Free Access

Issue Information

  • Pages: 1
  • First Published: 09 December 2021
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A vibrant display of banana diversity exhibited at the National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB) in Trichy, India. Global production of bananas is under threat and increasing the use of germplasm conserved in genebanks is crucial to respond to this challenge. However, the lack of, or difficult access to, genetic diversity information limits the efficient utilization of valuable resources. Please see Rouard et al's article in this issue, which presents a digital catalog of high-density markers for banana germplasm conserved at the International Musa Germplasm Transit Centre (ITC). By facilitating access to genetic diversity information, the catalog has the potential to maximize conservation and use of climate-ready varieties, and to optimize breeding strategies. Image courtesy of Julie Sardos.


Open Access

Biodiversity data: The importance of access and the challenges regarding benefit sharing

  • Pages: 2-4
  • First Published: 09 December 2021

Negotiations around the potential inclusion of biodiversity data within the scope of access and benefit sharing mechanisms of international treaties on genetic resources have been contentious. Uncertainty persists around which data might be included and the impacts of this important change on the ability to advance science. This special collection of research, review, and opinion articles provides a range of evidence and viewpoints contributing context to these negotiations and the underlying scientific issues involved. Emerging themes include the need for clarity on the scope of biodiversity data subject to access and benefit sharing; the recognition that open exchange of these data provides substantial societal benefits; the prognosis that substantial constraints on access to biodiversity data will negatively impact research; the consensus that multilateral systems of exchange are preferable to bilateral ones; and emphasis on further capacity building and other forms of benefit sharing to enable wider use and impact of these data.


Open Access

Bringing access and benefit sharing into the digital age

  • Pages: 5-12
  • First Published: 21 February 2021
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Reading and writing DNA is now possible with an unprecedented speed and ease. To catch up with digitization of genetic resources, scientists need to join with all relevant stakeholders and design new global governance mechanisms for digital sequence information. We propose the establishment of a Multi-stakeholder Committee on the Governance of Digital Sequence Information (DSI). This multi-disciplinary body will be dedicated to mitigate governance issues associated with the digitization of genetic resources. Solving the DSI conundrum is sorely needed given the forthcoming multilateral meetings of the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) framework (the next CBD COP is scheduled in 2021) that are central to tackle the global loss of biodiversity, global warming, pandemic risk and food insecurity.

Open Access

Bounded openness: A robust modality of access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits

  • Pages: 13-22
  • First Published: 09 December 2021
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The Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway. Controversy surrounds the choice of modality for access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization, as established in the third objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The modality chosen by the Conference of the Parties should promote conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources, which are the first and second objectives of the convention. “Bounded openness over natural information” achieves all three objectives by aligning incentives between users and Providers. With philanthropic support, the modality can also be applied to unpublished traditional knowledge, which would enhance food security.

Open Access

Practical consequences of digital sequence information (DSI) definitions and access and benefit-sharing scenarios from a plant genebank’s perspective

  • Pages: 23-32
  • First Published: 02 May 2021

As the world is facing a climate crisis and a growing population, feeding this population is a big challenge. Genebanks, conserving and providing access to genetic resources, and plant breeders, using genetic resources from genebanks to create new varieties, play important roles in meeting this challenge. Before making decisions potentially restricting access to digital sequence information (DSI) on genetic resources, it is therefore important to consider the impact of the decisions on the activities of these actors. In this paper, an analysis is made of DSI definitions and access and benefit-sharing scenarios in the context of their consequences for genebank management.

Open Access

Uses and benefits of digital sequence information from plant genetic resources: Lessons learnt from botanical collections

  • Pages: 33-43
  • First Published: 21 September 2021
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Digitized molecular data are vital to numerous aspects of scientific research and genetic resource use. The Convention on Biological Diversity currently refers to this as “Digital Sequence Information” (DSI), a term not widely adopted by science and lacking a clear definition. There are concerns over the access to genetic resources and absence of benefit sharing by provider countries. Open access to DSI might exacerbate this, which is leading to increasing policy interventions and restricted access to genetic resources and DSI. We analyze current international debate and proposed solutions and provide case studies of DSI use producing tangible benefits for the provider countries and scientific research, demonstrating the importance of open access DSI to achieving conservation goals.

Open Access

Crop archaeogenomics: A powerful resource in need of a well-defined regulation framework

  • Pages: 44-50
  • First Published: 24 October 2021
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Crop archaeogenomics has rapidly flourished in recent years, leading to a new way of understanding the past and bringing answers to important questions about human history in relation to plant management and food production. Furthermore, the knowledge derived from the analysis of ancient crops can contribute to the development of a more sustainable future. However, the extant legal framework presents a number of challenges when applied to this research field, particularly in the current scenario of disparities in scientific outcomes between countries. We expose the uncertainties of the legal framework and the factors that maintain or exacerbate these inequalities, as well as possible solutions.


Open Access

The international political process around Digital Sequence Information under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the 2018–2020 intersessional period

  • Pages: 51-60
  • First Published: 05 May 2021
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The international conservation of biological diversity is addressed under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and goals for the next decade will be discussed at the next Conference of the Parties. One issue under negotiation in the CBD is Digital Sequence Information (DSI), which has created tension between parties calling for preserving open access to DSI who also note its importance in addressing biodiversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals and those parties calling for fair and equitable benefit sharing from DSI. This article introduces scientists to the current debate and political process on DSI within the CBD.


Open Access

A digital catalog of high-density markers for banana germplasm collections

  • Pages: 61-67
  • First Published: 01 March 2021
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Global production of bananas, among the top ten food crops worldwide, is under threat. Increasing the use of germplasm conserved in genebanks is crucial. However, the lack of or difficult access to genetic diversity information limits the efficient utilization of these valuable resources. Here, we present a digital catalog of high-density markers for banana germplasm conserved at the international banana collection. By facilitating access to subsets of genetic diversity information, the catalog has potential to maximize conservation and use of climate-ready varieties and to optimize breeding strategies. The catalog is extendable with data from any banana collection and the software is easily deployable in other crop genebanks.


Open Access

Is the Nagoya Protocol designed to conserve biodiversity?

  • Pages: 68-75
  • First Published: 16 August 2021
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We have entered a monumental era in terms of realizing the impact of biodiversity loss on our everyday lives. We suffer from the consequences of biodiversity loss due to overexploitation of natural resources as we continue failing to restore biodiversity. One of the major consequences of biodiversity loss is the emergence of global pandemics. We are in urgent need of realizing the full potential of all of the international legal instruments on creating incentives for biodiversity conservation. Access and benefit-sharing or ABS is an international legal framework implemented with the hopes that it would provide such incentives. Therefore, a legal analysis on whether ABS is designed to achieve biodiversity conservation is of crucial importance in achieving international conservation targets.

Open Access

Access and benefit-sharing DNA Componentry for plant synthetic biology: Bioparts expressed in plant chassis

  • Pages: 76-83
  • First Published: 18 February 2021

The “Parts Agenda” is an approach to synthetic biology that fragments genetic resources into functional bioparts to help design and build biological devices and systems. Access and benefit-sharing (ABS), and the issue of how to regulate digital sequence information (DSI) within the current ABS regime, poses a problem for synthetic biology because it assumes fragmented and abstracted bioparts can be traced to their country of origin for the purposes of benefit-sharing, and that contributions to information and knowledge can be quantified and appropriately valued. Any DSI regulatory solutions should account for genetic resource fragmentation and other complexities of modern scientific practice.

Open Access

Governance and stewardship for research data and information sharing: Issues and prospective solutions in the transdisciplinary plant phenotyping and imaging research center network

  • Pages: 84-95
  • First Published: 03 November 2021
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High-throughput plant phenotyping is a transdisciplinary field of research that provides a systematic approach to assessing and understanding the life cycle of plants and aims to integrate plant genotype with plant ecophysiology and agronomy. Sharing data and information (D&I) is key to accelerating new scientific breakthroughs and innovations in plant phenotyping. The development of a governance and stewardship framework can overcome institutional, legal, and technical barriers that limit D&I sharing. This framework governs how decisions are made about D&I, how researchers engage with each other to manage D&I, and improves the content, discoverability, accessibility, and usability of D&I from different sources.

Open Access

How regulatory issues surrounding new breeding technologies can impact smallholder farmer breeding: A case study from the Philippines

  • Pages: 96-105
  • First Published: 22 September 2021

The wide spread use of patents on plants and plant parts in low- and middle-income countries demonstrates the increasing privatisation of crop genetic resources and potentially limits the use of these resources in farmer breeding, increasing the dependence of smallholder farmers on the private seed sector. Use of genetically modified traits in farmer breeding poses biosafety issues. Adaptation of patent legislation to the benefit of smallholder breeding and development of alternative seed sources from the public breeding sector could contain these negative impacts on farmer-breeder efforts and ultimately on food and nutrition security.