The collection and use of native biological material from the land or water in Queensland

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Queensland is one of the most diverse land and sea masses in the world. There are 13 terrestrial and 14 marine bioregions. These bioregions support ecosystems including rainforests, savannas, rangelands, the dry tropics, wetlands and the coast. In total they support more than 1000 ecosystems, and they are clearly worth protecting.

Queensland has 80% of Australia’s native birds, 70% of its mammals and 50% of its native reptiles, making it Australia’s most diverse state.

Biodiversity is described by the Australian Museum as “the variety of all living things; the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, the genetic information they contain and the ecosystems they form”

Biodiversity is usually explored at three levels:

  • Genetic diversity
  • Species diversity
  • Ecosystem diversity

In Queensland biodiversity activities are regulated by the Biodiscovery Act 2004 (Act), which was the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce such legislation.

The purpose of the Act as defined in Section 3 is to:

  • facilitate access by biodiscovery entities to minimal quantities of native biological resources on or in State land or Queensland waters (State native biological resources) for biodiscovery
  • encourage the development, in the State, of value added biodiscovery
  • ensure the State, for the benefit of all persons in the State, obtains a fair and equitable share in the benefits of biodiscovery
  • ensure biodiscovery enhances knowledge of the State’s biological diversity, promoting conservation and sustainable use of native biological resources

These purposes are achieved by

  • a regulatory framework
  • a contractual framework
  • protocols; and
  • compliance and enforcement

Any person participating in biodiversity activities must comply with the ‘Queensland Biotechnology Code of Ethics’ and the guidelines which provide information regarding the biodiversity approvals.

Before you collect any native biological material form Queensland’s land or sea you must obtain a biodiscovery collection authority and negotiate a benefit sharing agreement with the Department of Environment and Science.

Additionally, and very importantly you must also seek an agreement with the traditional knowledge custodians before using traditional knowledge for biodiversity.

In September 2020 the Queensland Government enacted the Biodiscovery and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020 which reformed the Act to:

“include protections for the use of First Nations peoples’ traditional knowledge in biodiscovery to improve the alignment with international standards such as the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.

This requires that biodiscovery can only be undertaken with the prior informed consent of those who have a right to grant access, including First Nations’ peoples and local communities.

It also requires that the benefits of biodiscovery are fairly and equitably shared.

The traditional knowledge obligation under the Act requires that a person takes all reasonable and practical steps to only use traditional knowledge for biodiscovery with the agreement of the custodians of the knowledge.

This reform will help ensure that biodiscovery entities can collaborate internationally and access markets and continue to demonstrate leadership in biodiscovery research and commercialisation.

This reform also represents a key step in recognising the rights of First Nations people with respect to traditional knowledge, supporting them to decide how their knowledge is used, and to gain fair benefits from its use in biodiscovery.”

The current public consultation once completed will lead to the finalisation of the new code and guidelines.

How can FC Lawyers help with native biological material?

Our team has experience assisting biodiscovery entities, traditional owners and communities in understanding their obligations under the Act including the regulatory obligations.

We can assist with obtaining collection authorities and negotiating sharing agreements for native biological material.

Contact our team today to discuss your needs.

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