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Sent: 18 November 2003 10:35
Subject: 3: Re: MAS for crop improvement in developing countries
This is from Olusola B Sokkefun, Lagos, Nigeria.
The concepts of marker assisted selection and its potentials, as novel as they all seem, would elude the developing world.
It is only in a few universities for instance in Nigeria, where I am based, that you find enough facilities to extract DNA, to talk of being able to do further studies on the DNA. The laboratories where they exist are not equipped. Most African universities are theoretical universities especially the faculties of science.
The developed world must generally carry the developing world along in the cutting edge technologies. We at the centre look forward to partnerships with laboratories, institutes and institutions within and outside the several universities for partnership which can find commercial applications.
Olusola B Sokefun
The Bioscience Research Centre, Lagos State University, Ojo
Tel:+ 234 8033335175
osokefun (at) hotmail.com
Sent: 18 November 2003 10:36
Subject: 4: Re: Economic Impact of MAS
In response to message 2 (17 November) by Daniel Gianola, I can refer you to both of my books:Weller, J. I. (1994) Economic Aspects of Animal Breeding. Chapman and Hall. London. 244 pp.
In the first book, I consider the question of economic evaluation in more detail, and in the second book, I review the various studies that have attempted to predict the gains possible by MAS. With respect to the economic questions, MAS is no different from any other technology that increases rates of genetic gain, but also increases costs. In brief, investment in MAS can be "massive" but so can the potential economic gains over the long-term. A little bit of genetic gain is very valuable over the long-term. Your frame of reference is also very important. For example, are you considering gain to a single breeding company in competition with other companies, or the economic gain that can be accrued to the national economy?
Joel Ira Weller
Institute of Animal Sciences
A. R. O., The Volcani Center
P. O. Box 6
Bet Dagan 50250
E-mail: weller (at) agri.huji.ac.il
Phone : 972-8-9484430
Fax : 972-8-9470587
[Regarding economic comparisons of conventional and MAS breeding, two relevant articles were recently published from the the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in the April 2003 edition of the journal Molecular Breeding. The work was referred to in the Background Document to this conference. Because of their relevance to the discussion here, the abstracts of the articles are reproduced below - the journal website is at http://www.kluweronline.com/issn/1380-3743/current, the April 2003 edition currently seems to be freely available.
The abstract of the first article (Dreher, K. et al. 2003. Money matters (I): costs of field and laboratory procedures associated with conventional and marker-assisted maize breeding at CIMMYT. Molecular Breeding. 11: 221-234) says "This article presents selected results of a study carried out in Mexico at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) to compare the cost-effectiveness of conventional and marker-assisted maize breeding. Costs associated with use of conventional and marker-assisted selection (MAS) methods were estimated using a spreadsheet-based budgeting approach. This information was used to compare the cost of using conventional screening and MAS to achieve a well-defined breeding objective-identification of plants carrying a mutant recessive form of the opaque2 gene in maize that is associated with Quality Protein Maize (QPM). In addition to generating empirical cost information that will be of use to CIMMYT research managers, the study produced four important insights. First, for any given breeding project, detailed budget analysis will be needed to determine the cost-effectiveness of MAS relative to conventional selection. Second, direct comparisons of unit costs for MAS methods and conventional selection methods provide useful information for research managers, but factors other than cost are likely to play an important role in driving the choice of screening methods. Third, the choice between MAS and conventional selection may be complicated by the fact that the two are not always direct substitutes. Fourth, when used with empirical data from actual breeding programs, spreadsheet-based budgeting tools can be used by research managers to improve the efficiency of existing protocols and to inform decisions about future technology choices".
The abstract of the second article (Morris, M. et al. 2003. Money matters (II): costs of maize inbred line conversion schemes at CIMMYT using conventional and marker-assisted selection. Molecular Breeding 11: 235-247) reads "This article presents selected results of a study carried out in Mexico at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) to compare the cost-effectiveness of conventional and biotechnology-assisted maize breeding. Costs associated with the use of conventional and marker-assisted selection (MAS) methods at CIMMYT were estimated using a spreadsheet-based budgeting approach. This information was used to compare the costs of conventional and MAS methods for a particular breeding application: introgressing an elite allele at a single dominant gene into an elite maize line (line conversion). At CIMMYT, neither method shows clear superiority in terms of both cost and speed: conventional breeding schemes are less expensive, but MAS-based breeding schemes can be completed in less time. For applications involving tradeoffs between time and money, relative profitability can be evaluated using conventional investment theory. Using a simple model of a plant breeding program, we show that the optimal choice of a breeding technology depends on the availability of operating capital. If operating capital is abundantly available, the "best" breeding method will be the one that maximizes the net present value (i.e., MAS), but if operating capital is constrained, the "best" breeding method will be the one that maximizes the internal rate of return (i.e., conventional selection). This insight may help to explain why private firms tend to invest more aggressively in biotechnology than public breeding programs, which are more likely to face budgetary constraints"...Moderator].
Sent: 18 November 2003 11:27
Subject: 5: Cost analysis of MAS vs conventional breeding
I am Hayde F. Galvez, a university researcher at the Molecular Genetics Laboratory of the Institute of Plant Breeding, University of the Philippines Los Baņos. I am 70%, 20% and 10% involved in research, teaching and administrative functions. My research field of interest or specialization is in molecular genetics (particularly QTL-map based gene discovery) and molecular plant breeding.
So far the only satisfiable economic analysis I have read that compares the direct costs associated with MAS-breeding and with conventional breeding is the work of Dreher et al. (Molecular Breeding 11:221-234, 2003) in maize for quality protein. The study was done in a CGIAR (public sector) center, thus can be equated for MAS breeding to be undertaken in developing countries. However, there are other major factors other than cost (money matters) that need to be looked into in deciding the added-benefits of MAS - i.e. time, effectiveness etc. Also, should the development of the robust/reliable and simple (breeders friendly) DNA markers be included in the cost analysis? If it is, I don't think the use of molecular markers in breeding can be justifiable. For a breeding institute in a developing country, shuttle-research/collaboration with an established marker laboratory (e.g. CGIAR, FAO-affiliated centers) in the development of DNA markers for MAS is the most cost-effective means, especially if capacity in that laboratory has yet to be established. Furthermore, the benefits derived from MAS should be looked at in longer periods of time, say in three selection cycles of breeding, to verify the time-effectiveness of the 'tool'.
DNA markers tightly tagging important but difficult to evaluate characters of economically important crops are indeed valuable tools to be used in MAS breeding. The decision on when to use them, which characters and which crops, may have to be made by the breeders themselves. Never one method is better than the other, or the two methods being not always direct substitutes. Both MAS breeding and coventional breeding metohds should be continuously reviewed and advanced in answer to the evolving biotic and abiotic factors limiting crop productivity. Because at any one time either method may have to be opted depending on the breeding objectives and other 'breeding factors'. The field (conventional) and lab-based breeders should form a team and closely coordinate, from research planning to implementation, to ensure full benefits from the use of MAS.
Hayde F. Galvez
Institute of Plant Breeding
University of the Philippines Los Baņos
hgalvez_4031 (at) yahoo.com
[In the recently published CIMMYT economic studies comparing MAS and conventional breeding, mentioned in Message 4 (November 18) and above (Dreher et al), the costs of developing molecular markers associated with the trait of interest were not considered, as it was assumed that they were already available...Moderator].
Sent: 18 November 2003 12:18
Subject: 6: Re: Economic Impact of MAS
This is from Daniel Gianola. I have already introduced myself, but forgot to state that my interests focus on applications of statistics to quantitative genetics and animal breeding.
I wish to thank Dr. Joel Weller (Message 4, November 18) for reminding us of his books. In his message, he states that even though the investments in a MAS program may be "massive" (my terms), so may be the genetic gains. Fair enough, but what are the internal rates of return? This is a certainly a question that the World Bank would ask, should a developing nation consider approaching the organization for assistance in the implementation of a MAS program. Also, what is the volatility of such an investment? What is the risk that big single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) platforms for searching elusive quantitative trait loci (QTLs) will soon become white elephants in the light of advances in postgenomics?
Also, from a developing nation perspective, the resources are scarce, and an investment in MAS should clearly produce markedly superior returns, given the significant opportunity costs.
I agree with Joel Weller in that the perspective from which the economic analysis is undertaken is important.
Professor Daniel Gianola
Department of Animal Sciences
Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics
Department of Dairy Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison
gianola (at) calshp.cals.wisc.edu
[Some definitions may be useful. Cost-benefit analysis is a procedure for evaluating the desirability of a project by weighting benefits against costs. Results may be expressed in different ways, including internal rate of return (IRR), net present value (NPV) and benefit-cost ratio. The NPV of a project is defined as the difference between the present values of its future cash inflows and outflows. The IRR is the discount rate (i.e. the rate at which future values are discounted to the present) at which a stream of costs and benefits has a net present value of zero, i.e. the rate of return for which the project breaks even. Projects with a higher IRR would be preferred over those with a lower IRR. Opportunity cost is the economic value of an input in the best possible alternative use. For more on the basics of cost-benefit analysis, see e.g. http://europa.eu.int/comm/regional_policy/sources/docgener/guides/cost/pdf/3 _full_en.pdf ...Moderator].
Sent: 18 November 2003 13:29
Subject: 7: MAS and forestry crops
I am E.M. Muralidharan from India and I work on different aspects of biotechnology of tropical forest species.
I hope to see some discussion on the potential of MAS techniques in the area of forestry and horticulture. I need hardly emphasize that in most tropical forest species, especially the trees that are either still wild or at early stages of domestication, MAS will eventually play a crucial role in accelerating genetic improvement. The long life cycles of these trees no longer appear to be a formidable impediment. I also anticipate that use of MAS will help in rapid domestication of several new tree crops in the near future adding to the diversity of artificial forests and agroforestry systems.
When contrasted with the criticism that transgenic organisms have to contend with today, MAS technology is one aspect of modern biotechnology that can be expected to find wider acceptability. I like to view it as an atavistic shift (albeit with refinement) to what the pioneer agriculturists initiated centuries back, i.e. searching and picking out from whatever variation that nature makes available. Of course, application of MAS will not be restricted to such relatively benign activities. While researchers working on transgenics have a long way to go (if ever) to reach a level of competence that will avoid criticism, MAS can, slow and steadily, find applications all along the way. For the same reason, it ought to attract support from a wider range of funding agencies and governments, whether developed or developing. I am arguing here for letting such technologies take precedence in the short to medium term planning and particularly for developing countries to build their capabilities.
I agree with Denis Murphy (Message 1, November 17) when he gives priority to management and infrastructure issues in developing countries. An appropriate mix of technologies and increased awareness among researchers of the potential and limitations of alternate technologies is the recipe for success in crop improvement and ensuring that the benefits reach the people who need it.
Dr. E.M. Muralidharan
Kerala Forest Research Institute
Peechi, Thrissur, Kerala State
Email: emmurali (at) kfri.org