After the adoption of Agenda 2030 by the United Nations, a number of technologies have been proposed to address some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Biotechnology is consistent with the SDGs, but it depends on how the technology is being used. Is it being used under regulatory bioethical standards that govern the safety of this technology for public use as well as its effect on the environment and on public acceptability.
If one looks at the SDGs Goal 3 on ensuring health for all and Goal 2 on ensuring food security, one sees that countries have agreed that scientific technologies used in developing vaccines and better crops, respectively, should be utilised to implement these objectives. The issue of use of any technology is subject to each countries law and policies. In all high end technologies such as biotechnology, scientific research continues at a rapid pace, and this has given rise to two major concerns. One concern is that the poorest and least technologically-developed countries will fall so far behind in developing capacity in biotechnology that its potential benefits will bypass those populations who have the greatest need. The other concern is that, because of this same lack of capacity to manage technical change, these populations will be the most vulnerable to potential misuse of this technology and have little control on the foreign private companies that operate this technology in their countries.
The issues of technology access, facilitation and Intellectual Property Rights, are still ongoing processes that are debated between the North and South countries. UNESCO had been playing an important role since the late 1970s in giving a comprehensive world view of biotechnology, partly, through high level policy debates and partly through capacity building activities such as the Microbial Resource Centres Network, which provided a global infrastructure incorporating national, regional, and over 70 international co-operating laboratories geared to the management, distribution, and utilization of microbiology; the UNESCO Biotechnology Education and Training Centres in India, Pakistan and Nigeria (as Category II centres), UNESCO chairs in biotechnology, the World Library of Science; a free online interactive platform providing access to high quality educational resources in biotechnologies and related fields for all communities across the globe, as well as many prestigious awards such as for example the UNESCO-L’Oreal award for women in science, a programme which was established to narrow the gender gap in the life and physical sciences.
In fact UNESCO is the only unit within the UN that covers within its mandate the issue of “basic science for biotechnology”, capacity building and science education. It therefore provides the vital basis for and complements work done by the FAO (agriculture) and WHO (medical applications). UNESCO is also one of the main UN organisation that debates the multidisciplinary and multicultural dimensions of biotechnology through its International Bioethics Committee, the Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee and also acts as the Secretariat of the United Nations Inter-Agency Committee on Bioethics.
By Ahmed Fahmi, UNESCO
This perspective will be presented during Bioeconomy and Biobusiness Session on ECB2016:
Following the Bioeconomy and Biobusiness Session there will be presentations of Bioeconomy Open Space & Exhibition Project: