As sequencing technology has advanced, the ability of scientists to rapidly generate large quantities of genetic sequence data (GSD) has greatly improved. These data are often made freely available through online databases such as those provided by the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration. With vast amounts of information now easily and freely accessible, questions have arisen over how these data should be regulated—or if they should be regulated at all.
For nearly five years, debate has ensued over the potential inclusion of GSD in an access and benefit-sharing (ABS) scheme. In a July publication in the journal Global Food Security, Jim Gaffney and colleagues argue that open access to GSD is critical to improving food security and sustainability and promoting equity in science. To illustrate, they describe four crops commonly grown in Africa and demonstrate how access to GSD has the potential to revolutionize their production, thereby improving food security in a region with a rapidly growing population. Furthermore, the authors claim that the data alone have minimal value without considerable investment by researchers or additional information, such as phenotypic data. Therefore, open access to GSD presents little risk of inequitable benefit sharing. To introduce excessive regulation and monetization to GSD systems, the authors argue, is to cause a drastic slowdown of essential research progress and an exacerbation of an imbalance that already exists between those who are able to produce and use GSD and those who are not.
Read this article in The Global Food Security Journal on ScienceDirect: Open access to genetic sequence data maximizes value to scientists, farmers, and society
Article summary by Anna Weber
Gaffney, Jim, et al. “Open Access to Genetic Sequence Data Maximizes Value to Scientists, Farmers, and Society.” Global Food Security, vol. 26, 31 July 2020, p. 100411., doi:10.1016/j.gfs.2020.100411.