Dear BIO Member:
Attached please find "Guidelines for BIO members engaging in Bioprospecting". The Guidelines are a set of general principles and practices that BIO, as an organization, believes are appropriate to follow when an entity engages in bioprospecting activities. The Guidelines were developed with the goal of educating BIO members as to relevant issues that can arise in the conduct of bioprospecting activities, and in providing assistance to those BIO member companies seeking guidance in this area. In an attempt to reflect BIO member request for guidance on the steps that should be taken prior and incidental to bioprospecting, and the desire of BIO members to better understand what practices would be generally consistent with emerging international norms relating to bioprospecting activities, the Guidelines identify certain "best practices" that can be followed by companies that elect to engage in these activities. We believe the Guidelines provide a useful "roadmap" for a BIO company to use to address certain issues and to take certain steps if and when that company engages in bioprospecting activities.
Since bioprospecting is not presently regulated in a consistent or comprehensive manner within countries or at the international level, member companies have extensive discretion to shape their conduct to meet whatever requirements countries impose with respect to bioprospecting activities. Indeed, the Guidelines themselves direct BIO members to identify any applicable requirements to follow in any specific jurisdiction in which they engage in bioprospecting. The Guidelines are thus not designed to supplant national requirements imposed by countries that regulate bioprospecting activities.
Finally, the Guidelines were developed with the understanding that each member company is not required to follow the Guidelines, and that the Guidelines would not in any sense be enforceable against an individual member company. For example, there is no provision in the Guidelines that gives BIO any authority to take action against a member company for engaging in conduct inconsistent with that specified in the Guidelines. Indeed, a significant purpose of the guidelines is educational, and to identify "best practices" that can be followed by companies that engage in bioprospecting activities. We note that while the Guidelines are not "enforceable" as such, it is conceivable that companies that do not engage in conduct consistent with that set forth in the Guidelines could be subject to criticism for not following "best practices." But there is no legal obligation that attaches from membership in BIO to adhere to the Guidelines.