Utilization of Genetic Resources: Encouraging Users and Providers to Direct Benefits

Parameswaran Prajeesh

In this part, mention is on the terms and conditions on ABS as implemented by National Biodiversity Authority – NBA of India and also on some of the examples from the country where benefits have been shared with the Authority/State Biodiversity Boards – SBBs/Biodiversity Management Committees – BMCs/Conservers. Though the terms and conditions vary from case to case, and the cases are increasing in number, this note may give a general picture for understanding development of the ABS system.

Model Terms & Conditions: A company, who got access to the resource and made a product out of it, shall pay annually, 2% of the gross sales or gross revenue of the product; OR shall pay 5% of the total sales of the product accessed, as royalty. An exporter shall pay 5% of Free on Board (FOB) value. A Researcher shall pay annually, 5% if the patent is licensed or transferred to others or 5% of the net sales of the company as royalty. These terms and conditions were read from the leading ABS examples. The whole idea of ABS is to reach the benefits to the conservers, so that they can continue their efforts in conservation and sustainable & equitable use of the genetic resources.

Apart from red sanders case from Andhra Pradesh, some other early-implemented ABS agreements include:

  1. Gram Mooligai Company Ltd with State Biodiversity Board, Madhya Pradesh for collecting 10 herbs including Satavar, Amla and Guggul.
  2. PepsiCo for accessing seaweeds for export from 4 districts of Tamil Nadu.
  3. Natural Remedies Pvt. Ltd, for accessing the herb Kalmegh from BMC of Malajkhand, MP.
  4. Bio India Biologicals for exporting Neem Leaves collected from Amarchinta village, Andhra Pradesh.
  5. An Ayurvedic practitioner from Pune with NBA, for commercialization of Pinak tablet, an anti-snake venom combination.

As one among the 17 mega bio-diverse countries, and as the pioneer in establishing the Biodiversity Governance system, the country is playing a crucial role in developing the ABS system at its best. Much effort is required to bring in consultations between NBA, SBBs and BMCs for moving ahead with the course of action, experts point out. NBA has also given a very detailed Sector Specific Review of the ABS Compliance with a long list of sectors including Pharma/Nutraceuticals, Cosmetics, Seed Industry, Botanical Industries, Food and Beverages, Crop protection products, Horticulture and Industrial Biotechnology.

For more info: ABS Fact Sheets, National Biodiversity Authority

Alstonia scholaris

Alstonia scholaris is one among the few trees which are worshiped in sacred groves. Alstonia is a widespread genus of evergreen trees and shrubs, of the family Apocynaceae. It was named by Robert Brown in 1811, after Charles Alston (1685–1760), professor of botany at Edinburgh from 1716-1760. The type species Alstonia scholaris (L.) R.Br. was originally named Echites scholaris by Linnaeus in 1767. This tree is locally known as Daiva pala, Ezhilam pala, Mangala pala and Yakshi pala as it is considered to be the abode of ancestral or natural spirits and demons. Because of it, tribals are often reluctant to sit under this tree or even pass under it for the fear of the devil.

Alstonia scholaris  is common in sacred groves of Kerala as per the record of KFRI research report (2011). This evergreen tree is native to southern China, tropical Asia and Australasia.

 Alstonia scholaris has an indigenous system of medicine. The bark is known as ditabark, used by Indians as traditional medicine to treat diarrhoea, dysentery, asthma, and a few types of fevers. It has also been used as an aphrodisiac. When damaged, the bark lets out a sticky milky latex, which is also valued for its medicinal properties.

Students’ blackboards, writing tables and slates are made from the bark of the tree. Hence, the other name for the tree is the Blackboard Tree.

This tree has got a great cultural significance in the intellectual circle, as traditionally its leaves were awarded to scholars and teachers during convocation ceremonies by the Visva Bharati University. This tradition was started by Rabindranath Tagore in Gurudeb University. Due to environmental degradation, the practice has been reduced to handing over a single leaf to the Vice Chancellor of the University.

The large branches provide favourable breeding sites for wild bees to make their hives and the pollination of the tree is carried out by insects. When the tree flowers, a plethora of insects like butterflies, bees and beetles are seen all over it. The seeds of the tree have a tuft of silky hairs at each end, and are dispersed by the wind.


  1. Chandrashekara, Conservation and management of sacred groves in Kerala, KFRI, 2011
  2. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/why-the-saptaparni-is-called-the-devils-tree/article29767114.ece