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Access to plant genetic data sparks conflict between rich, poor countries trying to breed climate-resilient crops

| November 18, 2019

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Ahead of renewed negotiations to revise a global treaty in Rome on [November 11], rich and poor countries are at loggerheads over how to share genetic plant data that could help breed crops better able to withstand climate change.

The little-known agreement is seen as crucial for agricultural research and development on a planet suffering from rising hunger, malnutrition and the effects of climate change.

“We need all the ‘genetics’ around the world to be able to breed crops that will adapt to global warming,” said Sylvain Aubry, a plant biologist who advises the Swiss government.

The debate over “digital sequence information” (DSI) has erupted as the cost of sequencing genomes falls, boosting the availability of genetic plant data, Aubry said.

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Pierre du Plessis, an African technical adviser on treaty issues, said companies and breeders can use DSI to identify the genetic sequence of a desired plant trait and send it by email to a gene foundry that prints and mails back a strand of DNA.

That process could enable businesses to circumvent the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which stipulates that the benefits derived from using material from species it covers must be shared — including money and new technology.

Read full, original article: Rich and poor debate treaty on plant gene data as climate change hits crops

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