Fragmentation of Biodiscovery Law in Australia


Australia has longstanding international obligations to enact access and benefit sharing laws, which aim to prevent the unauthorised collection and commercial exploitation of biological resources. Rather than providing a clear framework for scientific research and commercialisation, however, the legislative response across the Commonwealth, States, and Territories has been fragmented. With reference to the case study of spinifex research, this presentation will evaluate the Biodiscovery Act 2004 (Qld) and Biological Resources Act 2006 (NT), and will use Braithwaite’s regulatory pyramid of enforcement to suggest avenues for harmonisation.


Jocelyn is a PhD candidate at the T C Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland. Jocelyn completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Queensland, where she obtained dual Bachelors of Science/Laws (Honours) with a concurrent Diploma of Languages (French).

During her science studies, she conducted three undergraduate research projects in plant biology and agricultural science and graduated from the UQ Advanced Study Program in Science (ASPinS). Her interests are in the areas of intellectual property, public international law, and the law of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Jocelyn is a researcher in the ARC project, ‘Harnessing Intellectual Property to Build Food Security’.

Her project examines the implementation of access and benefit sharing laws in Australia, pursuant to Article 8(j) of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity 1992. It includes a detailed review of the biodiscovery frameworks in the States, Territories and Commonwealth, in light of the pressures for Australia to ratify the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity.  The thesis will then explore access and benefit sharing regulation in the context of two case studies of partnership with Indigenous communities: the scientific and commercial research about Kakadu plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana) and spinifex grass (Triodia pungens).

Ultimately, the hope is to move beyond dichotomous thinking, to reconceptualise issues of access to and use of genetic resources in a manner that might promote food security, diffuse agricultural innovations, and ensure protection of the interests of both providers and users of resources and associated knowledge.