Unep’s news desk recently reported that Kenya’s Lake Bogoria contains an unusual array of microbes and micro organisms from which enzymes have been produced for use in antibiotics and cleaning products. The, tiny organisms like those found in Bogoria are the basis of the multi-million dollar global biotech industry.
The Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit sharing, addresses “biopiracy” of genetic resources; that is, their biotechnological utilization in violation of either the provider country legislation or mutually agreed contractual obligations. Biopiracy is defined as a problem resulting from a distributive conflict between provider and user countries, the practical difficulties of monitoring the utilization of genetic resources in a transnational context, and the pervasive scientific uncertainty about the nature and extent of the problem. Kenya has ratified the Protocol.
The local people therefore stand to benefit from this discovery. The Endorois people, have lived beside, and been custodians of the lake for centuries. The lake has deep spiritual and cultural significance for them. “Microbes or micro-organisms are natural capital,” says UN Environment ecosystems expert Levis Kavagi.
It will be interesting to see how benefits derived from the harvesting and use of the microbes and micro organisms will be shared between the researchers and the local communities. Kenya is yet to pass laws at national level that will help in the implementation of the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol. this is turn puts the local communities in a precarious position.
In the past, a British University harvested some micro-organisms from the lake, and in 1995 sold them to companies in the Netherlands and the United States. Those companies were later sued by the Kenyan government for not sharing the financial benefits of their subsequent innovations with Kenya. this was before the Nagoya Protocol had been put in place.
UN Environment and partners are working with the Endorois and other communities to ensure they receive their fair share of any resources from the lakes. They also want people to look after the ecosystems.
Igor Ashurbeyli, Founder in Chief of ROOM: The Space Journal & Chairman of Moscow based International Expert Society on Space Threat Defence, gave a keynote address on the protection of Earth from Military & Non-Military Space Threats.
He pointed out seven types of space related risks as:
- Sun storms and sun flares, known as coronal mass ejections.
- Changes in the Earth’s magnetosphere which result in the destruction of the protective shield that could deflect coronal mass ejections.
- Potentially dangerous asteroids and comets, which could impact Earth and lead to mass destruction of humanity.
- Man-made space debris.
- Climate change resulting from the effects of human technology, industrialisation and solar radiation on Earth’s atmosphere.
- Cosmic radiation – Earth is constantly affected not only by solar radiation but also by cosmic rays from novas, supernovas and pulsars. This also needs to be taken into consideration.
- Biological threats from inside meteors and other small bodies that reach the planet.
He noted that in order to create an effective method of protection from space-based threats, close international cooperation is essential. Any one sided action on behalf of one country, even the richest and most technologically advanced, can be faced with multiple legal, political and strategic barriers.
Ashurbeyli further noted that technology alone – despite all its real and promised benefits for humankind – means absolutely nothing without a higher goal and vision. Further progress in near-Earth space and global space exploration calls for the return of altruistic motives, and the return of inspiration and a sense of human community.
There’s need for an internationally acceptable control system with completely transparent intellectual property rights and open architecture. Funding and the right to use it must belong to all mankind – encompassing advanced nations and developing countries alike, with no restrictions or boundaries.
It will require a new approach to international politics which Ashurbeyli named ‘astropolitics’ – something which would need to encompass not just major aspects of international relationships but legal matters of a much more human scale.
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