[For further information on the FAO Biotechnology Forum see the Forum website.
Note, participants are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf, unless they state otherwise.]
Sent: 05 December 2008 09:34
Subject: 59: IPR in biotechnologies for bioenergy production
This is from Julie Newman, Australia, again.
In this message, I wish to address one of the questions from Section 5 of the Background Document, about intellectual property rights (IPR) i.e. "- Regarding IPR mentioned in Section 4.2, how big of an issue is this in relation to biotechnologies for bioenergy production in developing countries and how should developing countries act to ensure they have access to appropriate biotechnologies for bioenergy production?"
While the TRIPS agreement (i.e. the WTO's agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) promoted investment to research, it also came with a change from sharing research internationally to blocking research from price prohibitive patents. Research and development is moving rapidly from a public good principle to a corporate profit principle and it causes problems for public researchers and opportunities for corporate investors. As mentioned in section 4.2 of the Background Document: "Zarrilli (2008) notes that forthcoming biofuel technology will be proprietary and points out that strong intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes may mean that access to technology is problematic, especially for developing countries."
To develop a single biotechnology, multiple patents are required for gene sequences, enzymes, promoter genes, marker genes, techniques, equipment etc. It appears much of the patents, intellectual property and equipment involved in biotechnology is owned by Monsanto and Monsanto has been willing to cut deals with research institutes to use this technology free of charge in return for alliances and confidential contracts (e.g. Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation [CSIRO]). If these deals are offered to all global public research institutes, it is anti-competitive and leaves research institutes vulnerable to their intellectual property being mined rather than a more symbiotic relationship being developed. Are researchers finding it difficult to be involved in biotechnology due to the numerous patents involved? What deals are being offered to allow the use of these products and are these deals sustainable and affordable in the long term?
If monopolies are established globally for bioenergy production (and food), the end price will easily be manipulated in order to comply with the corporate principle to make as much money as possible. Policy makers need to be sure that any confidential deals are not heading the research sector or the community to an unaffordable future.
Network of Concerned Farmers
P.O. Box 6
Phone 08 98711562
Fax 08 98711584
email: julie (at) non-gm-farmers.com
Sent: 05 December 2008 11:20
Subject: 60: Pro-smallholder based RD programs in biotechnology for bioenergy development
This is from Wim Polman, again
Are there any examples of "Good Governance" in terms of pro small farmer based reseach and development (RD) programs in biotechnology for bioenergy development?
Is any detailed information available about the role of support institutions (national, local governments, universities, private sector, farmer commodity organizations, farmer cooperatives, NGOs and/or community level development associations) linking RD on biotechnology for bioenergy development with small farmers as producers and consumers of bioenergy products at community level as well as bioenergy entrepreneurs on the market ?
In addition, responding to message 59 by Julie Newman:
This commercialization of RD on biotechnology for bioenergy development start to shape up as another conflictual GMO type of patent policy issue, potentially damaging the livelihoods of small farmers as costly patents on new bioenergy products will drive them out of emerging renewable energy markets.
Bio Energy Officer
Environment, Climate Change and Bioenergy Division
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
Via delle Terme di Caracalla
e-mail: Wim.Polman (at) fao.org
Sent: 05 December 2008 17:20
Subject: 61: Bamboo - biofuel - biotechnologies
This is E.M. Muralidharan from India again.
We have had a good discussion in this conference so far about biofuel crops such as agave, jatropha and sorghum. Perennial crops have advantages like lower cost of establishment and maintenance, multiple harvests, lower impact on soil health and multiple uses like timber, fodder and green manure. I think it is worthwhile to mention in this context the potential of bamboo, a multipurpose woody grass naturally found in many of the developing nations and which can serve as an excellent lignocellulosic feedstock for bioenergy programmes when the technology for second generation biofuels becomes practical. In this message, I also consider biotechnology options for bamboo in this context.
Some bamboo species have as high as 70% cellulose and only 14% lignin. Bamboos are the fastest growing of all plants and have the advantage that harvesting of stems (culms) can be done annually for a long time unlike other tree crops. There are literally hundreds of species of bamboo and these include those that grow in tropical regions and others that thrive in the temperate areas. Bamboo is already extensively used by the rural populace in many developing countries in construction, for making household goods and as food. Besides its widespread use as raw material for the paper and viscose industry, it is fast becoming a substitute for conventional timber in the manufacture of parquet tiles, paneling, plywood and laminates. Residues from bamboo-based industries are currently being used for energy generation through gasification. More efficient biotechnological means of energy production are sure to make bamboo an ideal multipurpose crop for many of the developing countries.
In India, massive bamboo plantation activities have been taken up under government sponsorship and this has created a very high demand for planting material that can be met only through micropropagation. Unfortunately, on the issue of genetic superiority of the clones being propagated, there is much room for doubt since hardly any genetic improvement programme exists in the country. In at least two species of native bamboo, characterization of germplasm, collected from throughout their natural habitat, has yielded unexpected results in terms of higher cellulose and lower lignin content in their woody biomass. Micropropagation of such desirable genotypes and evaluation of the plants in the field needs to be done before embarking on large-scale plantations. Other biotechnological options will include use of in vitro culture and molecular breeding approaches for intergeneric hybridization between bamboo and other grasses (including, but not limited to, the cereal species) to produce plants with faster growth rates, stress tolerance, higher sugar/cellulose content, lower lignin and other agronomic traits of interest. Interestingly, sugarcane-bamboo hybrids have been produced long ago but have unfortunately given no useful outcome.
Perennial, fast-growing, multiple end-use (food/biofuel/timber/industrial biomass) crops are the ideal choice for developing nations. Let us hope that a viable biotechnological solution for energy production from cellulose is just around the corner.
Dr. E.M. Muralidharan
Scientist, Biotechnology Division
Kerala Forest Research Institute
Peechi, Thrissur, Kerala
emmurali (at) kfri.org
emmurali (at) gmail.com
Sent: 05 December 2008 17:35
Subject: 62: Re: Reflections on biotechnological research and biofuels
This is from Ruzena Svedelius, Sweden, again.
Responding to message 56 by E.M. Muralidharan who wrote "We should instead discuss exhaustively all the other options so as to shift focus from conversion of sugar/starch to biofuel to other technologies including improvement of traditional ones."
I agree that biogas plants using feedstocks, that are now managed by 'get rid of' method, both in rural and in urban areas, can very soon generate energy-rich methane in biogas and also biofertilisers, so much needed for production of new biomass. The biogas plants can also transform residues/byproducts from ethanol and biodiesel production (see message 58 by Wagner Vendrame) to biogas and biofertilisers. Is research on anaerobic digestion for more sustainable production of biogas still blocked? Novel bioreactors and more sustainable methods are needed. Each year we can buy new models of cars - why is it so difficult to design and built modern digesters/bioreactors? Perhaps technicians from car industry now can produce for sustainability more important equipment.
Dr. Ruzena Svedelius,
Nobbelovs Torg 29,
SE 226 52 Lund,
Biological Transformation of Renewable Organic Material
Phone: +46 707 33 11 20
E-mail: rsvedelius (at) hotmail.com