New open access book provides essential background for molecular biodiversity researchers on international policy regarding use and transfer of genetic materials
Molecular biology approaches, such as DNA barcoding, have become part of the standard toolkit for a growing number of biodiversity researchers and practitioners, with an increasing scope of applications in important areas, such as environmental assessment, food inspection, disease control and public education.
Globalization and the advent of bioinformatics are rapidly changing the landscape of international scientific collaborations, which now often span multiple jurisdictions and increase the volume of international data exchange and transactions of biological materials. At the same time, researchers engaging in such partnerships are often unaware of the complex policy frameworks governing such transactions, which may carry reputational and even legal liabilities.
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) and its supplementary agreement, the Nagoya Protocol (ratified in 2014), are the most prominent international treaties designed to provide a legal framework for ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from research activities involving genetic resources. Although often challenging and, at times, frustrating, it is important for researchers to understand the ramifications of these international agreements, to ensure that their scientific reputations are not tainted with allegations of unfair or unethical practices.
The recent book by Canadian ABS consultant and advisor to Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Kate Davis, and University of Guelph, Canada, researcher and international development expert, Alex Borisenko, offers a perspective on the ramifications of the Convention and the Nagoya Protocol on molecular biodiversity research.
Titled ‘Introduction to Access and Benefit-Sharing and the Nagoya Protocol: What DNA Barcoding Researchers Need to Know‘, it is openly available from Pensoft as an advanced book or PDF document under Creative Commons License.
This contribution is specifically geared towards researchers and practitioners working in the field of DNA barcoding – an actively developing field of biology that advances molecular tools for fast, reliable identification and discovery of species by analyzing short standardized DNA fragments, known as ‘DNA barcode regions’.
This approach, lying at the interface between genomics and biodiversity science, is creating the global knowledge base needed to assess ecosystem services and detect emerging environmental threats, while addressing the imperative of preserving the world’s biodiversity. Carrying out this mission demands close partnerships between biodiversity researchers worldwide, and also relies on large molecular facilities to provide timely, cost-effective and high-quality analytical services, thereby involving active international transactions of biological materials.
Furthermore, the utility of DNA barcoding depends on active open data sharing in ways similar to those established by the medical community for human genomic information.
The book is prefaced by the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Dr. Cristiana Pa?ca Palmer. It provides a brief introduction to the Convention and the Nagoya Protocol, and reviews some of their key legal definitions (e.g., ‘genetic resources’, ‘access’, and ‘utilization’). These definitions are considered within the context of terms more familiar to researchers (e.g., tissue samples, DNA extracts, PCR products, trace files) and their daily activities (e.g., field collecting, molecular analysis, DNA sequence assembly).
The main chapters provide further insights into the structure and function of the access and benefit-sharing mechanism at the international policy level and its possible ramifications in form of national laws and institutional requirements.
The text concludes with a set of practical guidelines for researchers and practitioners on the steps that should be taken to ensure due diligence when working with internationally-sourced biological samples. Adhering to these best practices would help build trust and sustain research collegiality among partners involved in international collaboration.
Davis K, Borisenko A (2017) Introduction to Access and Benefit-Sharing and the Nagoya Protocol: What DNA Barcoding Researchers Need to Know. Advanced Books. https:/