Seeking Appropriate Legislation Regulating Access and Exclusive Rights to Forest Genetic Resources in the Nordic Region

FNI Report 9/2011. Lysaker, FNI, 2011, 47 p.

The Nordic region is characterised by a simple and non-bureaucratic exchange of forest genetic resources (FGR) between countries, which generally is strongly associated with the Everyman's right within the countries. The smooth regime for international exchange of FGR is regarded as very valuable for the forestry sector across the country borders, as it secures access to seeds and breeding materials.

At the same time the status of the FGR has not been defined in domestic legal regimes. If FGR follow the development for crop plants, private property rights may be influential, which in turn may impede exchange of FGR across borders. Thus, the general background for addressing access and rights to FGR is the tension between the great ecological, monetary and social value of FGR and the fact that the legal status of the FGR has not been defined.

The aims of this Report are the following: Describe the present situation as regards access and rights to FGR in the individual Nordic countries. i) Identify issues and developments in international law that could negatively affect the present situation. Ii) Explore the legal status for breeding as a process and breeding materials with emphasis on patenting and recent developments in patent legislation. Iii) Address relevant case studies in which patenting is needed for commercialisation and how this could be combined with the general open exchange system. Iv) Explore the relevance of plant breeders’ rights (UPOV) to the forest tree sector, and v) give applicable and relevant recommendations for decision makers as regards future challenges and FGR. If significant undesirable developments can be foreseen, legal steps to meet this should be suggested, given the premise that the Nordic countries wish to maintain the non-bureaucratic system as regards access and rights to FGR.

The main finding is that no crucial problems have been identified regarding ownership, access or exchange of FGR. There is a growing body of regulations at global and European regional levels, which is being implemented at national levels. Currently, patents have neither been a strong incentive for the forest sector nor entailed important obstacles for innovation in the field.