How to minimise your administrative burden for ABS

Published on
October 20, 2022

As a user of genetic resources, you may have Access and Benefit-sharing (ABS) obligations as set out in EU ABS Regulation. This may involve quite some work, but there are ways to minimise the administrative burden while complying with these obligations.

In scope of the EU ABS Regulation?

First, check whether your activities with the genetic resource(s) are really in scope of the EU ABS Regulation (EU Regulation 511/2014), as not all resources or activities are in scope. For example, the Regulation does not apply to genetic resources from a country that is not a Party to the Nagoya Protocol. Also, activities with genetic resources covered by a EU-recognised specialised ABS instrument (ITPGRFA or PIP Framework) fall outside the scope of the EU ABS Regulation. Knowing the scope helps you to avoid unnecessary work.

To find out if your activities are in scope of the EU ABS Regulation, the article ‘EU ABS Regulation: in or out of scope?’ is a good starting point, as it explains the scope of the EU ABS Regulation and highlights specific examples. Additionally, the ABS Focal Point’s interactive help tool may assist you in determining if your activities are in scope of the EU ABS Regulation and, if this is the case, your obligations under the Regulation.

Of course, you should be aware that even if an activity with a certain genetic resource is outside the scope of the EU ABS Regulation, a provider country may have national access legislation that differs from the EU interpretation of the Nagoya Protocol. This means that activities or resources which are not in scope of the EU ABS Regulation may be in scope of national access legislation of the provider country.

ABS within your organisation

To decrease the burden for individual users within an organisation, some organisations have appointed a person or unit responsible for Nagoya Protocol matters and/or have established policies or procedures for accessing and utilising genetic resources. For example, relevant information on the genetic resource may already have been documented under an internal quality scheme or in an internal database. Contacting this person or unit can make it easier for to you find the ABS resources within your organisation and to comply with the EU ABS Regulation.

Your organisation may also be part of a user community whose best practice has been recognised by the European Commission under EU Regulation 511/2014. In such cases, follow that policy or best practice. You can also submit an existing but not yet recognised best practice for approval by the European Commission or establish a best practice in your user community andhave it approved. A selection of best practices and codes of conduct can be found on the ABS Focal Point page Downloads and links.

Due diligence obligations: collecting information

As part of their due diligence obligations under the EU ABS Regulation, users are required to collect information about the genetic resources they are using, for example to determine the provider country. In certain situations, you are considered to have exercised due diligence regarding the collection of information.

This is the case if you:

  • use a genetic resource obtained from a collection included in the register of collections of the European Union. For more information on registered collections, see the page FAQ – Important terms;
  • use certain plant genetic resources for food and agriculture from countries that make available these plant genetic resources under the conditions of the SMTA (standard material transfer agreement) of the ITPGRFA (International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture). For more information, see Article 4(4) of the EU ABS Regulation and section 5.2 of the EU Guidance.

In these cases, other user obligations may still apply. For example, in some situations you should submit a due diligence declaration. For more information, read ‘To DECLARE or not to DECLARE: when to submit a due diligence declaration’.