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Digital Sequence Information (DSI) plays a fundamental role in environmental and biological research, contributing to understanding of the molecular basis of life and evolution and of the ways in which genes can potentially be manipulated to provide new therapies and cures for diseases, new energy sources and other new products. It also plays important roles in taxonomy, identifying and mitigating risks to threatened species, tracking illegal trade, identifying the geographical origin of products and planning conservation management. (http://www.fao.org/cgrfa/topics/digital-sequence-information/en/)

As part of the preparation for the upcoming United Nation (UN) Biodiversity Conference which will be tentatively held at Kunming, China on 17-30 May 2021, the Department of Science and Technology-Biosafety Committee (DOST-BC) reinforces their knowledge on DSI which is one of the contentious issues that will be negotiated during the UN Biodiversity Conference.

In the third instalment of the monthly seminar held last 19 September 2020 via Zoom, the DOST-BC invited Atty. Dominic Muyldermans to talk on DSI. Atty. Muyldermans is presently working as an independent attorney in the Intellectual Property Department of the law firm Allen & Overy in Brussels, focusing on issues of Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) and Intellectual Property (IP). He also serves as an adviser to CropLife International, and EuropaBio on ABS and IP for many years. He is an active participant in the ABS Task Force of the International Chamber of Commerce and has been leading the sub-teams on DSI and Derivatives. Lastly, he was the industry representative in the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on DSI under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol (NP) last March of 2020.

Atty. Muylderman provided an overview, observations, and some of the positions from the user’s perspective on DSI. Since the term “DSI” currently has no agreed definition, he mentioned the importance of the clarity of the concept of DSI based on scientific definitions and expertise and to recognize the unencumbered access to DSI held in public databases, which are an effective and inclusive system for sharing DSI globally, as a form of (non-monetary) benefit sharing. He added that we need to shift from monetary benefit- sharing to inclusive value - creation and sharing and optimizing its value through ensuring open access, safeguarding integrity of open database system and to focus on targeted capacity building. He ended his presentation with these two take away messages: 1. there is a need to rethink the ABS framework to support research and development, and align with principles of open science and open data, which support international collaboration, and 2. the success of the negotiations on the Post-2020 Framework should be defined by the effectiveness of the mechanisms and policies agreed in achieving all three objectives of the CBD and by the value they contribute to society as a whole.