05 July 2007

Denmark's Novozymes to exploit Kenya's rare microbes


AFX News Limited
06.29.07, 2:33 AM ET

NAIROBI (Thomson Financial) - Kenya yesterday unveiled an agreement with the world's top producer of industrial enzymes Novozymes to exploit the east African country's rare microbes.

Under the deal, which took effect in May, the state-run Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) permits Novozymes to make commercial use of Kenya's microbe diversity in return for royalties and a transfer of technology to Kenya.

'The partnership includes a research and development programme and the rights for Novozymes to make use of microbial diversity from Kenyan protected areas,' KWS and Novozymes said in a joint statement.

Enzymes developed from rare microbes can be used in detergents, in the analysis of drugs or blood components, in food additives, fibre or pulp processing in the paper industry, and for environmental purification.

'Kenya is a country rich in biodiversity. At Novozymes we build our business on nature's resources, and it is therefore important that we can access microbial diversity. In return for this, I am glad to give something back to Kenya,' said Novozymes chief Steen Riisgaard.

Kenya is currently seeking compensation from Genencor International for allegedly profiteering from enzymes originating from the country's two Rift Valley lakes without official permission.

But Genencor, a division of Danish firm Danisco, has denied any wrongdoing, saying it bought the enzymes from a Dutch firm that took part in a research at east Africa's saline lakes in 1992.

The alleged 'bio-piracy' took place before the International Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force in December 2003. The convention commits member states to equitable sharing of the benefits derived from biological resources.




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