The Nagoya Protocol and Synthetic Biology Research: A Look at the Potential Impacts

Jay Owen Trendspotting, Earth Systems Science, Sustainability Research Group

The Nagoya Protocol and Synthetic Biology Research:

A Look at the Potential Impacts

WASHINGTON – The United Nations (UN) is working to ensure that the benefits of genetic resources are shared in a fair and equitable way via the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

 The Nagoya Protocol was adopted in 2010 to provide a transparent legal framework for sharing genetic resources. “Its objective is the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources, thereby contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity,” according to the UN.

 A new report from the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars looks at how the protocol may affect U.S. researchers working in the field of synthetic biology.

 The report finds significant uncertainty surrounding what sorts of genetic material is covered and when the protocol would go into effect. For example:

           Would synthetic DNA or “biobricks” be covered?

            Would genetic samples collected prior to the ratification of the treaty be covered?

            Would digital DNA sequences shared over the web be covered?

 Despite this uncertainty and despite the fact the United States is not a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol or the Convention on Biological Diversity, the report suggests that U.S. researchers engage in these discussions as they develop, verify the origin of the genetic material that they use, and ensure that such material was taken in compliance with the domestic law of a provider country.

 Join us at the Wilson Center on Nov. 8 for the release of the report and a panel discussion focused on the impact of the Nagoya Protocol on U.S. and other researchers working in the area of synthetic biology. The event will be webcast live.

 Copies of the report will be available at the event and online on Nov. 8. You must register to attend the event.

 Please RSVP here:

 No RSVP is necessary for the webcast. The event will be webcast here:

 Reporters: Please call Aaron Lovell at (202) 691-4320 for more details about this event.     

 What: The Nagoya Protocol and Synthetic Biology Research: A Look at the Potential Impacts

 When: Nov. 8, 2013 from noon – 2:00 p.m. EST (Light lunch available at noon.)

 Who: Margo Bagley, Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law

 Arti Rai, Elvin R. Latty Professor of Law and co-Director, Duke Law Center for Innovation Policy, Duke University School of Law

 Leonard Hirsch, Senior Policy Advisor, Smithsonian Institution

 Additional panelists to be announced.

 Where: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

5th Floor Conference Room
Ronald Reagan Building

1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Washington, D.C.

 For directions, visit:

 To learn more about the Synthetic Biology Project, visit:

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is the living, national memorial to President Wilson established by Congress in 1968 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Center establishes and maintains a neutral forum for free, open, and informed dialogue. It is a nonpartisan institution, supported by public and private funds and engaged in the study of national and international affairs.