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Sent: 02 December 2003 09:44
Subject: 58: Locally adapted technology
Hello, I'm Jasper Buijs again.
I'm writing in response to message 57 (December 1) by Wytze de Lange. He argues that the high cost associated with MAS technology could more wisely be spent through other development routes. I wish not to counter-argue that there are other (technological) alternatives available to help poor farmers. Indeed, I would stress that viewpoint. However, his message also notes that MAS seems to be "yet another over-hyped gene technology". This wording, in my opinion, is somewhat too dismissing. The 'hype' is created by pro-biotech parties as well as anti-biotech parties. Many of them selling lies or partial truths (I am especially referring to the discussions about the use of GM crops). I still don't know whether we should call such intense discussion the virtue or the sickness of this information age. Living with the reality of such hypes, this does not mean that gene technologies' potentials shouldn't be further explored and tapped.
As far as I can oversee, many technologies are more expensive in their early phases. Once a deeper insight and more experience is gained (a knowledge base), usually people find ways to adapt the technology and make it cheaper to use. Tissue culture, for instance, has once also been regarded as a highly expensive technology of the developed world. But now it is effectively being used in many developing countries with cheaper local resources, or as 'creolizations' with traditional multiplication techniques (for instance with grafting, or the use of tissue culture growth hormones in locally prepared vermiculture soil to let tree shoots directly develop roots). [Creolization describes the coming together of diverse cultural traits or elements to form new traits or elements. For example, in the context of linguistics, creolization occurs when two or more languages converge to form a new, indigenous language...Moderator].
Although recognizing that technologies such as MAS are indeed still very expensive to actively apply, it is of importance that developing countries be able to build research capacity (institutional and human) and establish a knowledge base to find ways to adapt the technology to their own needs and abilities. Such reinforced capacity might also be able to attract more foreign financial resources to kick-start new developments. In this way, MAS might become one of the tools that developing countries could opt for, without making a hype of it and forgetting about cheaper options.
At the end of my argumentation, I must admit that I am not a MAS specialist. I would therefore like to post a question: Do people (especially from developing countries) have ideas already about how MAS could be locally adapted for lower cost, creolization or combination with other, (low-cost) technologies/techniques?
MSc. Ing. Jasper Buijs
Associate Expert Agricultural Biotechnology
Crop Improvement and Genetic Resources Department
International Potato Center (CIP)
Apartado 1558, Lima 12,
telephone: 349 6017 ext. 3063
fax: 349 5326
email: j.buijs (at) cgiar.org
Sent: 02 December 2003 09:53
Subject: 59: Re: Experiences with MAS so far - Netherlands, plants
My name is Hugh Wallwork and I am a cereal pathologist working in South Australia but with responsibility for the development of molecular markers in wheat and barley in the Cooperative Research Centre for Molecular Plant Breeding (MPBCRC). I am also actively using MAS in germplasm development projects.
The value of MAS in general has been questioned on the grounds of cost and practicality (see in particular message 57, December 1, by Wytze de Lange). However, how MAS is used can make an enormous difference to how costly and beneficial it is and it would seem to me that many of the criticisms stem from poor strategies rather than an inherant problem with the technology.
Using it to screen for rust resistance is possibly not a good economic strategy. Neither would using it on early generation segregating lines be very wise. Using it for selection of backcross F1 seed, where the trait of interest cannot be selected until late generations, is one example where it is likely to be much more economical than carrying the very high cost of keeping large numbers of lines that will inevitably be thrown out at a later stage after much wasted selection for other traits. (Sorry about the long sentence!). Indeed it may make outcomes possible that could not have succeeded otherwise. For this reason, MAS is and will remain a reality and it is only therefore a question of how it is deployed and how any one country can access that technology rather than whether they should.
Some breeding programs with limited objectives based on simply inherited traits may have no need to use MAS. For many countries the most obvious avenue is through importing CIMMYT/ICARDA (The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center/International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas) germplasm developed centrally using these techniques. Some countries may be able to make arrangements for other central laboratories to screen lines for them. Many developing countries already have access to MAS technologies although there may be internal problems of deploying this expertise locally for breeding programs. In due course, the costs of MAS will come down dramatically as will the ease of using them away from high technology labs.
Most of the costs involved in MAS are related to marker development work and much of this work is already in progress in a diversity of organisations such as ours. We, for example, in the MPBCRC are working on a wide range of disease and abiotic stress traits and, with both CIMMYT and ICARDA as partners, are interested in providing assistance to developing countries by working on traits relevant to them.
In summary, I would suggest that instead of taking a negative approach to a powerful and useful tool, that we focus on how we can best use this opportunity and how we can facilitate developing countries taking advantage of what it offers.
Cereal Pathology and Genetics
South Australian Research and Development Institute
Wallwork.Hugh (at) saugov.sa.gov.au
Sent: 02 December 2003 10:34
Subject: 60: Collaborative international research on MAS
My name is Daniel J. Fairbanks and I am a Professor of Plant and Animal Sciences at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, USA.
BYU is a collaborative partner with the PROINPA Foundation in Bolivia conducting research on quinoa, an important but underutilized food crop in Andean South America, under sponsorship of the McKnight Foundation's Collaborative Crops Research Program (http://www.mcknight.org/science/cropresearch.asp). We are developing DNA markers for use in germplasm characterization, selection of genotypes for core-collection development, and MAS in quinoa in Bolivia. Our experience has provided us with several insights that are making MAS workable and cost-effective in Bolivia, and have overcome some of the limitations imposed by intellectual-property issues.
At our laboratories in the USA, we developed polymorphic DNA markers of various types in quinoa, including amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs), simple sequence repeats (SSRs, also called microsatellites), single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPDs), and from them constructed a genetic map of quinoa. However, not all of these markers can be used in a cost-effective manner in Bolivia because of the laboratory equipment required and the inflated cost of consumables in that country. Instead, we have developed mapped SSR markers that can be reliably amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and display polymorphic alleles that are readily detectable on horizontal agarose gels. Although development of SSR markers is expensive, the only equipment required for amplification and detection of these markers after they are developed is a thermal cycler and an agarose gel apparatus. The cost of consumables is relatively low, and the agarose can be recycled. Bolivian scientists then use these SSR markers for their breeding and germplasm conservation programs in the country at a relatively low cost.
This approach of marker development and mapping in the USA, and utilization of mapped, cost-effective markers in Bolivia overcomes many of the economic obstacles faced by scientists in developing countries. Moreover, we have managed to work within intellectual-property restrictions that impede the transfer of germplasm across international boundaries. By developing markers in the USA and sending selected markers to Bolivia, there is no need for the Bolivian germplasm collection, or for large amounts of breeding material, to leave the country for analysis.
Daniel J. Fairbanks
Department of Plant and Animal Sciences
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602,
df3 (at) email.byu.edu
[Since at least 3000 BC, if not longer, the seed of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) has been a vital part of the Andean diet, used as a grain in baking, as well as being served in numerous dishes prepared by Aymara, Quechua and other indigenous peoples throughout the Andean region...Moderator].