Pigeon-holed law causes huge loss

Kathmandu, July 10:

Nepal is rich in flora and fauna. Good news, indeed. But the bad news is the draft of a law to

pave way for commercial use of genetic resources has been hanging fire for five years.

This has caused concern among those who are fighting in defence

of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and commercial use of genetic resources here.

“The delay in passing the law is causing ahuge loss. Worse, since there is no law, we are not attracting any buyers either. Benefit sharing is not happening,” said Ratnakar Adhikari, President, South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE).

The government had drafted a law governing “access to and use of genetic resources.” It is now in the deeper recesses of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MOF&SC).

“The ministry (MOF&SC) had drafted the bill and is perfecting it. It is bill of its own kind. Which means attention has to be paid to meticulous detail. But this does not mean we should take long,” said Prachanda Man Shrestha, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MICS). The latter heads World Trade Organisation (WTO) cell under MICS.

But the loss in terms of benefits not reaped by the people who have access to genetic resources is “simply incalculable.”

“One cannot calculate benefits and losses. That is because we have not yet seen how the prospective customers come calling when there is the right legal regime. Customers come when there is institutional arrangement concerning trade in genetic resources,” Shrestha said.

“It is time we passed the law. That done, what we would see next is those who own something from among the vast array of genetic resources could sell their knowledge to researchers for money,” he said.