Biodiversity and Intellectual Property Rights

The basis of our sustainability is biodiversity. Although industrialised nations are better equipped for research and development, they are not particularly wealthy in biogenetic resources. They employ resources obtained from developing nations' biogenetic databases. Thus, there is a start in the unregulated movement of genetic knowledge from the developing world to the capital-rich west and a protected flow the other way, notably through patents and plant breeders' rights. Both overt and covert effects are present. The loss of biodiversity is one of the most significant long-term apparent manifestations of genetic degradation, which is one of its most significant invisible effects.

History of IPR and Biodiversity

The intellectual property rights (IPR) and biodiversity are the two distinct terms and hence their historical development is complex. In general, IPR is the legal means to protect and promote the development of innovations, including new plant varieties and life forms. In the recent times, the expansion of IPR in the field of biotechnology has also raised concerns about the potential impacts on biodiversity, as patents and other forms of IPR can limit access to genetic resources and restrict their use in future research and development.

Furthermore, in context of development, one of the key international agreements in this area is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, but came into force in 1993. The CBD recognizes the importance of biodiversity and the need to conserve and sustainably use it, while also acknowledging the importance of IPR in promoting innovation. The CBD includes provisions that encourage the sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge, and calls for the development of national and international measures to ensure that the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity are not compromised by IPR.

IPR Regulations for Biodiversity Protection

Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights and the Convention on Biological Diversity are the two principal conventions that deal with biodiversity protection. India passed the Biological Diversity Bill in 2002 and the Indian Patent Second Amendment Act in 2000 to comply with the TRIP and CBD. Aside from extending the patent period to 20 years for all goods and processes, these laws made microorganisms a subject matter for patents in India. As part of the process to join the UPOV Convention, India has also started the certification process for plant breeder rights, which means that new plant varieties in India must comply with this requirement. The storage of biological material has also been covered in accordance with the Budapest Treaty.

Relationship between Biodiversity and Intellectual Property Rights

In the current IPR framework, commercialization of seed production, monoculture, and the protection of novel plant varieties, microbes, and genetically modified organisms are the main areas of focus. Rich biodiversity is consequently continuously disappearing. In order to achieve parity between formal intellectual property systems and the sustainable elements of biodiversity, it is imperative to put in place a substitute mechanism. Developed countries have better research and development facilities despite not having abundant genetic resources. They study biogenetic materials, the majority of which are sourced from underdeveloped countries. Because of this, biogenetic data is being transferred to industrialised countries in an unsecured manner. On the other hand, genetic data is being transferred to the Global South through patents and plant breeder's rights in a protected manner. This behavior has both overt and covert impacts.

Biological Diversity Convention

With the aim of preventing unfair exploitation of the bio-wealth and traditional knowledge of poor nations by the signatories, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force way back in 1993. The CBD's goals are −

  • Sharing of benefits and technology transfer that is fair between members.

  • Prior approval from the origin country is required to allow access from abroad.

  • Members' independent control over their genetic resources

  • According to the FAO Global Plan of Action, the rights of farmers are the main safeguard for the rights of the providers of genetic resources.

Biodiversity and IPR: Their Effects

Despite the fact that trustworthy data and information about the social and economic effects and significance of IPR in developing countries have been developed, little is known about how IPR affect biodiversity conservation and sustainable usage. The direct and indirect misappropriation of biological and genetic resources as well as traditional knowledge, or what has been referred to as "biopiracy," has been one verified impact of IPRs on the principle of countries' sovereign rights over their genetic resources and, to some extent, on sustainable use.

However, over period in time, there have been efforts to reconcile the potential conflicts between IPR and biodiversity, including through the negotiation of international agreements, such as the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing, and the development of national policies and guidelines. Despite these efforts and subsequent agreements, the relationship between IPR and biodiversity continues to be a complex and evolving issue. The challenge of balancing the protection of innovation and the conservation of biodiversity remains an important aspect.


The obvious legal gap in the international systems for protecting common resources may therefore be present everywhere. Furthermore, the possessions substantially contradict the cognitive content of the indigenous people. However, the use of old resources is frequently restricted due to intellectual property rules. The approved laws should include adequate penalties and compensation amounts to deter resource exploitation. In regulating property rights and taking into account the value of historical materials, there should be increased coordination among international frameworks.

To do this, we require regulations that support the transfer of technology and inclusive, active engagement in R&D. Dynamic cooperation entails underprivileged rural and farm communities exercising control over genetic resources, and this is reciprocated by the formal system undergoing periodic experimentation and changes to institutional and policy frameworks in order to uphold the global commitment to biodiversity preservation. Furthermore, by designating a group of people the status of a geographical indicator, one protects the rights of the people and avoids further exploitation.


Q1. What are IPR and biodiversity?

Ans. The phrase refers to intellectual property rights that pertain to concepts and data used in novel methods or innovations and biodiversity, on the other hand, refers the diversity of living organisms and their balanced (different types of) ecosystems.

Q2. How does IPR affect the use of genetic resources?

Ans. Who will use the genetic resources is determined by IPR, which also affects how the benefits of exploitation are distributed. Who benefits from the advantages of genetic resources can be impacted by IPR, with implications for biodiversity use and conservation.

Q3. Which provisions in the IPR regime pose a threat to biological diversity?

Ans. It examines many aspects of the present IPR system that threaten biological diversity. In the current IPR framework, commercialization of seed production, monoculture, and the protection of novel plant varieties, microbes, and genetically modified organisms are the main areas of focus.

Updated on: 22-Feb-2023

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