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Introduction to Conference 16

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    Conference 16 of the FAO Biotechnology Forum took place from 8 June to 8 July 2009 and was entitled "Learning from the past: Successes and failures with agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries over the last 20 years". It took place as part of the build up to the FAO international technical conference on Agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries: Options and opportunities in crops, forestry, livestock, fisheries and agro-industry to face the challenges of food insecurity and climate change (ABDC-10), that was held in Guadalajara, Mexico on 1-4 March 2010.

    As for all other conferences of this Forum, a Background Document was prepared before the conference began. This document provided a description and overview of the main kinds of agricultural biotechnologies that have been used in the five different sectors in developing countries over the past 20 years (e.g. use of molecular markers, genetic modification, chromosome set manipulation, biotechnology-based diagnostics, development of vaccines using biotechnologies, reproductive biotechnologies in livestock and aquaculture, cryopreservation, tissue culture-based techniques, mutagenesis, fermentation, biofertilizers and biopesticides). It also gave some examples of their applications in specific developing countries and some guidance about the e-mail conference, which included a description of the issues participants should address as well as potential factors to consider when assessing whether specific applications of a biotechnology have been a partial or complete success or failure.

    A total of 834 people subscribed to the conference and 121 e-mail messages were posted, 74 percent of which were from people living in developing countries. Most contributions focused on whether applications of one or more biotechnologies had been a success or a failure in the crop, livestock, forestry or food processing sectors, as well as the factors that determined their success or failure. The remaining messages were cross-sectoral in nature, discussing agricultural biotechnologies in general without specifying a given sector, and focused on reasons for failures, and suggestions for increasing their success in the future.

    Participants in the moderated e-mail conference shared a wealth of experiences regarding the use of agricultural biotechnologies across the different food and agricultural sectors in developing countries. They provided concrete examples where agricultural biotechnologies were benefiting smallholders in developing countries. They also discussed at length why specific biotechnologies, as well as agricultural biotechnologies in general, had not succeeded in developing countries and they offered suggestions to increase their success in the future. The conference also indicated that there is no general answer to whether applications of a given agricultural biotechnology have succeeded or failed in the past, but that every application is different and its success depends primarily on the local context in which it is used.

    Read the Summary Document of this conference, which provides a concise account of the major issues discussed by the participants.

    See also the Archives of messages posted

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