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Intellectual Property

Governments commission studies on use of digital DNA, under Nagoya Protocol

by Cheryl Hogue
December 16, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 49


Photo of Zhou Jinfeng behind a flower arrangement.
Credit: Xinhua/Sipa USA/Newscom
Zhou Jinfeng, secretary general of China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, spoke at the biodiversity treaty conference in Egypt in November.

Countries want more information before deciding whether digital sequences in open-access databases should be treated the same as biological samples under a treaty to prevent biopiracy. The treaty stipulates that users of genetic resources must share benefits from using genetic resources with the countries that are home to the organisms from which the genetic material is derived. At a November conference, treaty partners considered a proposal that could require fees on commercial products developed from digital genetic sequence data rather than directly from biological materials. They were unable to agree on that plan and instead commissioned a set of peer-reviewed studies. One will delve into how digital sequence information is currently used. Another will examine traceability of digital sequence data. The results of these and other studies will inform future discussions of partners to the treaty, formally called the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilization.


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