Egypt's Senate approves new law that maximises the economic value of biological resources

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 25 Oct 2021

The Senate — Egypt’s upper consultative house — finally approved on Monday a draft law aiming to regulate access and distribution of the country’s biological resources.

The Egyptian Senate
File Photo: Egypt s upper consultative house. Al-Ahram

The Senate’s Deputy Speaker Bahaa El-Din Abu Shoqa said that the law is a necessary step as Egypt is rich in natural resources and biological diversity and that these resources should be preserved to achieve environmental balance and push the country’s socio-economic development plans forward.

A report prepared by the Senate’s Energy and Environment Committee said that Egypt has a wealth of 30,000 rare plant and animal species and that most of these have an economic value.

According to the report, the term “biological resources” includes animal and plant species that live inside and outside protected areas.

“These attract several international institutions seeking to use these valuable rare species to produce drugs and cosmetics and to develop bio-technology industries without sharing the returns of these resources with the countries of origin and at an absence of legislation that regulates the utilisation of these resources,” said the report.

He added that “as a result, Egypt decided to join the ‘Nagoya Biological Diversity Protocol’, which regulates the share of benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way.”

The protocol — adopted in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan and entered into force in 2014 — obligates contracting parties to take measures that help conserve biological diversity in nature and prevent the extinction of rare species. 

The report indicated that the law also helps achieve the objectives of the Nagoya protocol, which is conserving natural resources, achieving environmental balance, and protecting biological resources and regulating the access and sharing of these resources in a way that will help businesses invest in these resources in a profitable way.

Abdel-Khaleq Ayad, head of the Senate’s Energy and Environment Committee, said the new legislation could generate as much as EGP 1 billion in financial resources for the state treasury.

“Egypt has as many as 120 protected areas, which include a wealth of natural and biological resources that the world needs to produce drugs and cosmetics,” said Ayad.

Hossam El-Khouli, a senator and the deputy chairman of Mostaqbal Watan party, said that biological resources represent 70 percent of the world economy and that cosmetic products made from natural and biological resources generate $120 billion a year.

“So, this law has come on time to protect Egypt’s natural and biological wealth and put it to good economic use,” said El-Khouli.

Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad said that Egypt has been without legislation that regulates the access of biological resources since 1994.

“This law will secure this end to meet Egypt’s international obligations and help conserve Egypt’s natural resources and protect it from piracy operations,” said Fouad, adding that “the law states that those who exploit Egypt’s biological resources or transfer them outside the country without a prior license shall face up to six years in prison and a fine between EGP 250,000 and one million.”

Senator Noha Ahmed Zaki said that the law is in line with Article 32 of the constitution, which obligates the state to preserve natural resources, effectively utilise them, avoid depleting them, and preserve the rights of future generations to them.

The legislation states that a ‘National Apparatus for Biological Resources’ will be set up to implement the law’s articles and executive regulations.

The apparatus, which will be affiliated with the cabinet, will make sure that all concerned authorities implement Egypt’s obligation under the Nagoya Protocol.

The draft law stipulates that those who seek access to biological resources cannot use these resources without prior approval and licensing from the National Apparatus for Biological Resources, which is part of the Ministry of Environment.

“Those who have access to biological resources will be obliged to make sure that their activities do not lead to the loss of biodiversity or ecosystem degradation that might pose major risks to human survival and sustainable development,” according to the draft law. 

The law will be referred to the House of Representatives to be discussed and passed.
 

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