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Sent: 06 December 2002 09:47
Subject: 82: Re: SOFA 2003
[NB NB NB NB - We are now in the last week of this e-mail conference, which finishes on Wednesday 11th December. Before it closes, we especially encourage those who have not yet done so, to share your views and experiences with us on this important theme - what should be the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research agendas of developing countries. The emphasis in discussions so far has been on the crop sector, so we especially encourage inputs from people involved or interested in livestock, forest trees, ago-industry and fisheries to speak up and be heard...Moderator]
I would like to address the 2 questions highlighted by Fulvia Fiorenzi (message 79, December 4).Questions 1:
It is true not only that "Individual developing countries differ greatly in their capacities to do biotechnology research and in the resources, they have available for such activities", but also there are great differences inside each country. For this reason I suggest concentrating on this in the few last days so that participants can help from their point of view. Each one can explain what his developing or developed country needs and what they can offer. I mean that developing countries may offer human and plant resources, but they need facilities, funds and training. In addition, developed countries may offer facilities, training, and funds but need more resources to enrich their own and may need more human resources. Therefore, both developed and developing countries are complementary to each other. On the other hand, both of them can help in fighting hunger of less developed or poor countries.
About my country (from my experience and view), we have many ambitious young people (pre- and post-doctoral, trained and non-trained) in the field of biotechnology research. The main subjects during the last few years concern biotechnology research in different fields. In fact, it looks like fashion, as mentioned in this conference [E.M. Muralidharan, message 61, November 28...Moderator]. At the same time, it is very good to follow the advances in biotechnology research. However, it is not arranged research by individual subjects (if not belonging to funded program). In my field (tropical fruits), there is a lack of biotechnology research in my area except individual research, a lack of laboratories, chemicals and facilities. On the other hand, there are many agriculture engineers needing work, some of them work temporary and some are qualified.
Question 2: i.e. "The needs of small farmers are generally being ignored in the so-called "biotechnology revolution" How can the biotechnology research agenda of developing countries be focused towards their needs? What concrete actions can be taken?"
I talked previously about the needs of the small farmers in my country and how they are looking for increases in their income and yield by applying new research, under one condition - a safe biotechnology for their children. What kinds of biotechnology research can help small farmers: research to increase yield, small quick projects which they prefer for increasing income. The projects that can be held by women farmers at home are very important. Solving the problems of finding work for the youth is very important but needs funds. Some of our big projects and big companies help, but there is still need to use biotechnology research, projects and funds for more help to small farmers.
Dr Aisha, A. Badr,
Tropical fruit division,
Sabahia Horticultural Research Station,
momidic (at) hotmail.com
Sent: 06 December 2002 17:02
Subject: 83: Research on organic biotechnologies
I would like to ask all researchers and research institutions to give more importance to research on organic biotechnologies - those technologies which will pass the organic standards. Organic products are much sought-after in the market, they are clearly better for the environment, and they are healthier for the farmers, their families and the consumers.
As far as markets are concerned, there is absolutely no comparison between organic biotechnologies and transgenic biotechnologies. The high demand for organic products is growing at 10-15% in many countries, in many cases with little subsidy or even despite government bias against organics. Everything seems to indicate that organic biotechnologies deserve a better share of research attention, particularly since today very few scientists and research institutions are involved in such research while much of the biotech research funds (I've heard figures as high as 90% from some scientists) go to transgenic technologies.
I've read more than once researchers in this conference (including several from the rich countries) invoke poor farmers as justification for their transgenic work. I work with a national federation of small farmers which has officially expressed its opposition to GMOs and its preference for organic technologies and sustainable agriculture. Most other national farmers federations in the Philippines and I believe in many other Third World countries have taken a similar anti-GMO position. A few have taken a very wary position. Many small farmers organization worldwide have said that GMOs are a threat to them, due to the patenting of GM seeds, GMO contamination, and GMO market rejection. So, transgenic researchers: please stop using farmers as excuse for your transgenic research. You harm them twice: first, when the seeds are privatized, fields are contaminated and farmers' GM products rejected in the market; and second when such harmful work is done in their name, the victims. Please consider switching to organic research instead.
rverzola (at) gn.apc.org