Rethink the expansion of access and benefit sharing

13 March 2020 Vol 367, Issue 6483


Policy Forum
Rethink the expansion of access and benefit sharing
By Sarah Laird, Rachel Wynberg, Michelle Rourke, Fran Humphries, Manuel Ruiz Muller, Charles Lawson
Science13 Mar 2020 : 1200-1202 Full Access
Several UN policy processes are embracing a calcified approach to conservation and equity in science
Access and benefit sharing (ABS), a policy approach that links access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge to the sharing of monetary and nonmonetary benefits, first found expression in the 1992 United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Predicated on the sovereign rights of countries over their biodiversity and associated genetic resources and intended to harness the economic power of those resources to create incentives for and fund biodiversity conservation, the ABS transaction was conceived to foster equitable relations between those parties providing genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge and those wishing to make use of them for research and development. Yet although challenges faced within the CBD suggest that it is time to rethink ABS, several other international policy processes under the auspices of the UN have instead been embracing the ABS approach, and are doing so largely outside of mainstream scientific discourse and attention. The resulting policies could have a major impact on how genetic resources and associated information are collected, stored, shared, and used, and on how research partnerships are configured. We highlight implications for science of the recent expansion of ABS in global policy, in particular the potential incorporation of genetic sequence data.