The issue of how to deal with access to and benefit-sharing from the use of digital sequence information (DSI) on genetic resources was further discussed during an international meeting in June 2022. Progress was made on the formulation of draft recommendations for a decision to be taken on DSI during the important COP-15 meeting, which has been postponed again and will now be held in Montreal, Canada, in December 2022.
During the past few years, an international discussion has been taking place on whether the utilisation of DSI on genetic resources should be subject to Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) obligations, like the utilisation of genetic resources already is. The main discussion forum is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with other international ABS instruments mostly awaiting the outcomes there. Various policy options have been developed on possible ways to deal with access to and benefit-sharing from the utilisation of DSI on genetic resources.
To assess the different policy options, a multi-criteria framework has been developed, with the criteria focusing on effectiveness, efficiency, good governance and coherence. A performance matrix was developed to assess to what extent the policy options fulfill these criteria. More information can be found in this CBD document, with its annex I presenting the policy options, its annex II the criteria and subcriteria to assess these options, and its annex III the performance matrix.
The Geneva meeting in March 2022
During the CBD meeting in Geneva in March 2022, it was agreed that an independent assessment would be made of the consequences of the various proposed policy options, using the formulated criteria and subcriteria. It was also agreed that the Informal Advisory Group on DSI would continue its work, with inclusion of representatives from databases, the scientific research community, the private sector and civil society organizations.
The Nairobi meeting in June 2022
During the additional meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (OEWG-4) held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 21-26 June 2022, the progress in the the Informal Advisory Group on DSI was presented and draft recommendations were discussed for a decision to be taken on DSI during the Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (COP-15). The precise formulation of the recommendations, however, is still open for further discussion.
The recommendations refer to, among other things:
- encouragement of more deposits of data in databases;
- the use of country tags indicating the origin of the genetic resources from which DSI was generated;
- the provision of legal certainty and clarity for providers and users of DSI;
- the solution to be efficient, feasible and practical;
- the solution to be adaptable to future technology changes;
- the solution to be mutually supportive of other ABS instruments;
- the promotion of research and innovation, and technical and scientific cooperation, capacity-building and technology for the purpose of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
- taking into account the the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities over their traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources;
- the monetary and non-monetary benefits arising from the use of DSI on genetic resources to be used to support conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
- access to DSI in public databases to remain open, as this supports research and innovation.
No detailed update was given on the independent assessment of the policy options that is currently being carried out.
It is expected that important decisions on DSI will be taken be taken during the Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (COP-15). In Nairobi it was announced that COP-15 would be postponed again and will now be held in Montreal, Canada, from 7-19 December 2022. To prepare for COP-15, a short fifth meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (OEWG-5) will be held in Montreal from 3-5 December.
What can you do?
As it is expected that important decisions will be taken be taken during COP-15 in December 2022, and the EU position to be taken in COP-15 will be discussed during the coming months, you are invited to make your views known to the Dutch ABS Competent National Authority (Ms Kim van Seeters; email@example.com). It would be very helpful if you could share your assessment of the policy options, especially by filling in the performance matrix. Thank you in advance for your contribution.