Brazil’s biodiversity law needs to be adapted to the Nagoya Protocol

By Elton Alisson  |  Agência FAPESP – Having ratified in early March the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB), Brazil must now adapt its Biodiversity Law (13,123/2015) to this 2010 supplement to the CDB, a multilateral treaty opened for signature at the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro on June 5, 1992.

The reason for this need for adaptation is that the Biodiversity Law disciplines Brazil’s actions as a provider but not a user of genetic resources and traditional knowledge belonging to other countries, according to Bráulio Dias, a professor at the University of Brasília (UnB).

“The law governs only Brazil’s relations with other countries as a provider of genetic resources and traditional knowledge. It doesn’t establish rules on how Brazil should behave when it’s a user of these assets from other nations,” Dias said in his talk during a webinar entitled Discussing the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-15) and held on March 25 by the FAPESP Research Program on Biodiversity Characterization, Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use (BIOTA-FAPESP).

The law disciplines Brazil’s actions as a provider but not as a user of genetic resources from other countries, researcher Bráulio Dias noted during an online seminar held by FAPESP.

According to Dias, although Brazil’s biodiversity is the richest in the world, it depends on genetic resources from other countries. Its agricultural sector, for example, uses many crop varieties originally bred in African and Asian countries.

“To guarantee the advancement of Brazilian agriculture by improving yields and developing varieties resistant to novel pests and diseases and to global climate change, we’ll need to continue using genetic resources from other countries,” Dias said.

Brazil has large repositories of plant, animal and microbial genetic resources. The largest are maintained by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) and the Institute of Agronomy (IAC) in Campinas, São Paulo state.

However, these repositories resulted mostly from collections made decades ago, and in many cases from donations by other countries, such as the United States.

“These repositories of genetic resources can’t provide sufficient variability to offer novel solutions for Brazilian agriculture in the future,” Dias said.

Brazil’s delay in ratifying the Nagoya Protocol, adopted in 2010 at COP-10 and ratified by 129 countries to date, fueled a suspicion mainly among Asian and African countries that it did not want to pay to share benefits generated by its genetic resources, he added. This mistrust should be dissipated by ratification, and the problem to be resolved urgently is how to adapt the Biodiversity Law to the rules established by the Nagoya Protocol.

An as-yet-unpublished study conducted by Dias and collaborators shows that the Biodiversity Law covers only a minority of the more than 30 commitments required by the Nagoya Protocol and that most of these relate only to the provision of genetic resources. “We need additional legislation to include rules on how Brazil must manage the use of genetic resources from other countries if we’re to comply fully with Nagoya,” Dias said.

Brazil formally joins the Nagoya Protocol at the start of June, 90 days after depositing the instrument of ratification with the UN Secretary-General. In doing so, it gains the right to vote and participate in future decisions, starting with COP-15 of the CBD, scheduled for October 2021 in Kunming, China.

The hope is that ratification by Brazil will encourage other countries to follow suit so that Nagoya reaches a similar number to those who have ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the CBD, which entered into force on September 11, 2003, and currently has 173 parties.

“I expect 40 more countries to ratify Nagoya in the coming months. That will be very good to make its rules more universal,” said Dias, who was CBD Executive Secretary between 2012 and 2017.

New global strategy

The CBD’s COP-15 will discuss a new, more ambitious global strategy to halt the planetwide loss of biodiversity, lasting 30 years instead of the ten-year horizon typical of UN strategies. It will set out to build a framework for advancing on this agenda with goals and clearly specified metrics, Dias explained.

Four main long-term objectives will be negotiated during the conference, to be achieved by 2050. Others will be agreed for the nearer term, to be met by 2030. The first relates to the size and integrity of natural ecosystems, species conservation, and genetic variability. The second has to do with ecosystem services such as a clean water supply, the third with the use of genetic resources with shared benefits, and the fourth with creating the means to achieve the goals.

“All this will depend a great deal on what happens in the Paris Agreement negotiations because global warming will increasingly become the main threat to biodiversity,” Dias said.

The positions defended by Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs at previous COPs include support for the needs of developing countries, for a fair baseline in light of differences in national development, and for bold implementation measures.

More concretely, support for bold implementation means significantly more funding, creating a global mechanism to incentivize restoration by paying for environmental services and reinforcing the sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.

“It’s vital to ensure that science informs negotiations involving many parties like COP-15,” said Luiz Eugênio Mello, FAPESP’s Scientific Director.

Researchers supported by BIOTA-FAPESP participate in negotiations at conferences of the CBD both via studies that contribute to Brazil’s proposals and via the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), among other international bodies.

Conversely, the CBD’s decisions influence BIOTA-FAPESP’s goals, according to Jean Paul Metzger, a professor at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Biosciences (IB-USP) and a member of BIOTA-FAPESP’s steering committee.

“The goals that will be agreed at COP-15, for example, will orient not only international plans but also the actions of national and state governments, as well as programs like BIOTA-FAPESP,” Metzger said. “We’ll be watching the outcome of the talks at COP-15 very closely because the goals agreed there will help define BIOTA-FAPESP’s action plan for the next ten or 20 years.”

The creation of BIOTA-FAPESP 20 years ago was inspired by the CBD’s definition of biodiversity and its remit to conserve biological diversity, promote the sustainable use of its components, and assure fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge, said Carlos Joly, a professor at the University of Campinas’s Institute of Biology (IB-UNICAMP) and also a member of BIOTA-FAPESP’s steering committee.

“Aligning BIOTA-FAPESP with an international instrument has been fundamental to ensure that we consider not just the local context, which is most important when it comes to biodiversity, but also the global context,” Joly said.

A complete recording of the event can be watched in Portuguese at


Get to know Agência Fapesp: