EU and Domestic
Defra is responsible for policy on genetic resources for food and agriculture for England and Wales. The conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources contribute directly to Defra's objectives concerning a sustainable, competitive food supply chain, sustainable, diverse and adaptable farming and sustainable management of natural resources. Indigenous livestock breeds have a particular role to play in managing the rural environment and assisting in maintaining wild biological diversity. Further information and contact details in Defra are available here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/Science/GeneticResources/
The results of a Defra Review of Policy on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture by Claire Wilding can be downloaded here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/geneticresources/grfareport.pdf.
Legal issues in relation to Access and Benefit sharing
Ex situ material
Requests of biological material (germplasm/organisms/strains) listed in the databases should be directed to the Curator of the collection where it is held.
Different collections may have different policies on the availability of genetic material. The transfer of material will normally be subject to a Material Transfer Agreement (MTAs) between the collection and the recipient or user. Collections have different MTAs and therefore may have different conditions of acquisition, use (including supply to third parties and commercialisation) and, if appropriate, benefit-sharing.
In situ material
Unlike certain other countries, the UK has not introduced specific legislation in response to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) to regulate access to genetic resources. Rather, the rules governing access to genetic resources are found in other areas of UK law, particularly those relating to property, trespass, statutory protection of species and site protection. Other areas of law, such as health and safety legislation, law concerning the handling of dangerous organisms and intellectual property rights are also relevant.
The legal issues which need to be considered include:
- Access (trespass)
- Dangerous organisms
- Health and Safety legislation
- Land Register
- National Parks
- Protected species and sites
- Crown Dependencies
- Overseas Territories
- Legal and Non-Legal Links to other sites
The entire legal summary can be downloaded here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/Science/GeneticResources/Legal/Legal_Entire_Summary.pdf
Legal issues relating to Microbial GRFA
There is extensive legislation concerning the safe handling and distribution of micro-organisms at the national, regional and international levels. Micro-organisms of hazard groups 2, 3 and 4 are hazardous substances and as such fall under the EU Biological Agents Directive and are dangerous goods as defined by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations where requirements for their packaging are defined. Further, there are restrictions on distribution imposed by National Postal Authorities where more and more countries prohibit receipt of Infectious materials formerly Infectious, Perishable Biological Substances (IPBS) and, in some cases, Perishable Biological Substances formerly Non-infectious Perishable Biological Substances (NPBS). More recently the use of microorganisms in bioterrorism has lept to the forefront reminding us of the control measures in place for access to dangerous pathogens.
The legislation and supporting documents are often difficult to find and understand. The European Biological Resource Centre Network (EBRCN) offer advice and interpretation to help the implementation of such legislation. The ECBRN document ‘The safe handling and distribution of micro-organisms and the law’ can be downloaded here: EBRCN Resource Legislation file. An information paper from the European Biological Resource Centres ‘Network Biological Resource Centres Compliance with Law’ can be downloaded here: BRC Compliance revised version.