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The huge diversity of Earth's biological resources, from the vast rainforest to the invisible microbe, should be used for the benefit of all. This principle is enshrined in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) issued at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The EU has developed guidelines and projects to help achieve this goal, the latest being a Specific Support Action, MOSAICS, to promote the sharing of resources at the small end of the scale microbial resources.

MOSAICS (Micro-Organisms Sustainable use and Access management Integrated Conveyance System) will spend 18 months setting up a system to manage access to, and the transfer of, microbial resources. It will make it easier for scientists to share genetic information about microbes while safeguarding intellectual property rights. There will be a particular focus on the safety and health of Europe's food supplies. Here, microbes are both a resource, for example, for probiotic foods and bio-pesticides, and a potential threat, in terms of plant disease, food spoilage and contamination.


Assets cannot be exchanged until their value has been agreed. The vital first stage in freeing up access to microbial resources is to find a reliable way to put an economic value on them. Methods studied in the project will include replacement value, market value, production cost, credit-debit balance, and conservation cost. These will be synthesised in EVa (Economic Valuation) to create a socially, economically and environmentally sound method for pricing microbial resources.

The second requirement concerns the transparent tracking of microbes during transactions. ADaM (Access Distribution and Management) is developing standard documents and procedures to register the point of origin of the resource and track it to its destination.

The last stage, the Integrated Conveyance System (ICS) itself, will combine valuation and trail finding in a full system for the open trading and sharing of the genetic benefits of microbial resources. This is a practical scheme that complements legislative changes and is expected to be used internationally to promote access to microbial resources and to share the benefits they offer.


The Integrated Conveyance System project is the latest in a range of EU-supported efforts to promote the Rio objectives that apply to biodiversity benefits in general and microbial ones in particular. Its immediate precursor, MOSAICC, developed an International Code of Conduct as a tool for microbiologists to implement the CBD at the microbial level. The Code was compiled by international researchers and refined during workshops and consultations. A further workshop, WIPMICRO-MOSAICC, has disseminated MOSAICC results and information about intellectual property rights associated with sharing knowledge on microbial genetic resources.

MOSAICS will work closely with other initiatives to promote access and benefit sharing, including EU initiatives, the CBD's working group on this subject, the OECD's Biological Information Task Force, and the Global Biological Information Facility. It will liaise with experts in similar biotech fields, and in plant and animal resources.

Project partners include members from several third countries and international organisations. This collaboration should ensure endorsement of the project's Integrated Conveyance System by national and international scientific federations of microbiologists. The data relating to ICS will be exchangeable in electronic form.

List of Partners

  • Public Planning Service - Science Policy (Belgium)
  • CCABI Bioscience UK Centre (UK)
  • Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures (The Netherlands)
  • Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique (Morocco)
  • Catholic University of Peru (Peru)
  • Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen (Germany)
  • European Federation of Biotechnology (International Union)
  • Bioresource Collection & Research Center, Food Industry Research & Development Institute (Republic of China, Taiwan)
  • Japan Bioindustry Association (Japan)
  • Korean Institute for International Economic Policy (Republic of Korea)
  • UNESCO - Microbial Resources Centres Network (International)
  • Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (Thailand)
  • University of Ljubljana - Fac. Natural Sciences & Engineering (Slovenia)
  • United Nation University (International)
  • World Federation for Cultures Collections (International Union)
Full title:
Development of a system for appropriate management of access and transfer of microbial resources - micro-organisms sustainable use and access regulation integrated conveyance system
Contract n:
Project co-ordinator:
Philippe Desmeth
Public Planning Service - Science Policy ,
EC Scientific Officer:
Ioannis Economidis,
EU contribution:
€ 382,000
Specific Support Action

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top