Covington & Burling LLP

02/03/2023 | News release | Archived content

Submit your views! Consultation on the New Global Biodiversity Fund Paid For by Life Sciences Companies that “Use Digital Sequence Information on Genetic Resources”

On 19 December 2022, the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) decided to create a new global mechanism requiring the private sector to pay into a new Global Biodiversity Trust Fund.

The new fund is expected to generate up to 15 billion USD per year, based on contributions from companies that "use digital sequence information on genetic resources." This is to ensure that companies creating value from biodiversity "share fairly and equitably" the "monetary benefits" that are generated from commercialization of products or processes derived from anything in nature. These monies will then be spent on halting and reversing biodiversity loss, e.g. human induced extinction of threatened species.

Crucially, the mechanism already exists, and the goal is to have it operational by the start of 2025. Due to this ambitious time-line, the CBD Secretariat is now soliciting stakeholders' views by 15 March. For more info on this new mechanism, please see my blog from December 2022.

I strongly urge the reader to consider submitting views. I say this from a genuine concern over its potential impact on life sciences R&D. This new mechanism is essentially a new Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS), applicable to "digital sequence information" on biological materials instead of the physical samples themselves. And the unspoken truth of the Nagoya Protocol is that the societal cost of that mechanism, such as through lost R&D and enormous compliance and transaction costs, has far outstripped any benefits for biodiversity. If not done well, this new mechanism could have the same consequence for data-driven 21st century science.

The topics that stakeholders are invited to express their views on, are the following:

(a) Governance of the fund;

(b) Triggering points for benefit-sharing;

(c) Contributions to the fund;

(d) Potential to voluntarily extend the multilateral mechanism to genetic resources or biological diversity;

(e) Disbursement of monetary benefits, including information on geographical origin as one of the criteria;

(f) Non-monetary benefit-sharing, including information on geographical origin as one of the criteria;

(g) Other policy options for the sharing of benefits from the use of digital sequence information on genetic resources;

(h) Capacity development and technology transfer;

(i) Monitoring and evaluation and review of effectiveness;

(j) Adaptability of the mechanism to other resource mobilization instruments or funds;

(k) Interface between national systems and the multilateral mechanism on benefit-sharing;

(l) Relationship with the Nagoya Protocol;

(m) Role, rights and interests of indigenous peoples and local communities, including associated traditional knowledge;

(n) Role and interests of industry and academia;

(o) Linkages between research and technology and the multilateral mechanism on benefit sharing;

(p) Principles of data governance.