Sustainability,  Agriculture

Does it involve life to work? What is the Nagoya Protocol to protect "genetic resources"?

Hi there, it's Minami.

Did you know that "genetic resources" have been given a worldwide importance in recent years?

We often see "genetically modified" foods on the news and in supermarkets. However, the term "genetic resources" here refers to a broader range of things, from animals to plants to microorganisms, that live, work, and reproduce.

 In addition, genetic resources also play an important role in other themes such as "biodiversity". In this issue, let's take a look at the relationship between genetic resources and biodiversity from the Nagoya Protocol.

The Nagoya Protocol is a document to protect nationally established genetic resources.

First of all, everyone in Japan, do you remember the Kyoto Protocol, which we learned about at school?

 The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the Third Conference of the Parties (COP3) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, and is a global conference held every year to address climate change.

 The Nagoya Protocol is also a treaty that sets out international initiatives, but the theme is to make a decision on the use of genetic resources in biodiversity.

This protocol was adopted in Nagoya on October 29, 2010, at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

 For more information, the Japanese version was released by the Japanese governmenthere is the official translation、COPで公式に記された原本はClicking hereからご確認ください。 

 You might think that the Nagoya Protocol, a document that describes what was discussed and decided at the conference, includes all the developed countries of the world, but that is not the case. My personal impression is that many countries that have a lot of biodiversity and want to protect it as a national asset have signed the petition. The Environment Ministry's page states.

Profit sharing of genetic resources also provides incentives and resources for biodiversity conservation, etc.

Ministry of the Environment "About the Nagoya Protocol"

This protocol introduces the fair use of genetic resources in the field of biodiversity.

What is the theme of biodiversity?

Now, let's think a bit more about the term biodiversity.

With the theme of biodiversity, the first thing many people hear when they hear the term is "conservation of various living things? You may be thinking, "I'm going to do this.

It is true that there are many different kinds of organisms in the world, and the goal is to protect as many species as possible.

But the reality is that, contrary to expectations, we are losing more and more biodiversity every year.

In fact, as of 2019,According to a report by the United Nations,One in four species of organisms isis on the verge of extinction. In total, there are about 1,000,000 species.

 Here, someone has to create something that protects biodiversity. That's right. For this reason, the Nagoya Protocol was adopted.

 For example, in the UK, the number of mosquitoes has fallen dramatically after several years of hard work. This is a happy thing for the human side because it doesn't sting, it doesn't itch, and it doesn't interfere with our lives. So, is there something wrong with the loss of biodiversity?

The answer is "YES".

 This is because the food chain is a part of our diet, and therefore our livelihood. Bees, for example, may seem scary, but they play an important role in pollination. If the bees disappear, humans will have to do it manually, and we can't ask other insects to do that. If we disrupt an ecosystem, even if it looks harmful to us at first glance, we will have to take responsibility for it ourselves. This means that the question is whether to take responsibility for the composition or to do what you can now and make it disappear as little as possible.

In protecting biodiversity, genetic resources have a great deal to do with it.

 It can be said that countries with a lot of genetic resources are inevitably biodiverse countries, such as Latin America, some parts of Asia, and Africa, which have a lot of land that many humans have not yet set foot on.

What is a genetic resource?

Now, what is a genetic resource?

 According to the Ministry of Environment, genetic resources are "plants, animals, and microorganisms that have useful genes. What I mean by "useful" here is that it is useful to humans. The Convention on Biological Diversity points out the importance of genetic diversity conservation as a part of biodiversity conservation.

 In recent years, however, the genetic resources of organisms that have been left behind after a long evolutionary process have become valuable in their very existence and should be protected regardless of their usefulness to humans.

 Protection of the original species of cultivated plants, phylogenetic protection of livestock and other animals, and protection of individual wildlife are also important issues from the perspective of genetic resource protection.

 A place to protect genetic resources is called the Gene Bank. A genebank is a system for collecting and preserving various genetic resources such as seeds of wild and cultivated plants, sperm and eggs of wild and domesticated animals, and microorganisms for the purpose of conserving biodiversity, as well as specialized institutions and facilities for this purpose. It's like a so-called gene bank.

 So, where does the relationship between genetic resources and biodiversity lie? That's because the diversity of life is helping us discover new genetic resources. In other words, even though we may still need the precious resource of genetic resources in the future, it is impossible to produce new drugs and crops using genetic resources if biodiversity is lost.

There have certainly been extinctions of various species of plants and animals.

But it is not the extinction itself that is the problem, but the speed at which it goes extinct.

In the case of genetic resource-holding countries, is it basically the international exchange that comes up for discussion on genetic resources?

Genes aren't just in living things, they're in food

In addition to wildlife, genetic resources are also important for breeds and strains of crops and livestock.

An organization of the 196 member states of the European UnionFAO(The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), for example, says it is important to use crop genetic resources in a sustainable manner.

 Rather, we can say that the vegetables we eat today are not the same as they were in the past, but that we have historically been able to find better genetic resources to grow better and get better and tastier crops.

 It is believed that it was at a meeting of the FAO in 1961 that the genetic resources of crops began to be widely recognized around the world.

 Russia, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom, where crops were not so abundant due to their location, made a special effort to research crop genetic resources and develop conservation facilities (Nishikawa, Yoshiaki, 2005, p.15).

 First of all, what is famous for our genetic resources regarding cropsis the Green Revolution.Briefly, the Green Revolution is a series of world changes from the 1940s to the 1960s, in which crops with strong genes were multiplied by each other to develop crops suitable for agricultural production for humanity, and large amounts of chemical fertilizers were used to increase the productivity of grains, resulting in large increases in grain production.

The other is the question of who owns the genetic resources.

 In the recent famous domestic news, the genetic resources of Wagyu and Shine Muscat were taken overseas, and foreign companies are expanding their interests.

 Shine Muscat was broadcast on July 25, 2018,In Mirai Seiki Zipangu, a Japanese TV show. It was also featured in the program of Shine Muscat is very expensive in the country, but it's very inexpensive and looks like Shine Muscat itself.

 It would be obvious that there would be a significant loss of economic activity, earning for a living.

 But for genetic resources on crops, the concessions are not exclusive to the farmer in that the base was created before the farmer existed on the land before the farmer created it. Rather, the most important question is whether farmers can continue to use the varieties they have used over the years (Nishikawa, Yoshiaki, 2005, p. 61). So far, the biological resources with genetic resources are considered to be those of the countries in which they exist.

If you are interested in genetic modification of crops, please click here to see.

The pharmaceutical industry has a lot to do with this.

 It may be hard to imagine, but genetic resources are also used especially in the field of medicine.

 Genetic resources are very important in the medical industry, especially in the use of biotechnology, because they are a major foundation for biotechnology and the biotech industry.

 In the past, a case in which genetic resources became an issue in the pharmaceutical industry was when an American drug development company took extracts from Peruvian virgin forests without permission to develop a new drug.

 If anything, the genetic resources of microorganisms may be used more often than plants and animals.

 While the benefits are great, there is also the use of foreign resources that are not available in Japan. In this context, it is very important to continue to use genetic resources without creating problems.

 In this respect, genetic resources will continue to play a very important role in the medical industry.

Conclusion - The Nagoya Protocol is very important not only for the environment, but also for our own protection

What did you think of it? It's hard to say that the distribution of resource benefits should be equal between countries that have the resources themselves and those that don't. This is evident from all the strife that has taken place in the world.

Although the problem of genetic resources in Japan is still considered to be less than in the United States and other countries, it will be interesting to see what kind of problems and further advantages will emerge in the future.

Of course, since it is an international agreement, it is necessary to think about how to secure the interests of each country so as not to eliminate the interests of each country as much as possible.

 In a global society where the exchange of information is spreading beyond national boundaries, it will be necessary to treat genetic resources with greater and greater importance.

   「ABS 遺伝資源の取得の機会及びその利用から生ずる利益の公正かつ衡平な配分」
外川健一「環境と資源 -主として金属鉱物資源,生物多様性を中心に-」経済地 理学年報 第 60巻 2014年 pp.249−263.
西川芳昭(2005)「作物遺伝資源の農民参加型管理 : 経済開発から人間開発へ 」農山漁村文化協会。
河野和男(2001)「”自殺する種子” : 遺伝資源は誰のもの?」新思索社。

jaJapanese en_GBEnglish