The perils of DNA import/export

Ever had trouble transporting DNA across international borders? I was in linkurl:Taiwan;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53597/ last year covering a conference on linkurl:DNA barcoding,;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/53881/ which was attended by scientists from all over the world. Most of them were studying linkurl:cryptic;http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/12/1/39/1/ flora or fauna endemic to far-flung countries; usually not their own. A few researchers told me nightmari

By | April 1, 2008

Ever had trouble transporting DNA across international borders? I was in linkurl:Taiwan;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53597/ last year covering a conference on linkurl:DNA barcoding,;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/53881/ which was attended by scientists from all over the world. Most of them were studying linkurl:cryptic;http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/12/1/39/1/ flora or fauna endemic to far-flung countries; usually not their own. A few researchers told me nightmarish tales of legal wrangling and hoop jumping that was necessary to ferry the raw material for their studies - DNA or intact tissues from endemic species - across international borders. It got me thinking that this might be an inconvenience that scientists from Azerbaijan to Zanzibar deal with on a regular basis. But could this be more than a simple inconvenience? Could the restrictive laws meant to protect the diversity (and intellectual property) of biologically rich nations be slowing international research that could ultimately help conserve that biodiversity? I'm thinking of writing a feature article on the international legal landscape concerning the import/export of biological samples. If you have a story about facing difficulty getting vital research samples into or out of a country, tell us by posting a linkurl:comment;http://www.the-scientist.com/forum/addcomment/54515/ below or emailing us at mail@the-scientist.com.
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Comments

April 2, 2008

In Australia, there are restrictions to import any biological material. Australian Quarantine Inspection Services normally provies an import permit upon lodging an application. The AQIS examines the application for such an import and asks pertinent questions and obtain required information from the potential applicants. This is certainly any scientist can handle. As it is AQIS stated no permit is required for importing human blood material. Currently we have no problem in importing human blood samples from other countries.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

April 4, 2008

There is the (perhaps apocryphal, but it was in circulation when I was in graduate school) story that has been told about Joshua Lederberg from the late 1960s. When asked if he was importing any biological material into the US, he replied, "Yes, E. coli." After being told that he would have to leave his samples with customs because coli would ot be allowed to enter the US, he replied "you can't stop me." Ah, the wonders of intestinal flora.
Avatar of: Ossama El-Tayeb

Ossama El-Tayeb

Posts: 2

April 4, 2008

As long as exclusive intellectual property rights (IPR) are vailable for life forms with commercial value, and as long as the 191 Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adher to its notion of soverreignty of each country on its biological resources, the problem will continue. The "third objective " of the CBD is still to be implemented since 1994 and negotiations of an international regime on access to biological material and benifit sharing (ABS)have been going on since 2002. Both WIPO and the TRIPS agreements have been investigating a requirement of "disclosure of origin" of parental material for life forms before granting IPR. As long as the developers of marketable life forms refuse disclosure, countries in possesion of unique biological material have no choice but to hinder flow of their biological material across borders. A drug company recently developed a bird flu vaccine for humans - with a potential market of US$240 billion - from a virus isolated in Indonesia and refused to pay a penny to Indonesia, or even to sell them the vaccine at a concessional price. Indonesia retaliated by banning export of bird flu viral material. Humanity is the loser.\nInformation is available at www.cbd.int as well as the appropriate sites for the WHO, WIPO and TRIPS.

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