FAO.org

Home > Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture > Topics > Digital sequence information

Digital sequence information

“Digital sequence information” (“DSI”) plays a fundamental role in environmental and biological research, contributing to understanding of the molecular basis of life and evolution and of the ways in which genes can potentially be manipulated to provide new therapies and cures for diseases, new energy sources and other new products. It also plays important roles in taxonomy, identifying and mitigating risks to threatened species, tracking illegal trade, identifying the geographical origin of products and planning conservation management.

The term “DSI” currently has no agreed definition. Differences in terminology in scientific circles reflect differences in the material referred to, which makes it difficult to harmonize terminology. However, it is clear that “DSI” is a critical tool in the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources for food and agriculture (GRFA). Countries rely on access to and exchange of “DSI” to deal with vital issues such as human, animal and plant health, food security and the environment.

“DSI” and its implications, including for access and benefit-sharing, are currently being discussed under various instruments, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the WHO Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In 2017, the Commission established a new work stream on “DSI” on GRFA.

In 2018, the Commission initiated the preparation of an Exploratory fact-finding scoping study on “digital sequence information” on genetic resources for food and agriculture to review the implications of the use of “DSI” for the conservation and sustainable use of GRFA, including exchange, access and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their use.

In 2019, the Commission recognized that there is a need for further review of “DSI” on GRFA. It agreed to address, at its next session, the innovation opportunities “DSI” on GRFA offers, challenges related to capacity to access and make use of “DSI” and the implications of “DSI” for the conservation and sustainable use of GRFA and the sharing of benefits derived from GRFA.