7 September 2012
Several Union of Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) members sourcing natural ingredients from Brazil have recently received fines from the Brazilian environmental enforcement agency, known as IBAMA. These fines were issued on the basis of national legislation on access and benefit sharing, particularly Provisional Act 2.186/01. This law, enacted as a temporary measure, defines the rights, obligations and procedures linked to access and benefit sharing. Nevertheless, it has been widely questioned among stakeholders for its lack of clear, practical and effective approaches. Currently, a range of ongoing efforts is seeking to revise and improve the Brazilian legal framework on access and benefit sharing.
UEBT members have expressed concerns to the Brazilian authorities about significant factual and legal errors in the fines received from IBAMA. For example, the majority of the products mentioned are deemed excluded from legislation on access and benefit sharing. The Genetic Heritage Management Council or CGEN, the national competent authority on access and benefit sharing, has expressly stated in one of its resolutions that Provisory Measure 2186/01 does not apply to “fixed oils, essential oils and extracts resulting from the isolation, extraction or purification processes, in which the characteristics of the final product are substantially equivalent to the original raw material.” Indeed, this CGEN resolution aimed to distinguish access to genetic heritage from the standard use of natural ingredients as oils and extracts that is alluded to in many of the IBAMA fines.
UEBT members are committed to ethical sourcing of natural ingredients. They have been actively collaborating with IBAMA information requests on natural products and related activities, as well as with other efforts to apply and improve access and benefit sharing requirements in Brazil. They will continue working with Brazilian authorities and other stakeholders to better understand and address any legitimate questions. Pending appeal, all fines issued to UEBT members are currently suspended.
As UEBT members, these companies are working to ensure that all their policies and practices linked to natural ingredients, as well as those of their suppliers, implement the Ethical BioTrade Standard. Principle 3 of the Ethical BioTrade Standard includes requirements on fair and equitable sharing of benefits in both sourcing and research and development activities. In sourcing, benefit sharing is reflected in approaches such as balanced and informed negotiations, the payment of equitable prices, and the contribution to local sustainable development goals. In research and development, benefit sharing requires, for instance, engaging groups with rights over resources and establishing conditions of the use of these resources, including on benefit sharing. In both cases, UEBT members must also work to comply with relevant access and benefit sharing legislation.
The commitment and progress of UEBT members towards the Ethical BioTrade Standard is verified through independent third-party audits. On joining UEBT, companies undergo an audit to make sure they conform to a number of entry-level requirements, which cover measures to respect human rights and other issues related to equitable benefit sharing. In addition, through this initial audit, members identify areas for improvement and develop a work plan with measures needed to advance compliance. Further audits occur every three years and focus on progress made in the implementation of the Ethical BioTrade Standard in company operations and supply chains. Summaries of audit reports, work plans and annual reports are publicly available on the UEBT website (www.ethicalbiotrade.org).
In line with the requirements of the ISEAL Alliance, of which UEBT is a full member, UEBT has an appeal mechanism that can be used to question decisions on verification or membership. Any person that deems a member of the UEBT is in breach of its commitments may file a formal complaint. The appeal procedures are likewise available to the public.
For more information, please contact:
Cristiane de Moraes
Union for Ethical BioTrade
Tel: +55 11 99431 1880
María Julia Oliva
Senior Adviser, Access and Benefit Sharing
Union for Ethical BioTrade
Tel: + 31 20 223 4567