The Fridtjof Nansen Institute
About FNI 
News & events 


Bioprospecting in the Antarctic: Exploring Options for the Legal Framework

Bioprospecting is search for and sampling of biological material which may be useful for scientific or commercial purposes. Bioprospecting activity in the Antarctic might be increasing, yet its policy and regulatory framework remains unclear. In order to preserve the biological diversity and avoid conflicts between stakeholders claiming rights to genetic resources resulting from bioprospecting, it is important to explore options towards establishing an appropriate legal framework for this Antarctic activity.

The overall objective of this research project is to investigate concepts relevant for the establishment of a legal framework for bioprospecting in the Antarctic. This project investigates legal concepts such as:
(i) exclusive rights over genetic resources.
(ii) genetic resources as res nullius.
(iii) genetic resources as public domain.

The purpose of the project is to study whether and how these legal concepts can be applied to bioprospecting in the Antarctic. This study assesses how different legal concepts relate to both access to genetic resources and sharing of the resultant benefits. Moreover, the project also analyses how each of these concepts relate to intellectual property rights. This is expected to contribute to the knowledge-base on which bioprospecting in the Antarctic can be regulated.

Project team:
Davor Vidas (Project leader)
Morten Walløe Tvedt
Øystein Jensen

Project period: 2005-2008


Tvedt, Morten Walløe, 'Patent law and bioprospecting in Antarctica'. Polar Record, Vol 47, No 1, 2010, pp. 46-55.

Vidas, Davor, 'United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea'. In Riffenburgh, Beau (ed), Encyclopedia of the Antarctic. New York, Routledge, 2007, pp. 1017-1018.
 Related focal points of research:

   Biodiversity and genetic resources

Project funding:

   The Research Council of Norway

Related document:

   FNI Research on Biological Diversity. Information brochure (PDF, 0.5 Mb)

Fridtjof Nansen Institute
P.O. Box 326, 1326 Lysaker, Norway. Tel: (+47) 67111900 / E-mail: post (