The political debate surrounding digital sequence information (DSI) from genetic resources (GR) under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol has garnered immense interest and raised concern across the international scientific community. The Leibniz Institute DSMZ, on behalf of the Leibniz Association, has become actively involved in this policy issue and, together with the Leibniz Institute IPK Gatersleben, is leading an interdisciplinary project along to research DSI options ahead of the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the CBD.
With the publication of the new IPBES Report on May 6, 2019, awareness has grown that the human-induced loss of biological diversity and the extinction of species. This report and other science-based assessments form the basis for the negotiations of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which will enable a framework for action on the objectives of the CBD for the next 10 years. In order to be able to successfully negotiate this framework at the next UN negotiations at the Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in Kunming in October 2020*, compromises are expected from all involved parties. One type of compromise calls for the inclusion of so-called "digital sequence information" (DSI) in the definition of genetic resources, thus making sequence data subject to the CBD and potentially also the Nagoya Protocol.
The contents of public sequence databases are growing exponentially and countries of origin fear that direct access to the increasing amount of freely available sequence information undermines the sharing of benefits for genetic resources. At the same time, DSI and its free accessibility are essential for all areas of the life sciences, including biodiversity research, food security, human health and much more. In order to prevent a "compromise" with disastrous consequences for the international research community from being negotiated, the scientific community must become more involved and proactively research and develop interdisciplinary and fair solutions for all concerned before the negotiations in Kunming, China in October 2020*. Such solutions should guarantee open access to sequence databases, but at the same time show whether and how benefit sharing (including monetary) within the value chain might be possible.
*Please note that the meeting has now been postponed due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
WiLDSI Project: Wissenschaftsbasierte Lösungsansätze für Digitale Sequenzinformation (DSI)
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has funded an interdisciplinary project called “Wissenschaftsbasierte Lösungsansätze für Digitale Sequenzinformation (DSI) (WiLDSI)” led by the Leibniz Institute DSMZ and the Leibniz Institute IPK Gatersleben to investigate possible solutions for how to handle DSI within the CBD framework.
The WiLDSI project aims to identify and describe in detail approaches (scenarios) with which both free access to the genetic sequence data for non-commercial purposes are enabled and at the same time a sustainable benefit sharing for the countries of origin can be established. The results of the project should also show that free access to DSI is essential for research, especially in emerging and developing countries and document the value of DSI and international collaboration with scientists in less-industrialized countries. To achieve this, existing models from other sectors (databases, financing, international law, development policy) will be used to learn and identify how these separate building blocks can be put together. To this end, database, legal, scientific and finance experts were selected to investigate and research viable solutions for DSI that preserve open access but at the same time enable monetary benefit sharing. These experts form the core members of the WiLDSI project.
The WiLDSI project has organized two workshops to involve the scientific stakeholder community in Germany as well as the European stakeholder community – academia as well as industry -- in the policy discussions surrounding DSI. The objective of these workshops is to engage the scientific community and develop interdisciplinary and fair solutions for all concerned in advance of the upcoming negotiations in Kunming.