Lewis-Lettington, Robert J. (2008). Access and Benefit Sharing Laws in South Asia: Enforcement, Implementation and Monitoring Challenges. (Research Brief: Farmers' Rights, No. 2, 2008). Kathmandu, Nepal: SAWTEE.
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Access to genetic resources and sharing of the benefits arising out of their use are a complex, and sometimes controversial, concept. When the usefulness of this concept to agriculture became part of economic development thinking as far back as the 1960s, discussions on issues surrounding genetic resources began in forums such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The temperature of such discourse increased significantly in the 1980s, as the science of modern biotechnologies advanced rapidly in a number of areas and created a wide array of new, commercially significant uses for genetic resources. In the present context, the international legal framework for access and benefit sharing (ABS) consists of two closely related instruments: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), 1992 and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), 2001. The possibility of a third instrument, an agreement on farm animal genetic resources, is being widely mooted and a potentially more detailed interpretation of the CBD’s access provisions is under consideration in the context of discussions for an international regime on ABS. This research brief has been prepared to highlight the basic structures for ABS established by the CBD and the ITPGRFA, and to identify some of the key enforcement, implementation and monitoring challenges associated with such ASB structures for South Asian countries. The brief aims to assist South Asian countries in finalizing the access instruments that most of them are currently considering in draft form and, at a minimum, to assist stakeholders with an interest in ABS issues in contributing to the shaping of the implementation of their national systems.