Monday, 1 September 2008

First All Africa Congress on Biotech for September in Nairobi



The Africa Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF) web site has annouced that the organisation will soon hold its first ever congress between the 22nd to the 26th September, 2008 in Nairobi, Kenya.

This ABSF event is important not only because it is the first ever of its kind but also because of the issues to be deliberated on. Intellectual property is one of the key topics for discussion; in particular:
* Intellectual property and genetic inventions
* Intellectual Property Rights As Applied In Biotechnology Applications; and
* Intellectual Property Rights & Plant Variety Protection

The topics above are of critical importance not only for the participants at this forum but also for a wider body of stakeholders including farmers on the continent, investors in the sector, scientists and above all, Governments. For a number of years now, investors have been jostling Governments in East Africa to set out clear policies and laws on the conduct of biotechnology, as well as ownership of inventions derived from this area of technology. So far, no country in the region has an explicit piece of legislation pronouncing itself, particularly on the thorny issue of patenting life forms. The closest that any country has gone is Kenya by acceding to the UPOV convention on the protection of plant varieties.

The issue that remains is, what weight will decisions made in this conference carry. This is important because the possibilities suggested by biotech scientists appear quite interesting if applied to current challenges in the bio-medical area, food production and others. Hopefully I will be reporting on the positions taken once my fly on the wall reports back to me from the conference!

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