Nagoya Protocol Update - Sept 2015

Recent changes in the law are set to affect the way new plants are introduced and used. The RHS is working with other parties in the horticulture sector to respond to the changes

On 27 July, the RHS held a meeting for the horticulture sector to be briefed on and discuss the EU Regulation implementing the Nagoya Protocol. More than 50 people attended, with representatives from plant societies, public gardens and specialist nurseries as well plant breeders, plant collectors, plant agents and trade associations. 

There were presentations from Julian Jackson (Biodiversity Policy Advisor, Defra), Michael Worrell (National Measurement and Regulation Office NMRO), Sara Redstone (RBG Kew), James Hitchmough (Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield) and Robert Blackhall-Miles (Fossil Plants), which explained the background to the EU Regulation, the approach to implementation and enforcement by the NMRO and the various approaches to addressing the requirements of the Regulation.  

Those attending were able to raise their concerns and to discuss the implications in an open session, as well as to consider some key issues in more depth. Those issues were, (i) plant collecting in the future and conservation; (ii) sharing benefits from horticulture; (iii) due diligence implementation and mitigation and (iv) implications of utilisation.

Key issues identified during the day:

  • Developing guidance on the practical implementation and compliance for the sector

  • What would be considered as utilisation in horticulture and how it relates to commercialisation

  • How do we establish what genetic resources are currently available in horticulture

  • How much genetic resource is being utilised in horticulture and what is the impact on the sector

  • Need for greater clarity on what is within the scope of the EU Regulation

  • What is feasible for benefit-sharing in horticulture

  • Whether EU Regulation compliant best-practice can be embedded in accreditation schemes

  • Raising awareness for the public and the horticultural trade

The day was successful in that many of those attending gained a better understanding of what the Nagoya Protocol is intended to do, particularly in relation to plant collecting, as well as a greater appreciation of the potential impacts of the EU Regulation.

Challenges identified

There was a realisation that the administrative burden arising from the Regulation could have a distinct impact on a sector that does not have the resources to absorb it. As a result, there is a real prospect of the sector turning away from introducing and utilising new plants, not because the Nagoya Protocol prevents it, but due to the requirements for compliance and uncertainties over the status of plants that may arise in the future.

It was agreed that further work is needed to explore the practical implications of the EU Regulation through case studies that can be used to inform those responsible for the implementation of the Regulation, as well as to develop model contract clauses for Mutually Agreed Terms for accessing genetic resources.

The RHS has convened a Working Group on the Nagoya Protocol for the horticulture sector, which had its first meeting on 14 July and will meet again on 18 September. In the next meeting the Working Group will review the issues raised in the Sectoral meeting and agree how to address them.

Specific areas of action will be to begin to draw up a best-practice scheme on the practical implementation for UK horticulture and to develop guidance for the sector on how to work with the EU Regulation. It will continue to feed into Defra and NMRO, as well as the forthcoming EU Commission project on preparing guidance documents on utilisation for the different sectors.

Useful links

More information on the Nagoya Protocol

Details of current UK legislation

RHS science homepage

Contact: Laura Robins [email protected]



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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.