The implications of South Africa's bioprospecting legislation (NEMBA, Act 10 of 2004): local lessons for global benefit
South Africa, as a megadiverse country has, since 1 April 2008, regulated bioprospecting, access and benefit-sharing activities in accordance with its obligations as a ratifying Party to the CBD. The context and process of key legislation developments in South Africa are discussed, prior to presenting a critique which emphasises the practical impacts, especially on drug discovery, arising from the newly introduced systems. The subsequent effects on existing bioresource-based industries within South Africa, together with current as well as future bioprospecting activities are assessed. It is clear that various practicalities of bioprospecting methodology have been poorly accommodated, resulting in the development of impracticable and unnecessarily restrictive regulations, albeit well-intentioned. In particular, it is difficult for bioprospectors to establish broad-scale screening programmes given their user insecurity, legal uncertainty, and cost-inefficiency. Existing bioresource-based industries within South Africa also face potential closure in view of onerous bioprospecting permit application requirements. Further, the regulations have impacted negatively on basic biological research underway both in-country and internationally. Consideration is made of time and financial cost implications, as well as unworkable bureaucracy, which may discourage international partners from valuable and often essential collaborations in this sphere. An alternative, practical, CBD-compliant model on which to base urgently required legislative reforms is presented. The South African experience is contextualized in relation to other biodiverse countries of the developing world that that have sought to service their CBD obligations through the introduction of national legislation. We find that as a case study South Africa provides local lessons for global benefit.
References: 1. Crouch, N. et al. (2008) S.A. J. Sci. 104:355–366.