Benefit-sharing of Genetic Resources
The Advanced Study Group (ASG) debates the many dimensions of benefit-sharing in the context of genetic resources, having identified a lack of universally accepted definitions, objectives, and methods of benefit-sharing available for the members of the scientific community and wider stakeholder groups.
Recent advances in DNA sequencing and manipulation technologies promise seemingly limitless possibilities to utilise genetic resources from species of plants and animals. Since the vast majority of biological diversity is found in tropical regions, it is highly likely that the potential of genetic resources will be explored in tropical countries. However, currently, much of the exploration is likely to be conducted by researchers from Europe and North America. At the international level, fairness and equity as well as balancing the rights of Global North and Global South are typically addressed through benefit-sharing. While there has been much international debate on this topic from academic fields such as law and biology, critical gaps remain. This raises important questions of ownership and access to potential commercial and non-commercial benefits.
While benefit-sharing presents itself as a method to achieve reciprocity and balance between the subjects, materials and actors involved in research, there exists no accountability as to whether benefit-sharing in its legal and policy realm is achieving what it intends to achieve.At the international legal arena, benefit-sharing is an interconnected element of human rights and biodiversity conservation. This interconnectedness has not been appropriately addressed in terms of what stakeholders, in principle, aim to achieve with benefit-sharing.
Our purpose stems from the problem we have equivocally identified regarding the lack of universally accepted definitions, objectives, and methods of benefit-sharing that are available for the members of the scientific community and wider stakeholder groups. Even though there is no unified definition or guidelines on sustaining the concerns related to fair and equitable benefit-sharing, anyone that uses genetic resources in their research must deal with benefit-sharing obligations on a daily basis. The legal and political system of benefit-sharing deriving from the utilisation of genetic resources is a multidimensional concept present in numerous fields, including biodiversity studies, pharmaceutics, animal husbandry, plant biology, and human genetics, to name but a few. The common issues and challenges of benefit-sharing have numerous synergies that are relevant from the perspective of our fields.