Montreal: Digital Sequence Information (DSI) which was adopted as part of the historic deal to protect biodiversity at the COP15 conference here will ensure the flow of funds to countries like India for the conservation of nature, experts say. Through the Nagoya Protocol, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity aims to distribute benefits arising from genetic resources between users who are corporate entities and providers who are indigenous communities and farmers conserving these resources in developing countries.
But now, with DSI technology, companies can use nucleotide sequences of genetic resources using genetic engineering, without needing to physically access resources from their country of origin. At COP15, developing countries have maintained that benefits resulting from DSI should also be shared equitably.
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According to Justin Mohan, Secretary, National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), DSI is now a part of the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) under Target 13 and Goal C and could benefit developing countries from funds accruing from the products manufactured using DSI Technology.
The parties had agreed upon a consensus to bring DSI into the access and benefit sharing (ABS) mechanism. The modalities of sharing these benefits would be taken up by a working group based on suggestions received from different countries and these recommendations are expected to be adopted at the next COP in Turkey, Mr. Mohan told PTI.
A decision to constitute a Working Group has been agreed upon by the Parties. A major expectation from COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held between December 7-19 was a decision on DSI to financially support biodiversity conservation.
DSI will ensure that products manufactured using DSI Technology would be covered under the benefit-sharing mechanism. This will help to finance biodiversity conservation in developing countries including India. DSI Scientific Network member Amber Scholz noted that discussions on DSI have come a long way and that a multilateral DSI benefit-sharing framework where access to DSI is ‘decoupled’ from benefit-sharing is needed.
This, she said, is because payment would not trigger by access to the databases but downstream at the point of commercialisation.
Benefit-sharing should be ensured by mechanisms that do not limit access to DSI. This is a fundamental shift away from traditional control-oriented ABS to a new idea of open access (OA) and benefit-sharing (BS). This is necessary to protect the many benefits of openness and recognise that benefit-sharing can be accomplished without dramatically altering real-world access, Ms. Scholz said.
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While rules administering the sharing of DSI benefits are vital to ensure equity, Scholz points out that they should not undermine access to DSI for essential science and research. However, if DSI is commercially used, then it should be covered under the benefit-sharing mechanism. Indeed, deliberations are currently focused on bringing DSI into the Nagoya Protocol for access and benefit sharing (ABS) for commercial utilisation.
The deliberations are also focused on how developed countries can assist developing countries through funds mobilised from DSI.
While developed countries from Europe have been arguing to set up a multilateral funding mechanism which can be used to park funds accruing from DSI, developing countries have been requesting for the establishment of both a multilateral and a bilateral mechanism, whenever the source of the biological resource is known. Similarly, many developed countries have opined that tracking of DSI is not practical which is not agreeable to countries like India, South Africa, and Latin American Countries, Mr. Mohan said.
Guido Broekhoven, Head of Policy Research and Development, World Wide Fund (WWF) International, noted that through DSI, India will benefit from increased efforts on conservation that it can put in place.
I think there will be increased biodiversity finance related to these increased efforts for conservation. I think it is also clear that the transformation of these sectors to try and find biodiversity loss needs to happen in an equitable way, Mr. Broekhoven told PTI.
Mr. Mohan clarified that several species are endemic to a region, for example in the case of Red Sanders (or red sandalwood) which has a lot of medicinal properties and is found naturally only in India, and therefore, he argued, that benefits from DSI should move to that country. Red Sanders is a species of Pterocarpus endemic to the southern Eastern Ghats mountain range of South India.
India has been arguing that wherever the source of the biological resource is known and there are no issues of traceability, the funds accruing from DSI should be plowed back to the source country, the delegate said.
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However, if there are traceability issues, then the funds can be parked in the multilateral funding mechanism which can be utilised for conserving biodiversity in developing countries, he added. Ms. Scholz said in order to incentivise the generation of biodiversity data, funds should be distributed through project-based applications based on a country’s development status and its DSI contribution to the global dataset.
Those lower and middle-income countries that contribute more DSI to the global dataset, would receive comparatively more funds. This would create an incentive to illuminate biodiversity blind spots and build up in-country expertise, she added.
Mr. Mohan noted that a majority of biodiversity-rich countries are located in Asia, Africa, and South America between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
With DSI becoming a reality, developing countries that are rich in biodiversity would benefit from funds to conserve their biodiversity. This will help the indigenous communities who conserve biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge in a big way, he added.
The adoption of a robust and ambitious Post 2020-Global Biodiversity Framework at COP15 is being hailed as the moment on par with the Paris Agreement for the Climate Change Convention. Adoption of DSI would go a long way to meet the financial requirement for biodiversity conservation in developing countries in the coming years. The biodiversity funding gap is estimated to stand at around USD 700 billion every year.
Mr. Mohan said India’s Biological Diversity Act, of 2002 already regulates information associated with biological resources under the benefit-sharing mechanism and the Post-2020 GBF would go a long way towards making it more explicit by bringing DSI under the ABS mechanism.
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(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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