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Greenland's new legislation on commercial and research-related use of biological resources: implications for the International Polar Year and later

  • David Leary

New possibilities for economic development have been identified by the Greenland Home Rule Government in recent years. One of these is the potential for development of biotechnology based on Greenland's biodiversity. To ensure that Greenland shares in benefits derived from the exploitation of these resources the Home Rule Parliament recently enacted legislation on commercial and research-related use of biological resources that is premised on rights recognised by the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity. This legislation represents the first law in an Arctic jurisdiction specifically to create a mechanism for access and benefit sharing in relation to Arctic genetic resources. The main area of research and commercial interest so far relates to potential developments in biotechnology from the microbial diversity of ikaite tufa columns located in the Ikka Fjord in southwest Greenland. The legislation seeks to provide a mechanism for regulating access to such biological resources and a means for Greenland to share in the potential benefits that may come from scientific research on them and subsequent commercialisation. Much research in Greenland now falls within the scope of this legislation. The purpose of this article is to explain the provisions of the legislation to the polar research community as well as to review its implications for research in the International Polar Year and later. The legislation imposes many new obligations on researchers in Greenland including obligations to obtain survey licences, obligations on reporting and the regulation of publication of scientific research. Commercially focussed research is also tightly regulated with a particular emphasis on patent rights. However, many aspects of the legislation are uncertain and it is unclear how much of the legislation will be implemented in practice.

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Polar Record
  • ISSN: 0032-2474
  • EISSN: 1475-3057
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