, R. and S.A. Laird. 2012. Governance of biological and genetic resources. In: Moving Forward With Forest Governance. ETFRN News, Issue No 53, April 2012, pp 46-52. Download PDF.

Laird, S. and R. Wynberg. 2012. Diversity and change in the commercial use of genetic resources: Implications for access and benefit-sharing policy. Special Issue: Socio-economics and management of Bioprospecting, International Journal of Ecological Economics and Statistics, Vol 26 (3). Download PDF.

Wynberg, R. and Laird, S.A. 2009. Chapter 5: Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit-Sharing: Revisiting the “Grand Bargain”. In: Wynberg, R., Chennells, R., and Schroeder, D. (editors). Indigenous Peoples, Consent and Benefit-sharing. Learning from the San-Hoodia Case. Springer, Berlin.

Laird, S.A. and Wynberg, R. 2008. Bioprospecting: securing a piece of the pie. World Conservation, January 2008, 28-29. Download PDF.

Wynberg, R.P. and Laird, S.A. 2007. Bioprospecting: Tracking the Policy Debate, Environment  49 (10) (December 2007): 20-32. Download PDF.