Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Data
A friend of a friend asked about Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) related to genetic resources. Apparently the regressives within the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) membership are trying to apply ABS to genetic resources at the level of the sequences. I did a litte bit of research and discovered the situation to be as clear as mud.
In the US, the Myriad BRCA patent was struck down, reaffirmed, vacated, reaffirmed, and so on. After a fair bit of ping-pong judgments, the US Supreme Court did strike down Myriad’s patent on naturally occurring genetic material but also added that derivatives could be encumbered. Never a clean ending can we have.
For kicks, I looked at GenBank’s data usage policy and came away mystified. The policy says:
The GenBank database is designed to provide and encourage access within the scientific community to the most up-to-date and comprehensive DNA sequence information. Therefore, NCBI places no restrictions on the use or distribution of the GenBank data. However, some submitters may claim patent, copyright, or other intellectual property rights in all or a portion of the data they have submitted. NCBI is not in a position to assess the validity of such claims, and therefore cannot provide comment or unrestricted permission concerning the use, copying, or distribution of the information contained in GenBank.
Huh! So, on the one hand, NCBI places no restrictions on the use or distribution of the GenBank data but on the other hand, NCBI cannot provide comment or unrestricted permission concerning the use, copying, or distribution of the information contained in GenBank. Confused much?
For plant genetic resources, I saw the following literature:
The “Tragedy of the Commons” in Plant Genetic Resources: The Need for a New International Regime Centered Around an International Biotechnology Patent Office by Chetan Gulati
ILRI’s Policy on Intellectual Property Rights, Biosafety and Bioethics (September 1998 Revised November 2000)
The access and sharing policy of the biodiversity collection at University of Texas