Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Panel Discussion on Sustainable Use and Genetic Improvement

Dr. Xuan Li, Lead Economist, South Centre participated in the panel discussion on "Sustainable Use and Genetic Improvement" organized by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as a part of its first International Technical Conference on Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture organized in Interlaken, Switzerland from 3-7 September 2007.

According to Dr. Li, there are at least four challenges we are facing to ensure a sustainable use of animal genetic resources. The first challenge is to re-think of livestock sector policies that "distort the playing field" on which indigenous breeds compete. As we have seen, farmers are often disadvantaged by subsidies on feed, artificial insemination and other inputs that tend to favour exotic breeds. From a policy perspective, there is a need to conduct some systematic policy analysis to assess the implication of the existing livestock policies and respond it accordingly.

The second challenge is, from an economic perspective, an appropriate incentive and funding mechanisms to foster innovation is crucial. Choice needs to be made between patent and alternative mechanism, whichever is more cost-effective to foster sustainable use and innovation.

The third challenge is the interface between animal genetic resources and intellectual property seems to be underestimated. The statement “all the processes of relevant reproduction, data capture, statistics analysis, etc are in the public domain” is inaccurate. In addition, a range of rapidly developing molecular and reproductive biotechnologies also has important implications for An GR management. In order to ensure a sustainable use of animal GR, efforts must be made to carefully examine the interface between animal genetic resources and IP.

The fourth challenge is, a proper scheme to ensure an access to animal genetic resources and technology transfer as well as benefit sharing is necessary. Specifically, there is a strong need to establish an international binding treaty to stimulate the sustainable conservation and use of animal GR. Such a treaty should cover "any genetic material of animal origin of actual or potential value for food and agriculture".

Read full text at: http://www.southcentre.org/IAKP-SouthCentre-FAO-Genetic-Resources.html