No other element of science and technology can match the potential of marine biology and biotechnology to transform the lives of people around the world. Large potential benefits exist in a number of sectors' public health and human disease; seafood safety and supply; new materials and processes; and the restoration and remediation of degraded ecosystems.

Study on Marine Biotechnology Policy

A Center study is examining the range of policy issues that are involved in the application of marine biotechnology. These include legal, ecological, economic, ethical, and safety concerns and the manner in which domestic and international regulatory regimes are evolving to meet these concerns. Researching issues tied to the international use of marine biotechnology is made essential by the Convention on Biological Diversity, which paves new ground in international norms governing access to genetic resources, defined as "genetic material of actual or potential value." The Convention calls for the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. The Convention recognizes the sovereign right of nations to control access to their genetic resources, and requires the users of genetic resources to take measures to promote equitable sharing of the benefits, including technologies, with the providers of those resources. There is thus a current need to harmonize the provisions of the Law of the Sea and Biological Biodiversity Conventions regarding marine biotechnology prospecting and any follow-on activities that may be involved.

Five major applications of marine biotechnology are examined in the study: 1) aquaculture and seafood supply enhancement, 2) commercial and industrial applications of marine substances and processes (e.g., antibio-fouling agents and marine adhesives), 3) marine pharmaceuticals and biomedical applications, 4) improved environmental monitoring and resource management, and 5) marine pollution control and bioremediation of degraded systems.

Three major policy issues are examined as part of the study: 1) issues of access to marine resources/organisms; 2) issues of biosafety; and 3) issues of intellectual property rights and benefit sharing with host nations and indigenous groups. The study examines national and international policy frameworks related to these issues, and outlines, as well, the perspectives of scientists, industry, and policymakers on these questions, on the basis of several surveys conducted by the project.

The team formed for this project is interdisciplinary and interinstitutional. It involves expertise in policy analysis, political science, law, international environmental regimes, marine biology and biotechnology, economics and philosophy. In addition to Professor Biliana Cicin-Sain, the project involves the following advisors: Salvatore Arico (UNESCO, formerly at the Secretariat, Convention on Biological Diversity), Alan Goldhammer (Biotechnology Industry Organization), Paul Durbin (Philosophy, University of Delaware), Willett Kempton (Marine Studies, University of Delaware), Dennis King (Ecological Economics, University of Maryland), Daniel Morse and J. Herbert Waite, (Marine Biotechnology, University of California, Santa Barbara). A book is in preparation.

Study of Benefits from Sea Grant Funded Research on Marine Biotechnology (1999)

The National Sea Grant College Program has, in recent years, significantly expanded the national investment in research and outreach in marine biotechnology, partly as a result of increased Congressional interest in this subject.

To obtain an estimate of the benefits that have been derived from these enhanced research and outreach efforts funded by Sea Grant, Center researchers conducted a mail survey (in 1998) of 163 principal investigators with Sea Grant funded marine biotechnology projects. The results are summarized in a report to the National Sea Grant Program (see Publications).

Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy
301 Robinson Hall, University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716 USA
Phone: 1-302-831-8086; Fax: 1-302-831-3668
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