ESEP 10:31-44 (2010)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00104

Ethics and bioprospecting in Antarctica

Ann-Isabelle Guyomard*

Centre de Droit Maritime et Océanique (CDMO), Faculté de Droit et des Sciences Politiques, Université de Nantes, Chemin de la Censive du Tertre, BP 81307, 44313 Nantes Cedex 3, France

ABSTRACT: Bioprospecting is a current activity in Antarctica, especially in the Southern Ocean, where numerous genetic resources have already been extracted and patented. At the global level, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea are the normal legal instruments for bioprospecting. These instruments are all based on territoriality and incorporate government restriction of access to resources. However, in Antarctica, the Antarctic Treaty System has been built over the past 50 yr on fundamental ethical principles comprising peace, a freeze on territorial claims, freedom of scientific research, international cooperation, and environmental protection in the interest of mankind as a whole. How can bioprospecting be organized in Antarctica to match these ethical concerns without a sovereign governance structure that is predicated in the global instruments? At the global level, the current instruments seem inadequate because of the lack of acceptance of territorial claims existing in Antarctica; at the regional level, the existing system of Antarctic law still lacks concepts and criteria necessary to underpin the development of this activity with respect to the ethical principles and in a form likely to be transferred into national legislation. The solution for bioprospecting in Antarctica therefore needs to be the creation of an ad hoc Antarctic legal regime.


KEY WORDS: Ethics · Bioprospecting · Antarctica · Southern Ocean · Antarctic Treaty · PEPAT · CCAMLR · CRAMRA


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Cite this article as: Guyomard AI (2010) Ethics and bioprospecting in Antarctica. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 10:31-44. https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00104

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