Kenyan Livestock Breeders Call For Protection Of Their IP Rights 19/01/2017 by Justus Wanzala for Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The lack of an intellectual property regime for animal breeding in Kenya is undermining efforts to curb illegal exploitation of Kenyan animal genetic resources, according to industry representatives. Zebu cattle belonging to the Maasai pastoral community grazing in Laikipia County, Kenya The Kenya Livestock Breeders Organisation (KLBO), which is mandated to promote interests of farmers/breeders, has raised a red flag that the country has lost its Boran cattle gene to South Africa. The Boran is a breed of cattle with origin in Northern Kenya and parts of southern Ethiopia, where it is highly adapted to local harsh arid/semi arid conditions. KLBO has also sounded an alarm that cross breeding of exotic and indigenous livestock has led to loss of genetic material that would have allowed adaptation to climate change. The organisation’s officials particularly note that cross breeding has led to the extinction of the indigenous Nandi Zebu, from the country’s Rift Valley. The breed, they argue,was well adapted to the local environment and hence resilient against climate change. As for the Boran cattle genes, livestock breeders warn that Kenya has lost valuable genes through bio-piracy which are today patented in South Africa while the rest is stored in gene banks in the United States. The Constitution of Kenya expressly protects intellectual property, innovation and technology transfer. Chapter 40 (5) obliges the State to support, promote and protect the intellectual property rights of the people of Kenya. As a result the country has a regime on protection of environment and natural resources with the aim of ensuring equitable sharing of the accruing benefits both monetary and non-monetary. According to World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the scope of industrial property encompasses not only industry and commerce but also agriculture and extractive industries as well as all manufactured or natural products such as grains, cattle and minerals. Stanley Atsali, patent examiner at Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), a government parastatal that administers intellectual property rights adds that the Paris Convention for the protection of industrial property to which Kenya is a signatory also recognises animal breeders’ rights. He however explains that whereas much ground has been covered in conserving and protecting Kenyan plant genetic resources, the same cannot be said of animal genetics. “Intellectual property protection in Kenya and other developing countries in strong on industrial property, and copyright but poor on protecting animal breeders’ rights,” he told Intellectual Property Watch. Moreover, said Atsali, Kenya has the Genetic Resources Research Institute (GeRRI), a semi-autonomous research institute under the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research responsible for conserving plant genetic resources, animal and microbial genetic resources. The institute,he said, has a database on plant genetic resources, as well as a gene bank, but none for animal or livestock gene resources. Stanley Atsali “As a country, we lack a database for animal genetic resource as well as a genebank. It is hence difficult to verify if genes of a particular animal species have been stolen or not because you can only conserve something that you know of its existence,” he said. KLBO and its partners warn that the loss of genetic resources is counterproductive to sustainable livelihoods in the marginal areas. Speaking late last year during the 2016 Africa Forum on Protection, Preservation and Promotion of African Indigenous Livestock Breeds meeting in Nairobi, the East African Farmers Federation’s Philip Kiriro, President, Eastern Africa Farmers Federation called for strengthening of farmers organisations’ through capacity building to enable them be the first line of defence against unscrupulous individuals. His call was echoed by KLBO, which appealed to the government to utilize international instruments to ensure that Kenya’s genetic material is protected for posterity. The KLBO is the secretariat office to the livestock breed societies, which have a mandate to establishing breed standards and contribute to development of the national breeding programme and related policies with the government. Noting that matters relating to intellectual property, genetic resources and traditional knowledge had gained prominence at the national, regional and international levels, KIPI created a Traditional Knowledge and Genetic Resources Unit 8 years ago. The unit handles issues of intellectual property rights relating to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources for indigenous and local communities.It also deals with issues of access and benefit sharing. Atsali said that due to climate change, Kenya and other African countries could be a source of superior climate smart livestock genes. He added that lack of protection of animal genes is impairing research and development that would have aided commercialisation of livestock breeds. “Conservation of superior animal/livestock breeds is key to ensuring climate resilience hence enhancement of food security and economic growth,” Atsali said. Kenya and other developing nations, he advised, should emulate the Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan whose national assembly in 1998 adopted a law on the protection of genera and species, which protects the rights of animal breeders. The Kyrgyz Republic’s Law on the Legal Protection of Selection Achievements governs both economic and moral relations arising out of creation, legal protection and use of selection achievements for which patents have been granted in the Kyrgyz Republic. Leonard Mukhebi Muganda, chief executive officer of the KLBO, concurs with Atsali that conservation of animal geneticsis a matter of concern in Africa as a whole. Muganda said a lot of interest in the ‘Kenyan Boran’ cattle stems from the fact that it has been bred over time as a superior fast-growing breed with good quality meat. He said curbing bio-piracy of the animal’s genes is majorly a responsibility of the Boran Cattle Breeders Society (BCBS), which is a member of KLBO. The society works with the office of National Director of Livestock Production and Veterinary Services under the State Department of Livestock. The BCBS, noted Muganda, has stringent rules governing selection, exportation and exchange of the Boran gene pool among interested breeders and members. “This has not been fully enforced because some farmers do it purely for commercial gains,” he said. As much as farmers would want to access better markets for their breeds, Boran breeders are advised to be members of the BCBS to benefit as members and safeguard the Boran breed, he added. According to Muganda, one of the challenges encountered during efforts to counter the threat of biopiracy is that exportation of Boran animals/genes is also done by commercial non-registered farmers or brokers who get permits to export Boran cattle genes without the approval of the Boran society. “This group of people evade registration with BCBS/KLBO. Most of them are at the same time not aware of the existing society rules protecting breeders from exploitation,” he said. Indeed, Paul Egesa, a veterinary surgeon at Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre, said the Boran cattle are kept by farmers and government has no restriction on private enterprises. This makes it difficult to establish if their genes are pirated or not because mostly it is a matter of willing buyer and willing seller. “Breeders do not export live animals to countries such as South Africa, so farmers from such countries do pick embryos and pay for them and an export certificate is issued to them,” he said. Egesa, however, added that better policies and a proper intellectual property regime should be put in place and enforced, for the best way to conserve animal genes is through their sustainable use. Muganda said that to ensure better protection of Kenyan animal gene resources, the Office of National Director of Veterinary Services should enforce controls on exportation for example of Boran genes with the assistance of Kenya Animal Genetics Resources Centre (KAGRC) and ensure the BCBS approval is in place. “KLBO/BCBS has a mandate to enlighten farmers on the value and importance of conservation of Boran cattle genetics,” he said. Atsali is of the view that the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that sets minimum standards for many forms of intellectual property regulation should be amended to incorporate recognition of source of origin and traditional knowledge and genetic resources. He said that as far as genetic resources are concerned, the move will ensure better benefit-sharing, especially for local communities as stipulated by the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources. “It will ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from commercialisation of genetic resources,” he said. Image Credits: Justus Wanjala Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Justus Wanzala may be reached at email@example.com."Kenyan Livestock Breeders Call For Protection Of Their IP Rights" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.