Child theme
COP15, Digital Sequence Information and Technology-min

COP15, Digital Sequence Information and Technology

In Sustainability by Scott

Related to UN SDG:
united nations sustainble development goal - UN SDG  3 united nations sustainble development goal - UN SDG  13 united nations sustainble development goal - UN SDG  15 united nations sustainble development goal - UN SDG  16 united nations sustainble development goal - UN SDG  17

It seems there was quite a bit of good to come from the COP15 summit on Montreal, but I want to dig into one of the landmark outcomes in this short post.

COP15 (not to be confused with COP26 or COP27) was the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. This particular meeting came hot on the heels of the climate focused COP in Sharm el-Sheikh and coincidentally illustrates the heightened understanding that our planet’s climate and biodiversity are inextricably linked.

This inextricable linkage is one of the reasons I decided to adopt the UN SDGs as a framework to structure and articulate our work at Well, That’s Interesting Tech!

As a thought experiment take any one of the SDGs and imagine you are able to do whatever it takes to optimise for that one SDG.

For example, imagine you could plant a trillion trees and turn off fossil fuels overnight. On one hand that could be definitely seen as optimising for the best SDG 13 (Climate Action) outcomes. However, what would be the knock-on effects? Where would you plant those trees, and what would that mean for economies, communities, food production or regional biodiversity?

The topic of interconnectedness between the SDGs has been one of significant study, as illustrated by the image below.

Relationships between 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals

Digital Biopiracy and Digital Sequence Information (DSI)

Scanning through the headlines from COP15, there are many important things that have been agreed, including one that has been in the works since 1992.

Prior to the 1980s biological resources were fair game to any entity or nation to exploit, regardless of whether they existed in their geographies or not. This naturally led to vast inequalities as the richer nations had more capability to exploit and plunder biological resources from other nations.

In 1992 the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity declared biological resources to be sovereign property.

Since then, as technologies have developed, there has been much debate on how to protect the sovereignty of genetic resources that might be digitally captured, stored and disseminated has become an even more important topic.

DNA from plants, peatlands, animals, invertebrates, coral reefs and fungi are used in a variety of modern day products from medicines, and vaccines to foods. (As a side note, you might think twice about indulging in vanilla flavoured snacks once you read this.) Yet, the economic reward associated with the sovereign DNA has rarely been split equitably, because tracing the specific DNA element back to the country of origin often proves to be difficult – or some might say, to easy to ignore.

COP15 made some encouraging progress on this particular topic, establishing funding mechanism that will help ensure fair and equitable benefit sharing with origin countries and their traditional communities.

From an SDG point of view, this particular topic is an interesting example of interconnectedness. A UK Parliament POSTnote paper describes the development of DSI as potentially contributing to SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger) and 15 (Life on Land). While this may be a list of those SDGs where a major influence can be attributed, if we follow the scheme of the image above, the list can be broadened out to cover many more SDGs who experience ‘medium’ and ‘minor’ influence, such as those related to water, health, inequality, climate and justice.

DSI & Blockchain

Looking at this with my technology hat on, blockchain is a clear contender for a technological implementation of DSI.

Others approaches such as Creative Commons and Open Source communities are also being explored in this regard, blockchain technologies are already being used to provide source of origin tracing in use cases such as ‘farm to fork’ supply chain transparency.

While most blockchains aren’t designed to store large amounts of data (typically a megabyte or two), they could be used for origin tracking and tracing scenarios, while also providing encrypted keys for use in decoding larger data payloads, whose use would be recorded in the blockchain for transactional transparency.

Anyway, the specific details on this are few and far between, but I will be keeping my eye open for technologies looking to support this effort. Get in touch if you are using or building one today.

About the Author


Facebook Twitter

Scott is an Independent Technology Analyst, Content Writer and Connector of interesting people. Scott is a technologist at heart, with a history of technology innovation and marketing leadership roles. As the founder of this website and several other businesses, he is passionate about helping technology companies communicate their relevance and awesomeness in a way that engages and excites everybody. Get in touch with Scott here or connect with him on LinkedIn. Learn Scott's tips for content marketing, download his free template here..