U.S. ratification of Plant Treaty: benefit sharing ambiguity for plant genomics researchers does not change
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Plant genomics data and information are widely acknowledged to have potential benefits for plant breeding and global food security. Yet, at present, there is a great deal of confusion over potential benefit sharing obligations arising from use of genomics data and information, particularly if the data and information are derived from plant genetic resources accessed from gene banks that are part of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources in Food and Agriculture (Treaty) Multilateral System (MLS). To some extent, this lack of clarity stemmed from the fact that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Plant Germplasm System was not, until recently, part of the Treaty MLS. In October 2016, however, the U.S. ratified the Treaty. This paper addresses whether the U.S. ratification of the Treaty has ameliorated or exacerbated the confusion. In reviewing Treaty benefit sharing obligations and their impact on plant genomics pre- and post-U.S. ratification, it appears that ambiguity around genomics data and information is largely unchanged. In light of this, the paper recommends further dialogue about this important issue.