Knowledge for Development

Related developments

South Africa launches its indigenous knowledge recording system

The National Recordal System (NRS) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa will protect, preserve, promote and responsibly exploit South Africa's  indigenous knowledge systems (IKS).  The NRS will document and record IK through the National Indigenous Knowledge Management System (NIKMAS) information and communication  technology platform. It will record African IK in its original oral format, linking it to a complex metadata schema to provide the necessary mechanisms for both positive and defensive (legal)  protection. At present, Riëtte Pretorius, project manager at CSIR, says the system supports IK on African traditional medicine and indigenous foods, and at a later stage could include arts,  crafts and farming practices. The training of community workers is already taking place and documentation centres are being built across the country.     (CSIR, 18/06/2013)


Open Knowledge Caribbean Network

The Open Knowledge Environment of the Caribbean (OKCARIB) is an Open Access repository for archiving scientific research information; either generated within, or useful to, the Caribbean.  The Network was formed in partnership with a number of Caribbean institutions conducting scientific research and generating information. This project comes as a direct outcome of several  workshops hosted by the Caribbean Academy of Sciences in collaboration with Inter Academy Panel (IAP), the US National Science Foundation and the Academy of Sciences for the  Developing World, TWAS as part of their project on "Open Access to Scientific Literature and other Digital Scientific Information Resources in Central America and the Caribbean.


Farmer’s choice of seeds in four EU countries under different levels of GM crop adoption

Researcher Angelika Hilbeck at the Institute of Integrative Biology of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology looked into the agricultural seed catalogues available to farmers in countries  with different degrees of GM crop adoption (Austria, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland). She and her colleagues estimated how much real-world choice in seeds maize farmers have in each  of the countries. The results show that, between 1995 and 2011, in the countries that did not adopt GM crop (Austria, Germany and Switzerland), actual restrictions and regulations of GM  crops have not decreased seed choices/cultivar availability for farmers. In contrast, they observed that in Spain, which has adopted GM maize, the seed market was more concentrated with  fewer differentiated cultivars on offer: the overall number of maize cultivars declined. The research also plotted the yields over the time period only to note that there was no reduction in yields  in non-adopting countries.(Environmental Sciences Europe 2013, 25:12 doi:10.1186/2190-4715-25-12)


Cassava database becomes open access

Cassavabase is a database of phenotypic and genotypic data generated by cassava breeding programmes within the Next Generation Cassava Breeding (NEXTGEN Cassava) project. The database makes available breeding data immediately available. Data can be accessed through the web interface and various tools are available to explore and extract the datasets. Cassavabase will be hosted at IITA-Nigeria. As well as offering the latest data on cassava, the on-line database provides access to tools for genomic selection, a new technique that dramatically accelerates the breeding cycle, as well as social networking pathways for the cassava community.  (Cassavabase and NEXTGEN Cassava via AIMS FAO, 07/05/2013)


Decoding 'orphan crop' genomes and making the information free to boost harvests

Howard-Yana Shapiro, the agriculture director of the $36bn US confectionery corporation Mars, led a partnership that sequenced and then published in 2010 the complete genome of the cacao tree from which chocolate is derived. He plans to work with American and Chinese scientists to sequence and make publicly available the genetic makeup of a host of crops such as yam, finger millet, tef, groundnut, cassava and sweet potato.  More on the cocoa genome research at Mars Corp.  (The Guardian, 02/06/2013)


Tanzania scientist calls for review of country’s biosafety law

Speaking at the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Tanzania, which took place on 28 February 2013 at the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), Dr. Joseph Ndunguru presented a paper on agricultural biotechnology for Africa's development. He believes the use of agricultural biotechnology fits within a target of increasing agricultural productivity and ensuring food security as stipulated by Tanzanian policy and development strategy.IP-Watch reports on a series of meetings on IP and innovation in Africa that recently took place in Tanzania Crop Biotech Update, 13/3/2013)


Finding appropriate IP policies for Africa

Intellectual Property Watchreports on the efforts made by several countries in Africa to find appropriate intellectual property policies and discussed at the Africa IP conference (February 2013). The issue of applying intellectual property rights to indigenous knowledge, in order to protect holders of this knowledge from exploitation, while at the same time leveraging it for development was a vibrant thread of debate throughout the conference. also reports on the March 2013 workshop 'Practical Approaches to IP Utilization and Protection in Africa' co-organised by the US Commerce Department and the African Intellectual Property Group (AIPG), a new pro-IP association of stakeholders. Participants there emphasised the need to set an Africa IP agenda, more research on the impact of strong IPR protection, and to debunk the idea of a 'one-size-fits-all' IP policy for Africa. More recently, wrote about the draft protocol for the protection of new varieties of plants proposed by an inter-governmental African regional economic community, the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It reported that the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) draft protocol is provoking the ire of civil society concerned about its potential impact on small farmers, and the lack of consultation of farmers. According to the draft protocol, plant breeders' rights 'in the region will allow farmers access to a wide range of improved varieties to contribute to the attainment of the regional goal of economic development and food security'. The civil society groups said that the protocol would not develop a suitable regime to the needs of SADC member states and their farmers. The latter rely heavily on farm saved seed, exchanges with relatives and neighbours, bartering with other farmers or local markets to access seeds. (Intellectual Property Watch, March/April 2013)


Research4Life publishers extend open and low-cost access partnership through 2020

Over 6,000 institutions in more than 100 developing countries will continue to benefit from free or low cost access to peer-reviewed online content from the world’s leading scientific, technical and medical publishers. Research4Life is the collective name for four public-private partnerships; Access to Research Initiative (HINARI, WHO), Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA, FAO), Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE, UNEP), and Online Access to Research for Development and Innovation (ARDI, WIPO) which seek to provide the developing world with access to critical scientific research. In November 2012 the Research4Life partners announced that they had agreed to extend their partnership through 2020.(Research4Life via AIMS, 14/11/2012)


Farmers in East Africa not consulted on draft policy for Plant Variety Protection

East African farmers petitioned the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), following the latter’s proposed draft of a regional harmonised policy and legal framework on plant variety protection. The draft policy will make it mandatory for small-scale farmers in East Africa to buy all their seeds from multinational firms and stop using seeds from past harvests. The farmers’ group faults the process used to develop the draft policy and the negative impact its adoption would have on small-scale farmers, food security and on agricultural biodiversity. The draft policy will give powers to ARIPO regional offices to grant and administer breeders’ rights on behalf of all the contracting states. It also paves the way for the African Union (AU) to start discussions on the cultivation, import and export of genetically modified crops in Africa at the next AU summit to be held in January 2013. Observers and civil society representatives have criticized these developments as they have had little access to the negotiation table and are asking ARIPO to undertake comprehensive consultations with all relevant stakeholders and desist from rushing governments into adopting the draft legislation.(IP-Watch, 5/11/2012 and The East African, 16/12/2012)


Institutional Repository Development: A case study of KARI and KAINet

This presentation illustrates the advantages of the employment of AgriDrupal and AgriOceanDSpace for the two repositories: KAINet (Kenya Agricultural Information Network) and the institutional repository of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). KAINet is a national repository of scientific publications with a focus on agriculture and forestry. It was modelled on WebAGRIS and includes around 35,000 records from which most documents are not openly available. The initial problems with the setup, the service provider server and limited functionalities could be solved by the implementation of secure and manageable tools such as AgriOceanDSpace and AgriDrupal that are available on the AIMS platform. For this reason KAINet was moved to AgriDrupal and the KARI repository was facilitated by the implementation of AgriOceanDSpace. The KAINet team also faced challenges during the implementations, for example, the absence of institutional policies that support open access and the low awareness of copyright issues within the organisation. Another obstacle was the absence of appropriate information management skills. As a preparation for other organisations who want to implement a repository, the speaker underlined the importance of system comparability, technical ICT skills and collaboration within the organisation.


Opening access to agriculture research products: the experience of CGIAR

This presentation, given during the AIMS Open Access Week (October 2012) identified the current barriers to opening access faced by the CGIAR consortium. The main ones are: Lack of common and consistently-applied standards, too few specialised professional staff, inadequate technical infrastructure, and too few incentives to curate and share data and knowledge. The key activities that led the consortium to start opening access to its data and knowledge products included the CGIAR Principles on Management of Intellectual Assets, which provided a good legal framework and enabling environment. This policy recognised the CGIAR research outputs (including data and data sets) as international public goods. The Triple-A framework (Availability, Accessibility and Applicability of the CGIAR Research Outputs) provided a strategy of making CGIAR research available widely, with a certain success.(via FAO AIMS, 23/10/2012)


Access barriers relegating Africa to invisible research contributor

Talking to Engineering News Online, the South African Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, at the Berlin 10 Open Access Conference, in Stellenbosch said that the growth of research in Africa and the ability to find solutions to the continent’s problems will remain limited if African academic libraries continue to have restricted access to official research information. The expense of many academic journals, particularly in science and medicine, limited countries’ access to essential research information. ‘Access barriers sometimes even result in critical, relevant knowledge and research outputs generated in Africa being published in journals overseas, journals that are not affordable to African academic libraries’. He believed that the adoption of open access principles to allow scientific information to be more freely available on the Internet and by removing the financial barriers to accessing scientific information ‘is one of the most progressive ways of growing and showcasing African research’. Read the complete article on this webpage.(Engineering News Online, 8/11/2012)


The hard path to open source bioinnovation

For centuries farmers optimized their crops and livestock by breeding and selection, and retained the best plants or animals and shared the seed or lines with other farmers, who then further improved on them. This represents the conventional model of open-source licensing: where a party can use and develop a product, and then use that technology to profit as long as they do not block others improving upon that technology. In the 20th century the business model of seed supply drifted away from open source. The many legal changes that occurred in many countries gradually shifted emphasis onto private control of collections of genetic traits, or ‘germplasm’. As plant varieties became privatized and commoditised, corporations began to take more control of the innovation process. Economic and reputational incentives began to overshadow philosophical considerations of how publicly funded research translates into public good. Sharing of technologies was deemphasized.Read the rest of this in-depth analysis on the strengthening of the ‘Agricultural Open Source Infrastructure’ from Science Progress (20/8/2012).


Ivorian agricultural scientists open up their research

More than a dozen agricultural research institutes in Côte d'Ivoire have agreed to open up access to their research results and raise farmers' awareness of their work through a shared online platform. The aim is to increase the uptake of new and existing technologies and research findings, and eventually to boost agricultural production in the country and West African region, SciDev reports (14/8/2012). 


Research4Life greatly expands peer reviewed research available to developing world

Over 7 000 Elsevier books are now accessible through HINARI, AGORA, OARE, and ARDI. Research4Life partners announced that the content available through its collaborative public-private partnership has increased since 2011 to reach 17 000 peer reviewed scientific journals, books and databases. Research4Life provides over 6 000 institutions in more than 100 developing countries with free or low cost access to peer-reviewed online content from the world’s leading scientific, technical and medical publishers. The inclusion of Elsevier’s entire SciVerse ScienceDirect ebook collection follows the publisher’s incremental contributions of 1 700 clinical and science and technology books in 2011. Elsevier also makes available over 2,000 electronic journals and SciVerse Scopus, an abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature with over 19,500 titles from 5,000 publishers. (R4L, 16/05/2012)


Differences plague WIPO negotiations on traditional knowledge

The 21st session of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge, and Folklore (IGC) met from 16-20 April 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland. Negotiations at the WIPO over a legal instrument intended to protect traditional knowledge (TK) saw mixed progress. Though a draft text will be forwarded to WIPO’s General Assembly that includes some areas of convergence, various disagreements on the definition of TK, its beneficiaries, and the scope of a potential instrument marred the week-long discussions. Member states were unable to find common ground on whether a definition of traditional knowledge should be broad in scope or more detailed and descriptive. South Africa underlined the need to define TK as ‘dynamic and evolving’. Bolivia, for its part, asked that TK be defined as ‘inalienable, indivisible and imprescriptible’, as TK “cannot be given away by indigenous people, it cannot be fragmented, it is a unit”. Some developed countries, however, urged members to instead adopt a broader definition without descriptive terms. (ICTSD; 25/04/2012)


Researchers crack genetic codes for medicinal plant species

Researchers from across Canada, led by the University of Calgary's Dr. Peter Facchini and Dr. Vincent Martin of Concordia University in Montréal, have identified the genetic makeup for 75 medicinal plant species and are making the codes available to scientists and the public on-line. The genetic blueprints have potential applications in the pharmaceutical, natural health product, food and chemical industries. Plants contain specialized enzymes encoded by their unique genes that make them effective producers of medicines, flavours, fragrances, pigment, insecticides and other chemicals. The PhytoMetaSyn Project (Synthetic Biosystems for the Production of High Value Plant Metabolites) which started in 2009 is expected to have the entire set of genetic codes available by February 2012 (half the set is already available, and codes are added as they become available). (Eurekalert, 14/9/2011)


African millet gets international commercial interest and fears patent grab

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has focused several recent reports on new international commercial interest and patent claims on the African native crop sorghum. This includes the issues raised by the proposed widespread use of sorghum for the production of biofuels. This report extends ACB’s examination of new international commercial interest in African native crops, by including a focus on pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) and related African native grass species in the Pennisetum genus.Pearl millet, the most important African Pennisetum economically and for food security, shows promise to foreign researchers for a variety of applications. The paper explains that a foreign government project in South Africa working on pearl millet is seeking to stimulate development of the seed industry in Africa by replacing traditional varieties with commercial hybrids, and by creating pearl millets for specific uses including poultry feed and for biofuels.According to the paper, the ongoing unchecked provision of African farmers’ varieties of pearl millet to the US INTSORMIL (International Sorghum and Millet Collaborative Research Support) Program, without the use of appropriate material transfer agreements, seems alarming and there are fears that over time these practices are likely to result in biopiracy. It appears the seed transfer arrangements do not enjoy the protections and benefit sharing of the multilateral system under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).


'Traditional Knowledge & Biopiracy: The Peruvian Maca Root' - PIIPA Monthly Case Study Series (Feb.2011)

Maca root is an herbaceous, perennial, cultivated crop that is native to the Andes in Peru. Maca plants have medicinal values that include increasing libido, stamina, fertility, and alleviating insomnia. For centuries, the people in the Andes have been using the maca root for its medicinal properties and now maca is exported around the world. The Peruvian people’s use of maca for medicinal purposes is an example of traditional knowledge (TK).The National Institute for the Defense of Competition and Intellectual Property (INDECOPI) is a Peruvian government agency charged with the responsibility for market promotion and protection of consumer rights, as well as ensuring honest competition while protecting all forms of intellectual property Including TK. Concern about possible biopiracy of the maca root is one reason why Peru created this task force. INDECOPI discovered that there were over 100 patents directed to inventions related to Peruvian indigenous plants, the maca root or that included maca derivatives in the patent claims. With the help of PIIPA’s pro bono assistance volunteer (the US firm of Sterne Kessler Goldstein and Fox, PLLC in Washington DC “SKGF”) focus was placed on U.S. patents directed to extracts of maca plants. The Working Group and SKGF worked with scientists and maca exporters to assemble published documentation on maca preparation and the use of maca prior to the filing dates of most of the patents in question. In 2002, the working group also filed an opposition to an EU patent application with the European Patent Office (EPO). In 2010, the EPO rejected the European patent application, in part due to the documents provided by INDECOPI and the Working Group, which showed prior use. Currently, the National Anti-Biopiracy Commission will submit a request for reexamination of the related patent granted in the U.S. based on the rejection of the European patent as an argument.


Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore - World Intellectual Property Organization

Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore - Third Intersessional Working Group, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Draft agenda suggested discussion topics are, among others: “Disclosure of Origin or Source of Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge in Patent Applications” “Proposal of the African Group on Genetic Resources and Future Work” “Genetic Resources: Draft Intellectual Property Guidelines for Access and Equitable Benefit-Sharing: Updated Version” Geneva, Switzerland, 28 February to 4 March 2011, More information can be found on this WIPO webpage.

Monday 28 February 2011 - Friday 04 March 2011

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