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Experts meet on need for new rules to govern world's fragile polar regions
Date:9/7/2008

ring that the precise calculation of the duration of ice-coverage can only be made at the end of the year?

Bioprospecting is also emerging as an issue in both polar regions, says Dr. Leary of UNU-IAS.

"Bioprospecting in Antarctica in particular raises new questions about its impact on freedom of scientific research and the unique framework of international co-operation and governance in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean which is built upon the ideals of Antarctica as a region devoted to science and peace.

"Similar questions arise in the Arctic as well. It is quite suprising but it looks like bioprospecting is already a well established commercial activity in the Arctic, perhaps exceeding the level of activity in Antarctica. Both biotechnology companies and government funded research projects alike see the potential of the Arctic's unique biodiversity for new developments in biotechnology.

"The neural stem cells of Arctic squirrels for example offer interesting new possibilities for the treatment of strokes in humans, while some Arctic fish species have already yielded new interesting enzymes useful in industrial and manufacturing processes."

"But can these new commercial activities, often occurring on the high seas, be sustainably managed? That is but one new challenge for international law we are considering at this conference", says Dr. Leary.

Thorsteinn Gunnarsson, rector of the University of Akureyri says: "As the impact of climate change is increasing, it is highly important to discuss leadership and governance in the Arctic regions. The academic community should provide a platform to explore and openly debate these issues. University of Akureyri is very proud to offer this platform by holding this conference in international law and policy in the polar regions in cooperation with UN institutions and other partners."

Says Konrad Ostrerwalder, UN Under Secretary-General and Rector of UNU: "
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Contact: Terry Collins
terrycollins@rogers.com
416-538-8712
United Nations University
Source:Eurekalert

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