With the advent of the TRIPS Agreement and the dominant interpretative implementation of its minimum standards, actors who use, conserve and improve agricultural biodiversity are faced with a strong property rights system that has been thoroughly criticised. However, these critics have not achieved the regulatory shift they are advocating. In this PhD dissertation, Fulya Batur explains that this is due to the lack of socio-technological contextualisation of applicable laws and judicial interpretation. Indeed, intellectual property applies to very different innovation contexts and confronts all those involved in plant improvement, from mass selectors, small-scale private conventional plant breeders, public molecular researchers, specialised start-ups and integrated biotechnology giants. (APBREBES, 04/2014)
The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, a group of European scientists created in 2009, has published the single most comprehensive study of neonics, Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the impact of systemic pesticides on biodiversity and ecosystems (WAI). The WAI has examined over 800 scientific studies carried out in the last five years, including those sponsored by industry. Some aspects of this analysis have been broadly acknowledged (e.g. risks to honeybees), but some have not (e.g. risks to birds, earthworms, other pollinators and aquatic invertebrates). Relatively few studies have specifically focused on biodiversity and ecosystem impacts and this analysis moves understanding forward in a much more holistic and extensive way. (Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, 17/06/2014)
Integrated pest management (IPM) has hardly been adopted in developing countries, despite its theoretical prominence and sound principles. These are the findings of a research project conducted by scientists from CIAT, IRD, CIP, University of Greenwich, Cornell University and Wageningen UR. They found 51 potential reasons why IPM adoption by developing country farmers is low. The most frequently mentioned obstacle was 'insufficient training and technical support to farmers'. Different adoption obstacles were identified than in high-income countries. Developing-country respondents rated 'IPM requires collective action within a farming community' as their top obstacle to IPM adoption. Respondents from high-income countries prioritised the 'shortage of well-qualified IPM experts and extension workers'. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/02/19/1312693111 (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and IRD (FR), 25/02/2014)
Soroush Parsa, at International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Cali, Colombia and an international team of researchers, gathered the opinions of a large and diverse pool of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) professionals and practitioners from 96 countries to understand the low adoption rate of IPM among farmers. Analysis of responses revealed many unique statements on obstacles, the most frequent of which was 'insufficient training and technical support to farmers'. The obstacles were grouped into six themes: research weaknesses, outreach weaknesses, IPM weaknesses, farmer weaknesses, pesticide industry interference, and weak adoption incentives. Respondents from developing countries and high-income countries rated the obstacles differently. As a group, developing-country respondents rated 'IPM requires collective action within a farming community' as their top obstacle to IPM adoption. Developing-country participants appear to worry significantly more about weaknesses inherent within IPM itself. The authors believe the findings highlight the value of improving the active participation and representation of developing-country experience and perception in the IPM adoption debate. (PNAS, 24/02/2014)
In Europe, the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive requires EU Member States to develop National Action Plans with objectives, targets and measures to reduce the risks associated with applying pesticides. This study describes a new user guide to identify suitable measures to reduce pesticide pollution at the stream catchment scale. The guide was developed in Germany and it focuses on pesticide contamination via spray drift and surface runoff. Drainage through the soil from agricultural land was not included in the guide. The first step in the guide is to survey and map the catchment landscape for relevant features, including vegetation buffer strips, the type of buffer vegetation, the slope of agricultural fields and 'flow paths' that concentrate runoff, for example, gullies formed by soil erosion or drainage ditches. The next step involves using an 'identification key' to assess the potential for pesticides to enter water bodies, based on information in the landscape survey. The guide gives details of how effective such measures are in reducing exposure, and how feasible and acceptable such measures are likely to be. Users of the guide can compare the different measures to decide which measure or combination of measures to adopt. (European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service, 01/05/2014)
The Pesticide Action Network (PAN, Germany) is supporting non-chemical pest management on tropical crops that are commonly grown by small landholder farmers through the project 'Online Information Service for Non-chemical Pest Management in the Tropics' (OISAT). OISAT is a web-based information system to distribute information on non-chemical pest management for small-scale farmers in the tropics and sub-tropics. This field guide provides farmers with practical guidelines and alternatives to eliminate the use and their dependence on synthetic pesticides for the management of cowpea pests. Editor’s note: Clementine L. D. Binso, of INERA, Burkina Faso, won a top place in the 3rd Africa-wide Women in Science competition for her work on hermetic triple bagging technology for cowpea storage. http://knowledge.cta.int/Dossiers/CTA-and-S-T/Selected-publications/Food-security-in-Africa-an-innovative-technique-for-cowpea-storage (PAN, 2014)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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 Tanzaniahttp://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/article/default.asp?ID=10751(ISAAA Crop Biotech Update, 13/3/2013)
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. IP-Watch.org 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, IP-Watch.org 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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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).http://scienceprogress.org/2012/08/the-hard-path-to-open-source-bioinnovation/
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).