Knowledge for Development

Developments

News items relevant to the policy dialogue on S&T for Development.


‘EFTA countries shall not endanger public health and food security in Southern Africa’, NGOs request

EVB, 4 November 2004. Today 57 organizations sent a letter to the trade and foreign ministers of EFTA member states (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), urging them not to include provisions that would restrict access to medicines and farmers' rights in a free trade agreement under negotiation with the five countries of SACU (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland). Both parties want to conclude the negotiations before the end of 2004. According to recent statements by Swiss officials, EFTA countries are pushing for stronger intellectual property rights on medicines and in agriculture in SACU countries. This move would have lasting and negative consequences on public health and food security in Southern Africa. In agriculture, EFTA countries want to introduce intellectual property provisions that would prevent farmers to freely re-use and exchange their seeds (even when there is a drought). Such provisions contradict the current practices of 90% of the farmers in the region and may threaten food security and biodiversity in SACU countries.

23/12/2004


African water meeting seeks to harmonize water for food and ecosystems

FAO, 4 November 2004. New and growing demands for sustainable use of natural resources are having a serious impact on agriculture, as the sector struggles to feed a growing world population, according to Louise Fresco, at the pan-African conference on water for food and ecosystems. The challenge facing agriculture in the 21st century is ?to offer each human being enough food, enough opportunity for development and enough environmental services.? Focusing on Africa, she said that food security and poverty reduction clearly remain immediate and persistent concerns. ?Recent research shows that growth in agriculture is the most beneficial for the poor, of all economic sectors.? For Africa, this means that we need ?to continue to invest in unlocking the potential of its diversified agricultural systems ? in rainfed agriculture, irrigation and mixed systems.?

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Namibia: Conservancies programme gets US$ 26.5 million in donor support

IRIN, 29 October 2004. Namibia has received US$ 26.5 million in support to help it make better use of its natural resources. Initiatives focusing on community-driven land management will be bolstered by funds from by the World Bank, USAID and the World Wildlife Fund. The government launched the community-based natural resources management programme, allowing rural communities to register their areas as conservancies, almost a decade ago. Local communities were granted rights to manage the land and reap the benefits from tourism, while any income generated was paid out directly to members of conservancies or pooled to pay for necessities like water tanks, wind pumps and the development of local infrastructure. Today 31 registered conservancies covering 78,000 square km benefit an estimated 100,000 people. Since the start of the programme in 1995, there has been a gradual shift from wildlife management to a broader range of ways to use natural resources. In some cases this has meant collecting and selling medicinal plants, such as the appetite-suppressant hoodia plant. The fruit of the indigenous marula and mangetti trees are already recognised for their commercial value.

23/12/2004


India, Brazil and South Africa discuss joint research

SciDev.Net, 27 October 2004. Science ministers from India, Brazil and South Africa have identified potential areas of trilateral scientific cooperation, including nanotechnology research and efforts to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. The first meeting of the countries' science ministers on 25 October identified science and technology as one of the key areas for trilateral cooperation, including collaboration in nanotechnology and the use of biotechnology in the agriculture and health sectors.

23/12/2004


Commission approves GM maize for human consumption

Euractiv, 27 October 2004. The Commission has decided that foods and food ingredients derived from the genetically modified maize NK603 can be placed on the market in the EU. This maize variety, which has been modified to tolerate a herbicide and is produced by US firm Monsanto, has already been approved for import and use as animal feed. The main applications for this maize are likely to be animal starch, oil, maize gluten and maize meal for humans and animals. According to the new EU GMO legislation, which came into force in April 2004, any product containing the maize will have to be clearly labelled. However, no authorisation has been given to grow the crop in the EU.

23/12/2004


Samoa to benefit from AIDS drug

The Scientist, 18(20) 25 October 2004. In an agreement that is being lauded as a model for the development and commercialization of drugs resulting from ethnobotany efforts, the University of California at Berkeley and the Pacific island nation of Samoa will share equally in royalties from the sales of an anti-AIDS drug derived from the genes of the Samoan native mamala tree. 'What's so important about this agreement is that the University of California is recognizing the intellectual contribution of the healers of Samoa and considers them a partner in this endeavor,' says Professor Jay Keasling, who will lead the research to isolate and clone the genes responsible for producing the drug in the mamala tree. The bark of the tree has long been used by native healers to treat hepatitis.

23/12/2004


Research confirms medicinal promise of Kenyan plants

SciDev.Net, 19 October 2004. Kenyan plants used in traditional herbal medicine are showing promising medicinal properties in scientific assessments of their ability to treat diseases such as herpes and malaria, according to presentations made at the 25th African Health Science Congress in Nairobi. The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) is assessing how two medicinal plants work against the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Herpes is one of the most common viral infections in people, resulting in a range of illnesses from mildly symptomatic to life threatening diseases. When the researchers treated mice with extracts from the African cherry (Prunus africana) and the chinaberry (melia azedarach) trees, then infected them with HSV, both infection and disease progression were slower than in untreated mice. Further research on these plants is ongoing.

23/12/2004


Crop Trust to conserve plant diversity

FAO, 21 October 2004. The Global Crop Diversity Trust, an initiative to conserve in perpetuity the Earth's most crucial agricultural biodiversity, entered into force today as an independent international organization. The launch of the Trust comes as plant diversity suffers record losses in both farmers' fields and the wild. Extreme hunger and poverty also contribute to diminished plant diversity in many parts of the world. Even the genebanks that are intended to be safe havens for crop diversity are under increasing threat from underfunding.

23/12/2004


EU, Commonwealth and Francophonie join hands in supporting ACP trade policy makers

DG Trade, 15 October 2004. The European Commission, the ACP Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Agence Intergouvernmentale de la Francophonie are jointly launching a major effort to support capacity in ACP countries to formulate trade policies and negotiate trade agreements. A network of trade advisers will be established throughout the ACP: 9 senior experts and 48 analysts will reinforce ACP international trade administrations. In-country training of national counterparts will be the other large component of the Euro 17 million programme financed by the European Development Fund under the EU-ACP Cotonou Agreement.

23/12/2004


UK to boost support for research capacity building

SciDev.Net, 14 October 2004. Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) has agreed that it currently makes insufficient efforts to support capacity building in scientific research in developing countries, and has promised to do more. The commitment is made in DFID's response to comments on draft proposals, published last year, for the department's new research strategy. DFID adds that where research is considered to be a priority, its own central research department will work to promote capacity building with its country offices, pointing for example to its collaboration with the Wellcome Trust on strengthening capacity in health research in Kenya and Malawi.

23/12/2004


CITES imposes trade controls on African diet plant

ENN/Reuters, 12 October 2004. A UN conference recently approved a proposal by African countries to control trade in a rare plant sought by drug companies for its appetite-suppressing properties. The hoodia cactus has been used for thousands of years by southern Africa's San Bushmen to dampen their appetites during long treks through the harsh Kalahari Desert and holds the key to potentially lucrative anti-obesity drugs. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has listed the hoodia in its Appendix II, which will regulate global trade in the species. It will also include Asian yew trees, which provide the compound for one of the top-selling chemotherapy drugs. That will give added protection to plants that could save untold human lives while earning billions of dollars for big drug companies.

23/12/2004


New ways of saving the old ways

FAO, 6 October 2004. In Swaziland, a revolution in diet is sweeping the country, as people turn from indigenous food to fast food and packaged products. With support from FAO?s LinKS project, the government is fighting this trend, and the health problems that accompany it, by promoting traditional food crops and the conservation of local seed varieties.

23/12/2004


South gains ground in intellectual property debate

IPS, 5 October 2004. Countries of the developing South successfully lobbied the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to incorporate development goals and consumer rights, to counterbalance the interests of powerful nations and corporations, in a resolution adopted Tuesday. The decision by WIPO 'is a breakthrough move by the UN body, which has been often accused of caring more for the rights of intellectual property owners than of users, especially those in developing countries', said Consumers International, the worldwide federation of consumer organisations.

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Science journalists ‘play critical role in decision-making’

SciDev.Net, 5 October 2004. Science journalists have a 'critical role' to play in informing communities and influencing policymakers in the developing world, and their reporting can have a 'positive influence' in decision making, according to Maureen O'Neil, president of IDRC at the opening of the 4th World Conference of Science Journalists. She announced that IDRC will welcome applications for support for projects that seek to strengthen science journalism in developing countries, particularly in the areas of training and course development. Science news, she said, was of interest to the entire world community, most especially those of us working to address global challenges by generating and applying new knowledge'.

23/12/2004


World faces fish shortage that could endanger livelihoods of millions, scientists say

ENN, 1 October 2004. Overfishing is threatening more than two-thirds of the world's most valuable fish species, triggering fears that hundreds of millions of people in mainly developing countries will suffer food shortages and losses of income, according to a new report. Countries, especially in Asia and Africa, should strive harder to combat illegal fishing and pursue trade policies and environmental treaties that promote sustainable fishing practices. About 75% of the world's most commercially important fish stocks are overfished or fished at their biological limits, raising concerns of looming shortages in developing nations, which produce more than two-thirds of all fish eaten by humans globally. See Fishing for Answers: Making sense of the global fish crisis , World Resources Institute, September 2004.

23/12/2004


'Open-source' biology on the way

SciDev.Net, 30 September 2004. Biologists have launched an 'open-source' movement, which they hope will increase the availability of information and patented technologies to researchers in developing countries. Biological Innovation for Open Society (BIOS) has been set up with a US$1 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The initiative will promote sharing of genetic resources, medical treatments, and tools for use in animal and plant breeding. License fees for patented technologies are often prohibitively expensive for researchers in poor countries. The BIOS initiative aims to make licenses available for a 'non-compulsory' fee, meaning that those who cannot afford to pay would not have to. In return, researchers would be required to freely release any innovations derived from the use of such techniques.

23/12/2004


World Development Report 2005: A Better Investment Climate For Everyone

World Bank, 28 September 2004. This year's report focuses on what governments can do to improve the investment climates of their societies to increase growth and reduce poverty. It draws on surveys of over 30,000 firms in 53 developing countries, the Bank's 'Doing Business' database, country case studies, and other new research. It highlights ways in which governments can improve their investment climates by expanding the opportunities and incentives for firms of all types to invest productively, create jobs, and expand.

23/12/2004


Special Programme for Food Security: Moving from pilot projects to nationwide programmes

FAO, 28 September 2004. As FAO?s Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) nears the end of its tenth year, a panel of leading agricultural experts from around the world met in Rome last week to assess the programme's achievements to date and make recommendations on the way forward. The panel agreed that restoring the natural resource base is a must and recommended that actions focus on an integrated approach to natural resource management, including: better understanding of complex African soils, which are much older than those found elsewhere, particularly in parts of Asia, where the green revolution has been such a success; reducing the fertilizer gap - fertilizer consumption is still too low in African countries as compared to other agricultural countries; and promoting conservation agriculture, nitrogen fixing legumes, green manure cover crops and a more effective use of irrigation water.

23/12/2004


Cooperating to conserve Benguela’s riches

IRIN, 28 September 2004. The cold, nutrient-rich Benguela current flows along the Atlantic coastlines of South Africa, Namibia and Angola, supporting a vast marine ecosystem. But, scientists warn, cooperation is key to preserving what is one of the world's richest fishing grounds. Some 20 scientists from the three countries met last week in Namibia to explore practical steps in the management and sustainable use of a finite resource on which thousands of jobs depend.

23/12/2004


Jamaica to draft biotech road map

Crop Biotech, 24 September, 2004. The Scientific Research Council in Jamaica reports that Caribbean experts are preparing to draft a regional road map for the commercialization of biotechnology. The region, however, requires a regulatory framework, testing facilities as well as competence to carry out risk assessments. It also needs focused strategies and development plans aimed at commercializing biotechnology-derived products. An e-discussion has been set up to help Jamaica develop its biotech roadmap. The e-discussion and the meeting were co-financed by CTA, Wageningen, the Netherlands. For more information visit the SRC website or email Audia Barnett at AudiaB@src-jamaica.org.

23/12/2004