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New legislation has come into force across Europe to ensure countries share in the benefits of genetic resources such as plant material, when this is used to advance knowledge or for commercial reasons.
The UK is a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation, which was drawn up to help protect and conserve global biodiversity and ensure the sustainable use of genetic resources, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) reports.
A series of checks are to be introduced to track how genetic resources are used, including scrutinising patent applications where it's suspected that genetic resources from another country have been used.
Those making applications will be required to prove that agreements relating to the collection and use of the genetic resources have been made with the host country.
Alternatively, they will need to show that they have carried out 'due diligence' to check that the material falls outside of the scope of the legislation.
The RHS believes the Nagoya Protocol is unlikely to affect gardeners on a day-to-day basis, although it could have an impact on specialist nurseries, especially those that acquire wild plants from other countries.
Details have yet to be provided of any enforcement action that would be carried out by the UK government, although penalties would not apply to genetic resources acquired before October 12th 2014, when the regulation came into force.
People who intend to use plant material taken from the wild in other countries for research or commercial purposes will need to prove the plants were acquired before the legislation came into effect.
Speaking about the scope of the legislation, John David, RHS head of horticultural taxonomy, said: "While the RHS supports the intention of the legislation, many uncertainties remain as to how the regulation will work in practice, and what implications it will have for those using wild collected plants in horticulture.
"The RHS is concerned that people may not be aware of the details of the regulation and the penalties its breach may carry."