The microbial terroir: open questions on the Nagoya protocol applied to microbial resources

The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing, primarily designed for vascular plant and animal resources, is also extended to the use of microbial resources, but its application to the microbiological realm has raised many doubts and provoked criticisms. This is because of the particularities of microbial ecology and the technical and legal difficulties encompassed in its application.

The ambition of this paper is not to answer those questions but to provide a quick picture of microbial controversies that we have identified over the years in the literature and conversations with concerned colleagues who, often, do not know to which extent the Nagoya Protocol applies to their research: is the Nagoya protocol suited to cover the microbial realm? How does the Nagoya protocol regulate GMOs or SynBio-issued agents with multi-origin constructs and based on international cooperation? What about digital data and the pressure towards open science?

We aim here at formulating these controversies in a way that is accessible to practitioners in microbiology as well as to those working in policy and the law, and we are convinced that part of the problem relies on the lack of a hybrid language, one that enables us to talk about the biological, social and technical complexities. 

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