On 18 April 2012, Johanna von Braun and Laureen Manuel of Natural Justice participated in a half day workshop organised by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) of South Africa on the proposed amendments to South Africa’s bioprospecting, access and benefit sharing (BABS) regulations. The workshop is one of many stakeholder consultations being held nationwide during April and May 2012.
South Africa is a global leader in its bioprospecting legislation but there are many challenges surrounding the implementation of the environmental laws and policies. The purpose of the consultations, therefore, is to draw on the experiences and suggestions of the various stakeholders to inform the amendment process. Some of the challenges raised by participants at the workshop related to benefit-sharing and material transfer agreements, difficulties with issuing authorities, lengthy waiting periods with permit applications and the dynamics between the national and provincial legislatures. Participants called for, among other things, simplified processes where only major users of indigenous biological resources are regulated and for increased capacity and resources at the offices where applications for permits are processed.
When the consultations are complete, the DEA will develop draft language incorporating concepts and ideas collected from participants. The proposed amendments to the regulations will be then presented to stakeholders for further comment and input.