By- K. Bharath Reddy, GYBN Team/ National Coordinator India
1. Synopsis on DSI from the plenary:
The agenda item-5 on Digital Sequence Information on genetic resources was opened to discussion on August 23, 2021. The secretariat highlighted the documents of the AHTEG, and relevant information on science and policy based process and informal activities on DSI on genetic resources.
The co-chair of the AHTEG shared the brief report of the outcomes of the AHTEG meetings that mentions DSI as a placeholder term for CBD negotiations. There are three different concepts of DSI more or less inclusive in scope
From the simple order of nucleotides in a strand of DNA.
To concepts such as ‘natural information’ or ‘in silico information’.
The degree of biological processing and the proximity to the underlying genetic resource provide a rationale to group information that may comprise digital sequence information.
The co-chair noted that there is no clear boundary between data and information, noting that DSI includes nucleotides, proteins and epigenetic modifications, and metabolites and other macromolecules. He clarified that even though associated traditional knowledge is not DSI, the AHTEG discussed its importance and benefit-sharing obligations under the Nagoya Protocol and the CBD.
The co-chair provided the options that are being discussed under the CBD negotiations on DSI include:
maintaining status quo with no agreement on how to address access and benefit-sharing (ABS) for DSI;
fully integrating DSI into the CBD and Nagoya Protocol;
use of the standard mutually agreed terms (MAT), either by using national standard MATs or a standard MAT at the international level;
no prior informed consent (PIC), no MAT; this option requires a payment or contribution to a multilateral fund;
enhanced technical and scientific cooperation; and
no benefit sharing from DSI.
Malawi, for the AFRICAN GROUP, proposed that any monetary benefits arising or resulting from all utilization of DSI should be collected through a 1% markup on retail sales of consumer goods arising from the use of genetic resources in developed countries, in cases PIC and MAT are not implementable or practicable. They further noted that technical capacity to generate, access and use DSI is still low in Africa and thus the benefits of open access are not available to all in a fair manner. They also highlighted the relevance of Article 20 and 17.5 of the convention.
Uganda: Endorsed the African group statement and proposed the term "Genetic Science Information". Highlighted the inclusion of passport data in database. Disclosure of the provider country in the patent application. Support the greater enforcement and compliance mechanism.
The REPUBLIC OF KOREA, noting that the term DSI is too broad in scope for its current use in the document, suggested the use of the term “Genetic Resource Sequence Data.”
The EUROPEAN UNION (EU) said DSI is not specifically mentioned in the Nagoya Protocol. EU underscored that the global pandemic has shown its role in protecting human, animal, and plant health, and noted that timely and unrestricted sharing of such data has been effective in responding to the public health crisis.
SWITZERLAND did not support extending the definition of genetic resources to include DSI, yet still welcomed efficient, solution-oriented approaches to addressing DSI, taking into account all stakeholders, including industry and the research community.
INDONESIA, supported by MALAYSIA and UGANDA, stressed linkages of DSI with the Nagoya Protocol. Understanding technology and data measurement is important. Emphasized the science and technical transfer as part of the DSI policy. Highlighted the use of DSI more equitable to use DSI at full potential . Implementing transferred technology. The definition of DSI must reflect in terms of data and available for the technology. The benefit sharing and commercial use are crucial in the consideration for DSI.
NORWAY emphasized transformational change, which underpins the GBF, is not possible without promoting science, research, and innovation.
SAUDI ARABIA called for mechanisms to enhance access to DSI for all countries for purposes of scientific research and innovation.
COLOMBIA, noting the technical nature of the document, called for clarification in the background section or the development of a summary for policymakers.
AUSTRALIA said any benefit-sharing mechanism established for DSI must maintain open access arrangements to ensure the availability and efficient transfer of information for use in science, public health, and innovation development.
JAPAN said that any attempt to monetize DSI is a negative distraction from scientific research and not consistent with the CBD. He opposed linking it to the GBF and said that the options described were based on informal discussions, which were not mandated and are thus problematic from a procedural point of view.
Urging the recognition of the country of origin and a traceability mechanism, MEXICO described DSI as an intrinsic component of the genetic resources requiring fair and equitable benefit-sharing.
ETHIOPIA also called for fair benefit-sharing from DSI through modalities that do not hinder scientific research or innovation. Noting that access to DSI leads to enhancement of innovation, scientific research, food security and public health.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES opposed restrictive measures that hinder progress, while calling for capacity building on DSI.
NAMIBIA said that benefit-sharing from DSI is essential for meeting the CBD objectives and targets, calling the GBF a “once in a generation chance” to establish a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism needed to tackle the challenges to conserve biodiversity.
The UK urged maintaining open access to DSI, while expressing readiness to discuss options for fair and equitable benefit-sharing and resource mobilization.
COSTA RICA noted that free access and non-commercial use can result in non-monetary benefits and said that a mechanism is needed to distribute benefits from commercial use.
MOROCCO pointed out that availability of DSI from genetic resources can make it unnecessary to access the original genetic resource, requiring a concerted effort to address DSI and share monetary benefits.
Calling DSI a scientific revolution that is part of the value chain, SOUTH AFRICA warned against leaving it as a loophole to avoid fair and equitable benefit-sharing, and called for a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism to address inequities.
Noting its recent ratification of the Nagoya Protocol, BRAZIL called benefit-sharing the most neglected objective of the CBD, stressing the importance of DSI in terms of both sharing information and benefits equitably.
JORDAN supported integration of all DSI under the CBD and Nagoya Protocol and increased capacity building.
ARGENTINA urged for a COP decision that recognizes: genetic resources include the information derived from them; effective and innovative mechanisms for benefit-sharing from DSI; and the relevance of related capacity building.
ECUADOR called for developing transparency mechanisms regarding access to and exchange of information.
Several countries, including INDONESIA, NORWAY, and the DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, highlighted the need for capacity building to ensure equal benefit-sharing from DSI.
Discussions continued on Tuesday, 24 August, with the US saying that the path forward on DSI must respect Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs) and respect rights of local knowledge holders.
The INTERNATIONAL INDIGENOUS FORUM ON BIODIVERSITY (IIFB) emphasized that traditional knowledge leads to sequencing, discovery, and innovation, and that rights for breeds, varieties, biological samples, and derivatives should extend to embodied traditional knowledge. She supported a hybrid approach combining full integration of DSI into the Nagoya Protocol, including PIC and MAT, for the use of biological samples acquired from IPLCs’ lands, territories, and waters, or where traditional knowledge is directly accessed.
The GLOBAL YOUTH BIODIVERSITY NETWORK (GYBN) highlighted the current acceleration of generation of genetic sequences involving data from unspecified sources and urged for ensuring principles of ensuring benefit-sharing and respect of traditional knowledge are followed.
The CBD ALLIANCE and CBD WOMEN’S CAUCUS said misappropriation of genetic resources through use of DSI is an existential threat to the Convention as it is actively undermining the CBD’s third objective of fair and equitable benefit-sharing.
The INTERNATIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE cautioned against restrictions that may cause interference with open access and open exchange policies necessary for research and innovation. CGIAR recommended referring to existing international treaties that have made progress in benefit sharing approaches including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) work on genetic resources for food and agriculture.
2. Synopsis of GOAL C:
The open ended working group-3 of the Post 2020 GBF on August 31 during the contact group discussed Goal C on benefits from the utilization of genetic resources.
The original text of the first draft:
The benefits from the utilization of genetic resources are shared fairly and equitably, with a substantial increase in both monetary and non-monetary benefits shared, including for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
The contact group discussed Goal C on benefits from the utilization of genetic resources. Some delegates called to include DSI as utilization of genetic resources. Some objected to including DSI, saying there is no clear text on it in CBD.
The following points were proposed by the representatives that can be part of benefit sharing:
Both monetary and non monetary benefits from the utilization of genetic resources.
take into account derivatives and traditional knowledge;
be proportionate to the growth rate of economic sectors most reliant on the access and use of genetic resources;
follow MAT and PIC;
be done in accordance with the Nagoya Protocol and other benefit-sharing instruments, and with consideration for IPLCs; and
consider principles of international law and international agreements to protect intellectual property.
Regarding increasing monetary and non-monetary benefits, delegates debated whether “substantial increase” is an adequate formulation or if a numerical figure should be included. Some said a baseline should be established to monitor the desired increase of benefits.
Full report on Goal C- https://www.cbd.int/doc/c/c94f/b25b/a026c55dd5cb5019d78946f0/wg2020-03-cg-01-report-en.pdf
3. Synopsis of Target 13 :
Target 13 Original text-
Implement measures at global level and in all countries to facilitate access to genetic resources and to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources, and as relevant, of associated traditional knowledge, including through mutually agreed terms and prior and informed consent.
Several delegates recommended adding derivatives, DSI, biological resources and ecosystem services on Target 13 on legal measures to facilitate access to genetic resources and ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits.
Some delegates highlighted that the benefit sharing mechanism should in accordance with the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol, and other relevant international instruments.
A PIC with traditional knowledge holders was proposed and endorsed by several parties.
Some proposed splitting this target to separate access to genetic resources, benefit-sharing, and implementation of ABS mechanisms.
Others urged streamlining ABS measures to reduce current inefficiencies.
Another suggestion was to create a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism funded by a 1% levy on retail sales in developed countries of all products derived from biodiversity.
A suggestion to ensure planning and support for the development of educational, scientific, technological and trade capacity of developing countries was also supported.
Full report on Target 13- https://www.cbd.int/doc/c/2df7/b027/df61d0d6d40702f37b60aabe/wg2020-03-cg-03-report-en.pdf
4. Synopsis of DSI Recommended Decisions-CRP1:
The possible components of the Open Ended Working Group-3 on Digital Sequence Information were only discussed and were not negotiated nor agreed.
It constitutes a collection of views from the parties and observers.
These decisions are still in square brackets that signify that there is as yet, no agreement on the words within them.
The meeting recommended that decisions should be adopted by COP-15
Full report on DSI recommended decisions- CRP-1 :