Why is the Regulation of Bioprospecting in Antarctica Lacking and What Could the Future Hold
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
Biological prospecting, or ‘bioprospecting’, involves developing products from the compounds obtained from living organisms, usually with commercial gain in mind. It is a controversial topic for Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) mainly due to access and benefit sharing concerns. It is evident that bioprospecting is growing in Antarctica and will continue to do so, with new international players such as Malaysia joining the Antarctic Treaty who have commercial interests in Antarctic organisms. Exsitu specimen repositories, such as genome databases, are also a growing area for potential bioprospectors, with new techniques being developed to enable effective screening of genomic information for novelty, allowing for the use by any party. Despite being a consistent topic at every Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) since 2002, there remains a void of specific legislation under the Antarctic Treaty System to manage bioprospecting expectations and activities. Bioprospecting spans many different sectors of international law, resulting in overlaps and significant gaps in legislative areas. While the Antarctic Treaty’s associated Madrid Protocol and Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) regulate visits to Antarctica, including species harvesting and associated environmental effects, they are nonspecific when it comes to deriving commercial profit from living organisms by bioprospecting. A lack of clear regulatory measures is partly due to the complexity of the issue. The consensus-based process at ATCMs and sporadic annual meetings have also proved an ineffective mechanism of forming agreement on such a divisive topic. Despite these complications, it is imperative that new legislation is drawn up in order to uphold the Antarctic Treaty information sharing principles and to address the growing exploitation of Antarctic genetic resources.