Now data can substitute for materials, international agreements on biodiversity need updating, says Charles Lawson
Biological science has long relied on access to physical materials, both to provide an account of nature and to harness nature to solve human problems through medicines, devices, foods, fibres and so on.
But the advent of huge amounts of digital information, and the increasing capacity to mine that information for insights and inventions, mean that access to physical biological material is no longer always critical to this research. This creates both threats and opportunities for research. This is a significant moment, as choices are now being made in international agreements about the control of biological materials and information.