What is Digital Sequence Information (DSI) about?

Published on
June 1, 2023

Discussions on whether and how to address benefit-sharing from digital sequence information (DSI) on genetic resources have been going on for some time now. What is DSI about? The ABS Capacity Development Initiative has produced the video animation “DSI – Simply Explained”, showing the increasing importance of DSI and the background of the discussions on benefit-sharing from DSI.

What is DSI about?

Although digital sequence information (DSI) is being discussed in many fora, there is no consensus on the precise definition of the term DSI, but it is generally used to refer to genomic information. DSI allows researchers to study or use a genetic resources without accessing the physical resource. For example, genomic sequence data can be used to develop vaccines for viruses.

To help you understand what DSI is about, the German ABS Capacity Development Initiative has produced a short, animated video (“DSI – Simply Explained”) explaining the DSI discussion and illustrating its importance for the CBD’s three objectives (conservation, sustainable use of biological diversity and fair and equitable benefit-sharing). The video also describes how DSI is being generated, used and stored, providing various practical examples.

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International discussions on DSI

For a few years now, international discussions have 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), but DSI is also discussed in other international fora, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

During CBD meetings in Montreal in December 2022, it was decided that in the CBD a multilateral approach would be followed for benefit-sharing from the utilisation of DSI on genetic resources, and that a follow-up process would be started to discuss further details. The next step in this process will be a meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Benefit-sharing from the Use of Digital Sequence Information on Genetic Resources, to be held in November 2023.

More information

More information on the discussions on benefit-sharing from DSI can be found in various earlier news articles on the ABS Focal Point website, e.g. ‘Digital Sequence Information (DSI): outcomes of the CBD meetings in December 2022’ and ‘Opportunities to provide input on DSI before CBD meetings in December’.

If you have further questions, you may also contact Ms Kim van Seeters (ABS Competent National Authority; or Mr Martin Brink (National Focal Point on ABS;