Over the past centuries the UK's gardens have benefitted from having access to plants that have been brought here from all over the world. These cultivated plants can have enormous value - whether it be for amenity, medicinal or a whole range of other uses. This botanical treasure trove has helped the UK build an international reputation as both the home of a remarkably diverse range of cultivated plants and a conserver of plants that are now extinct in the wild.
Representatives of countries where these plants originate highlight the importance of sharing the benefits arising from new plants being collected and brought into cultivation - and these benefits, be they financial or non-financial, should support conservation.
This principle was laid out in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), one of the three Rio Conventions, dating from 1992. The third objective of the CBD promotes 'the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources'. The framework for this was further elaborated in the Nagoya Protocol (2010), which requires countries who wish to adopt it to put enforcement measures in place.
What does the Nagoya Protocol aim to do?
The Nagoya Protocol does not ban the collection of plant material, but aims to provide a framework on how plant material can be obtained in a way that allows both parties (the collector and the source country) to gain from any benefits arising from that collection - and that these benefits also support conservation.
The RHS recognises the importance of complying with the national laws relating to plant collection in the countries where plants are collected. Many plant collectors already work within the existing collection laws of the countries of the plants' origin and abide by the spirit of the CBD. The Nagoya Protocol aims to establish more predictable conditions for access to genetic resources from their country of origin and help to ensure benefit-sharing when these genetic resources or traditional knowledge associated to these genetic resources is utilised.
The implications for horticulture are, in the main, greatest where plant material collected after 12/10/14 from countries that are signatories to the Nagoya Protocol is used – whether it be plant breeding, commercialisation or research. This legislation places obligations on the users of plant material as well as penalties for failure to comply.
Nagoya and the UK
In the case of the UK, the compliance measures were implemented on 12 October 2014. The enforcement measures for this are a national responsibility, and the UK provided these in legislation issued in March 2015 and are the responsibility of the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO). The detailed implementation of parts of the regulations are still being finalised, and are expected to be in place in October 2015.
RHS Nagoya Protocol Statement
The Royal Horticultural Society is committed to following national laws where plants are collected and supports the conservation and ethical principles enshrined in the Nagoya Protocol.
However, we are also acutely aware of and share the concerns raised by other industry sectors on understanding what the practical implications and impact of the Nagoya Protocol legislation will be on the horticultural sector’s activities and businesses.
Have your say
It is key that the response to the Nagoya Protocol is from across the horticulture sector and in collaboration with Defra and NMRO. The RHS, will therefore, over the next few months be engaging with key stakeholders from horticulture, Defra and National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO) to raise awareness on the Nagoya Protocol, to formulate a shared response and to work towards informing the process of ‘best practices’. This will include holding a meeting for those with concerns about or an interest in the Protocol and the legislation to share their views with Defra and the NMRO, and this will form the basis of how UK horticulture can respond constructively to the legislation.
This meeting will be held at RHS Garden Wisley on 27 July with representatives of Defra and NMRO being present. Those interested in attending this meeting please contact Laura Robins on firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and email address.