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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Governing agrobiodiversity: new book looks at international regimes and the management of crop genetic resources

Plant genetic diversity is crucial for food security and for fighting poverty. Nevertheless, crop plant varieties are disappearing fast, and access to genetic resources is increasingly restricted by commercial interests. A new book by FNI Senior Research Fellow Regine Andersen makes the first comprehensive analysis of how international agreements affect the management of crop genetic resources in developing countries, revealing that the interaction of the agreements has produced largely negative impacts, despite good intentions. The book, titled Governing Agrobiodiversity - Plant Genetics and Developing Countries, also highlights entry points to shape a better governance of agrobiodiversity.

Plant genetic diversity is crucial to the breeding of food crops and is therefore a central precondition for food security. Diverse genetic resources provide the genetic traits required to deal with crop pests and diseases, as well as changing climate conditions. It is also essential for the millions of people worldwide who depend on traditional small-scale farming for their livelihoods. As such, plant genetic diversity is an indispensable factor in the fight against poverty.

However, the diversity of domesticated plant varieties is disappearing at an alarming rate while the interest in the commercial use of genetic resources has increased in line with bio-technologies, followed by demands for intellectual property rights. The ensuing struggle over genetic resources has given rise to several international agreements. A new book by FNI Senior Research Fellow Regine Andersen provides the first comprehensive analysis of how the international agreements pertaining to crop genetic resources affect the management of these vital resources for food security and poverty eradication in developing countries.

The book analyses the international regimes and their interaction, traces the driving forces across scales and the effects in developing countries. Finally, it identifies entry points to shape a better governance of agrobiodiversity.

A key conclusion is that the interaction between the various regimes has had largely negative effects for the management of crop genetic diversity in developing countries - despite other intentions behind the individual agreements. The result of these developments is an emerging anti-commons tragedy: A situation where multiple actors have the possibilities to exclude each other from the use of plant genetic resources in agriculture.
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Not only is this a threat to the conservation and sustainable use of these resources, but it may also seriously affect food security and the outlook for combating poverty in the world. With the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which was adopted in 2001, the international community has an instrument with the potential to change this negative trend. Whether that will happen, however, depends crucially on the political will of the contracting parties to the Treaty.
It is my sincere hope that this book can contribute to the efforts already underway, aimed at breaking out of the vicious circle of today's management of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, so that we may ensure the continued maintenance of these resources so vital to food security and poverty eradication. I also hope it will advance our understanding of how international regimes can better be employed as instruments for strengthening global governance in environmental issues. - Dr Regine Andersen
The "Governing Agrobiodiversity" project ran from 2000 to 2008 and was the base for the doctoral dissertation of Regine Andersen. The point of departure was a series of case studies in one country, the Philippines, and the results have been validated with regard to their relevance for other developing countries. The focus of the case studies was on how actors that were engaged in the field of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture have influenced the processes leading to the legislation on this issue, and on the factors that have influenced the positions of these actors. In this context, the influence of international regimes on actor positions was emphasised. Finally, the effects of these constellations on the implementation of the legislation were analysed.

The doctoral dissertation was submitted and approved in 2006, and was successfully defended on 23 February 2007. An edited version of the dissertation will be published by Ashgate in 2008.

The project was funded by the Research Council of Norway. Dr Hansen performed her research at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, an independent Norwegian foundation engaged in research on international environmental, energy and resource management politics.

Andersen, Regine, Governing Agrobiodiversity: Plant Genetics and Developing Countries. Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008, 420 p. ISBN 978-0-7546-4741-6

Fridtjof Nansen Institute: Governing Agrobiodiversity – Inter-Regime Conflicts on Plant Genetics and Developing Countries - project website.


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