June 1998

[1] Convention on Biological Diversity:

The WFCC Background Document on Access to ex-situ Microbial Genetic Resources within the Framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity (ISBN 92 9109 042 5) that was also summarised by the CBD Secretariat as /UNEP/CBD/COP/3/inf.19, continues to be distributed at appropriate meetings. It has proved to be a useful document that forms a basis for further discussion and CBD-associated initiatives.

[2] Meetings/programmes at which the Committee has been represented:

[A] The President of the WFCC, Dr V Canhos, was present at the subsequent Conference of the Parties (COP4, Bratislava) and was able to promote the interests of the WFCC and ex-situ resource providers.

[B] B Kirsop participated in a meeting convened by the EU (DGXI) and the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, 'Towards Best Practices for Access to Genetic Resources', Cordoba, Spain, January, 1998. The Recommendations from this workshop identified the problems and proposed solutions met both by the providers and users of genetic resources. Those of relevance to the WFCC included the need to establish tracking mechanisms for the transfer of resources and the need to ensure Prior Informed Consent for deposited resources. Additionally, the need to resolve uncertainties regarding the economic value of resources was proposed. The special needs of microbial resource providers were presented and discussed with other participants, such as Professor Zakri, Chair SBSTTA.

[C] EU DGXII Concerted Action Contract, MOSAICC project (Microorganisms Sustainable Use and Access Regulation International Code of Conduct), coordinated by the Belgian Coordinated Collections of Microorganisms (BCCM), has a number of WFCC representatives on the Stearing Committee. These include B Kirsop (WFCC Representative), V Canhos (CCT Representative) and J L Staphorst, (Plant Protection Research Institute Representative). All are also members of the WFCC Biodiversity Committee.

The objective of the project is to develop guidelines or a voluntary code of conduct for access to and sustainable use of microbial resources within the framework of the CBD.

The partners have been discussing the first draft document prepared by BCCM and held their first meeting in June 1998, Brussels. The Steering Committee has made suggestions and discussed the complex issues that arise; the second draft document will be distributed to the Steering Committee in July, 1998 and wider discussions will then follow, leading to the completion of the guidelines. The document will then be widely distributed internationally and it is hoped will serve as a possible model code of conduct for ex-situ microbial resource providers.

[D] B Kirsop attended an OECD meeting of experts in Paris, November 28th 1997. The meeting was to advise the OECD Working Party on Biotechnology about the importance of microbial biodiversity, the role of culture collections and the activties of the WFCC. The work of the WFCC was acknowledged as being very helpful and it was felt by others present at the meeting that its activities could be built on to good effect.

Some of the issues raised in the WFCC Access Document were discussed in the meeting, including the ubiquity of microorganisms (or not), the uncertainties still regarding inventorying, ecological research, impact of molecular technology, continuing needs for 'whole cell' knowledge, international databases and infrastructure support.

Subsequent to the meeting the OECD has approved a programme to assess the justification for public support for conservation of genetic resources. The first meeting for this programme will take place in July 1998 and a conference in Japan is likely to be the first activity. It is hoped that the WFCC can provide substantial input into this initiative as it may have consequences for the infrastructure support of culture collections.

[3] WFCC Workshop, ISME, August 12th 1998:

The WFCC Executive Board and the WFCC Biodiversity Committee has organised a one day workshop on the economic value of microorganisms. The workshop will take place during the ISME Conference in Halifax, Canada. The date is August 12th 1998. The programme is attached below and is available from the WFCC Web Site. Sponsorship has been obtained from the EU DGXII directorate for biotechnology, the OAS and Health Canada and the WFCC itself is also contributing to the costs. A strong panel of speakers and chairs has been assembled in what seems to be a workshop with considerable outside interest. It is hoped that the workshop will make recommendations on the need and mechanisms for obtaining informed data on the complex economic issues that are affecting the WFCC membership, in the context of public infrastructure support and material transfer agreements.


The Committee plans to work with the Executive Board in the preparation of published recommendations following the ISME workshop.

The Committee members will keep track of developments with the CBD and its access and benefit sharing arrangements specifically and keep WFCC membership informed. It could consider the need for proposing a CBD contact group for microbial resources.

The Committee members associated with the MOSAICC project will feed back information and solicit responses from members for input into the final guidelines.

The Committee, in collaboration with the Executive Board, will consider what role it should play in the ICCC9 Congress, Australia, 2000.



At the Eighth International Symposium on Microbial Ecology Halifax, Canada, August 12th 1998

The WFCC Executive Board and the Committee for Biodiversity are planning the above workshop as part of the on-going activities to resolve some of the uncertainties and develop procedures for the distribution of ex-situ Microbial Genetic Resources (MGRs) within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Following the international workshop at the Eighth International Congress for Culture Collections held in Veldhoven, Netherlands (August 1996), an Information Document on Access to Ex-situ Microbial Genetic Resources within the Framework of the CBD was finalized and has been widely distributed. It is available from the WFCC Web Site ( or as hard copy from the WFCC Secretary ( This document was summarized and distributed at Third Conference of the Parties to the CBD (Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 1996) by the CBD Secretariat as an Information Document UNEP/CBD/COP/3/Inf.19).

In continuing discussions on the implementation of the CBD at the microbial level, the question frequently arises as to the economic value of microbial genetic resources, both in-situ and ex-situ. It is not difficult to draw attention to the clear value of microorganisms producing antibiotics, fine chemicals and other biotechnological products. Similarly, the general value of microorganisms in essential degradation, in the food chain and also in food production (bread, fermented beverages) is abundantly clear. However, the economic value has not yet been estimated in monetary terms. As a result, it is difficult to assess the priorities that should be afforded to microorganisms in conservation programs and to assign values that should be attached to potential industrial strains for royalty and licensing purposes and the development of material transfer agreements and benefit sharing. Moreover, the value of the services delivered by the ex-situ collections to the international scientific community and to society requires an economic assessment to provide policy makers with the information needed for sustainable support. This is an important gap in current knowledge that the workshop will help to resolve.

The workshop will be a one-day event, taking place on the Wednesday of the ISME-8 Conference. The aim of the workshop is to bring environmental economists and microbiologists/culture collection experts together to discuss the economic issues involved and possible developments.

The WFCC gratefully acknowledges the support of the European Union's Biotechnology Directorate(DGXII),The Organization of the American States (OAS) and Health Canada.




Overview of WFCC activities and CBD developments, V. Canhos and CBD Secretariat speaker


Chair:B Kirsop, (UK), Co-chair:D.K.Song, (China)

Value of in-situ microbial diversity, J.Staley, US
Value of microbial diversity for biotechnological applications, J.C.Hunter-Cevera,US

10:30 COFFEE


Chair:R.Colwell; Co-chair: L. Sly, Australia

Views of Service Collections:

E. Stackebrandt, DSMZ, Germany
R. Cypess, ATCC, US
Views of IDA's and Research Collections: D. Fritze, WFCC Patents ctee/DSMZ Germany
J.Morton, INVAM,US

12:00 DISCUSSION chaired by R. Colwell and L.Sly

12:30 LUNCH


Chair: C. Takase, CBD Secretariat; Co-chair: J. Staley

Approaches to assessing value, A. Artuso, US
Promoting incentives for bioprospecting, J.Vogel,Ecuador


Chair: D. Van der Mei, Netherlands; Co-chair: H.Sugawara, Japan

Biological nitrogen fixation in agriculture, H. Coutinho, Brazil
The value of extremophiles in biotechnology, E.Mathur,Diversa Co.,US
Microorganisms and the development of bioindustries in Japan, S.Sumida, Japan

15:30 TEA


(Valuation, Acess/ Equitable Sharing and Bioprospecting)
Chair: A.H.Zakri, Malaysia; Co-chair: A.Doyle,UK

The Biotrade Initiative, UNCTAD
The Revision of the FAO International Undertaking, IPGRI/CGIR
The International Cooperative Biodiversity Program
Code of Conduct for Acessing MGR' s, MOSAICC project


Chair: OECD participant; Co-chair:J.Hunter-Cevera, US

Note: Updated information on the workshop and background documents will be available at ""