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Government to introduce laws on bio-piracy, says Mutula

BUSINESS
By | November 1st 2011

By Peter Orengo

Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo said the Government is in the process of formulating legislation on the effective management of the country's biodiversity.

Kilonzo said the country was losing valuable biological and genetic materials, some deposited in local and foreign depositories due to lack of enforcement and compliance laws.

He said the country though rich in biodiversity had limited protection of intellectual property derived from biological intellectual assets.

This has resulted in bio-piracy or unethical bio-prospecting by foreigners who later own the intellectual rights.

"Kenya continues to lose its plants, animals and other resources within its protected areas due to scientific, technical, technological and financial barriers. This makes us lose as a country," said Kilonzo.

 

A case in point is when the University of Nairobi collaborated with Oxford University to develop a vaccine for HIV using commercial sex workers from Kenya. Although the country was the source of the genome used to develop the vaccine, it was never recognized.

Microorganisms from Kenya’s Rift Valley’s lake Bogoria and Nakuru used to make washing powder and denim jeans wear are some of the cited cases of bio-piracy. Intellectual rights for owning of Kiondo and Kikoyi artefacts stolen by foreign companies have never been resolved.

"We cannot afford to be bystanders while other nations are benefiting from these economic potentials," said Mutula. He added that some of the Indigenous Knowledge in the biodiversity health, environment conservation, food and industrial has largely been ignored.

The Minister was speaking during the launch of the Bio-prospecting Strategy and Expert Dialogue for Effective Biodiversity Laws to attract investment for the country in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya in a speech read on his behalf by Kilonzo said reforms within the biodiversity sector was the only way the country could attract investment and conservation.

"Proper laws bring certainty and create opportunities for investment and better management of our vast resources. Effective legislations will also enhance planning and better resource use," said Oparanya.

He said bio-prospecting strategy will make Kenya among the first countries in the world to have a roadmap after the Nagoya protocol on international regime on access and benefit sharing. This could also bring the country up to US dollars 900 billion annually.

The strategy which requires Sh10 billion is to be implemented in five phases including; making legislation and institutional reforms, evaluation of the country’s biodiversity, sharing benefit with the local communities, technology transfer and establishment of centers of excellence.

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