Bioprospecting in Antarctica

"This report reviews bioprospecting activities in Antarctica to determine the nature and scope of existing Antarctic bioprospecting activities before considering similar activities in other regions. Relevant legal provisions of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) are covered, and then relevant international policies are considered before briefly addressing some pertinent questions.

The study states that bioprospecting is taking place, and the potential for an increase in these activities exists, although the absence of clear rules is problematic for all stakeholders. Companies have not made it a priority to focus their attention on Antarctic samples, due to high costs and significant risks. Rules regarding access, sample ownership, benefit-sharing and intellectual property rights would provide more certainty, and the paper recommends the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting now consider this issue carefully. It should be in the interest of the international community as a whole to develop a framework under which the commitments of the Antarctic Treaty are honoured, and the opportunity for developing necessary products or processes maintained.

The authors find that existing international policies governing bioprospecting activities elsewhere are of limited value in answering the above issues. Regarding a possible Antarctic legal framework, the use of Antarctic genetic resources needs to take account of complex jurisdictional issues raised by the ATS."