Digital Sequence Information: CIOPORA Co-signs Declaration on Safeguarding Open Exchange
Reacting to the current discussion by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) as to inclusion of the “digital sequence information” (DSI) into the scope of the Nagoya Protocol (NP), CIOPORA co-signed a Stakeholder Statement initiated by International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The Statement voices industry’s concerns about barriers that this potential step would place on biological research. The document will be presented to the attention of SBSTTA meeting on July 2-7, which will provide further recommendations on the issue to the CBD Conference in November 2018.
The public access to DSI, which to the present moment has no formal definition, fuels research in many areas, supports conservation and benefits society as a whole. Publicly available DSI allows to advance science and scientific understanding of biological systems. (1)
Currently, such sequence information stored in public databases is considered to be public domain and is not covered by the Nagoya Protocol. For instance, according to ICC, a total of 172 countries were using the International Nucleotide Sequence Database, which registered 1,621,300 website visitors from these countries between 2014 and 2016. However, some countries included clauses on rights on DSI while ratifying the NP. Such countries as e.g. Brazil may, therefore, claim that DSI should be or is already covered by the NP. (2)
DSI as a Part of Genetic Resource?
Currently, SBSTTA has a draft proposal in place to invite the conference of CBD parties “to clarify if and how the use of digital sequence information on genetic resources relates to access and benefit-sharing.” However, according to ICC, the question of whether DSI obtained from a genetic resource constitutes its part should be considered to be a matter of the genetic resource definition. While both the CBD and the NP define genetic resource as “genetic material of actual or potential value”, in its turn, the genetic material is defined as ”material of biological origin containing functional units of heredity” or genes. ICC further states that "in the absence of material, the resource in question does not qualify as a genetic resource under the CBD or the Protocol. (...) In other words, the term refers to the tangible genetic material which must physically contain genes. It, therefore, follows that intangible DSI as such cannot constitute a genetic resource as defined by the CBD. " (3).
(1) Joint Stakeholder Statement "Safeguarding Open Exchange of Digital Sequence Information".
(2) Source: ABS Information Forum <http://nagoyaprotocol.myspecies.info/node/27>, 21.06.2018.
(3) ICC <https://iccwbo.org/publication/digital-sequence-information-and-the-nagoya-protocol>, 21.06.2018.