International agreement needed for continued access to “Digital Sequence Information”

Published on
March 25, 2019

With the ‘genomic revolution’, organisms, genetic material or genes can be sequenced relatively cheaply, and data can be exchanged rapidly between researchers, institutions, countries and databases. The amount of so-called “Digital Sequence Information” (DSI) in international, public or dedicated databases is exponentially increasing, as is the use of that type of data.

The Nagoya Protocol (NP) on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) regulates the international exchange of genetic resources and possible benefit sharing arrangements between providers and users. Access to and use of DSI is now also being discussed in the context of the CBD and the NP.

Innovations in many domains and subsectors, ranging from agriculture and biodiversity conservation to biotechnology and human health, depend on the use of DSI. Access to DSI and related technologies is important for any country.

The opinion of stakeholders in the Netherlands is that DSI is not equivalent to genetic resources. Open access to DSI should be promoted, and potential benefit sharing arrangements for DSI could best be dealt with in a multilateral context. According to the stakeholders, access to information, capacity building, technology transfer and research collaboration are key benefit sharing elements.

The research for this report was conducted by the Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands, commissioned and funded by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV).