TWN Info Service on Biodiversity and Traditional Knowledge (May16/03)
25 May 2016
Third World Network

Dear friends and colleagues,

We are pleased to present the third paper in a Third World Network series on the digital gene bank project, DivSeek, and its implications for access and benefit sharing (ABS) related to genetic resources.

The paper by Edward Hammond follows further revelations obtained through freedom of information laws that confirm that DivSeek cannot continue to deny that it is working to shape international policy on access to genetic sequence data in its own interests, and that DivSeek can no longer pretend to be a “pure science” enterprise without significant ties to industry. The role of the Global Crop Diversity Trust is also questioned.

The paper stresses the need for Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) to act quickly to close the growing gap between physical and digital access to genetic resources.

It proposes that the Conference of the Parties to the CBD, meeting in Cancun, Mexico in December 2016 request that the implications of genome sequencing in combination with gene editing be considered by the CBD’s Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Synthetic Biology.

DivSeek had raised concerns at the 2015 meeting of the Governing Council of the ITPGRFA that then asked the gene bank to report on how technologies to deep sequence, database, and electronically distribute the genomes of hundreds of thousands of crop seeds will impact ABS for genetic resources.

The new paper is attached and also available at:

Previous Papers in this Series:

Paper #2 (19 April 2016): Synthetic Biology and Agriculture: Access to genetic data is “the big issue of our time”

Paper #1 (4 April 2016): Digital genebankers plan to ignore UN request on the impact of genomics and synthetic biology on access and benefit sharing


Records obtained by the author under the open records laws that are referenced in these papers may be viewed at:

In due course, the full set of DivSeek documents obtained under US and Canadian open records requests will be posted at the above URL.