Science and Technology Innovation Program

The Nagoya Protocol and Synthetic Biology Research: A Look at the Potential Impacts

By
Arti K. Rai and Margo A. Bagley

This report assesses how implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (NP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) may affect U.S. researchers working in the area of synthetic biology. It also analyzes selected provisions in CBD-related national legislation predating the NP that may be relevant for such researchers. The report concludes that numerous questions remain unanswered, both with respect to the time period covered by CBD/NP and with respect to what sorts of genetic material are covered. Despite this uncertainty, and despite the fact that the U.S. is not a party to the CBD/NP, U.S. researchers would be well-advised to inquire into the origin of tangible genetic material that they use and, where applicable, to ensure that such material was taken in compliance with the domestic law of a provider country. With respect to digital genetic information, determining origin is likely to be more difficult. Even so, provider countries may assert that such information falls within the scope of the CBD/NP.

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