[To contribute to this conference, send your message to email@example.com.
For further information on the Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and
Agriculture see Forum website.
Note, participants are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf, unless they state otherwise.]
Sent: 13 December 2002 10:45
Subject: 112: Re: Democratize biotechnology processes
This is E.M. Muralidharan from India again.
At a risk of digressing from the main issue, I want to comment on one of the recent messages. I cannot but disagree with Aaron deGrassi's (Message 111, December 12) statement about the aim of this conference being misguided.
It is through such discussions that we increase the awareness among ourselves of the change required in agenda and priorities in different contexts. We may not be a large enough group (even if we consider several participants who never contributed to the messages) but at least some of the contributors here are policy makers and farmers representatives and I would like to think that, in some small way, the diversity of opinion that came up in this conference has influenced their viewpoint. One of the aims of the conference viz. ".........we hope to encourage a useful and positive dialogue that will provide food for thought and be of assistance to policy makers in developing countries" has been achieved. Insufficient dialogue perhaps, but then what is required is more of such ventures with wider participation. If the `poor farmers' voice was not heard here then we should take more effort to see that it does in future. I hope the moderator and FAO will make this possible in future by sending invitations to a wider representation of the stakeholders in future conferences and also ensure that the proceedings of this conference reaches all quarters.
Another reason I am all for such e-conferences. I would have had to spend a fortune (of tax payer's money!) and lot of time and effort to have made a trip to Rome to attend a regular conference where, if I was lucky I would have been permitted to present a paper and answer a few questions during discussion time. Nothing compared to the freedom of time, space and interaction offered by this e-conference. My only regret is that this is such a brief conference not well known to all concerned. But this is the best bet yet.
Dr. E.M. Muralidharan
Kerala Forest Research Institute
Peechi 680 653 Thrissur,
Email: emmurali (at) kfri.org
[Thanks to Dr. Muralidharan for this message. I can add that a total of 345 people have joined the conference and they receive each of the e-mails posted in the conference. 60 of them have posted messages so far, while the remaining 285 (i.e 83%) have hopefully read them and found the exchange of views and experiences useful and interesting. All of your messages are put on the web and will remain on that site for anyone to look at in the future.
It is very difficult to gauge whether this conference has influenced people's viewpoint (or will do so, in the future). We hope, however, that people reading the messages have been exposed to ideas and thoughts that they might not have considered before and are thus more enlightened about some of the complexities involved in considering the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research agendas in developing countries.
I would like to comment on two points raised in the message. Firstly, we try and ensure that invitations are sent to as wide an audience as possible. Notices about the upcoming conference were included in two Updates of FAO-BiotechNews, an e-mail list with over 2,600 subscribers containing news and events items relevant to applications of biotechnology in food and agriculture in developing countries. It was also sent to particular individuals or organisations known to be interested or involved in the conference theme, and included on the homepage of the FAO Biotechnology website. The Background Document to the conference was sent to all members (over 1,700) of this FAO Biotechnology Forum, giving instructions for joining. In all cases, we ask people to forward the information to other interested parties. So, you as Forum Members, have also an important role in spreading information about these conferences (and, indeed, conferences to be held in the future).
Secondly, we try and ensure that the proceedings of these conferences reach all quarters. After each conference, a Summary Document is prepared and sent to all Forum Members. It is also put on the FAO Biotechnology website and announced in FAO-BiotechNews. This is the 8th conference we have hosted since the Forum was launched in March 2000. Earlier this year, FAO Research and Technology Paper 8, entitled "Agricultural Biotechnology for Developing Countries - Results of an Electronic Forum", was published. This presents a report of the first six e-mail conferences and is freely available at http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/004/Y2729E/Y2729E00.HTM. It is also in the process of being translated into Spanish and we are hoping it will be translated into Chinese. Again, you, as Forum Members, can assist in letting other people know that these conference outputs are available...Moderator].
Sent: 13 December 2002 13:08
Subject: 113: Modern biotechnology research in Turkey
This is from Dr. Süleyman Karahan from Turkey.
The impact of modern biotechnology on human life and economic progress has given a major impetus to accelerate research, development and application in this field in relevant socio-economic sectors. The application of modern biotechnology research in developing countries has, to a large extent, occurred in the agricultural sector. It is the case for Turkey as well.
Modern biotechnology uses advanced plant breeding techniques to introduce beneficial traits to the crops. It also allows the breeders to select genes that produce beneficial traits and move them from one plant to another. The process is far more precise and selective. Modern biotechnology also removes technical obstacles to moving genetic traits between plants and other organisms. This opens up a world of genetic traits to benefit agricultural production.
Turkey is an agriculture-dependent country. The agricultural production should be increased non-stop. For this purpose, all possible means must be used. On the other hand, Turkey has a great richness of genetic resources. To use this richness for the benefit of our country it is necessary to explore it. One of the most powerful technologies to explore that richness is modern biotechnology. It is clear that modern biotechnology will have a great impact on human life in the next century. In the country, current institutional capacity is not strong enough to use all possible tools that modern biotechnology provides. If the country stays dependent on outside sources, it is necessary to continue importing technology or its end products. The production always will be more expensive and less benefit will be made than deserved. As a result of that, a great chance will be lost to compete in international area.
Considering the above explanations, and recognizing the importance of modern biotechnology for scientific and technological development and its impact on agriculture, it is decided to accelerate a project on modern biotechnology.
The main drawbacks of the use of modern biotechnology in Turkey can be
listed as follows:
1. Insufficient institutional capacity to undertake production of transgenic crops for the purpose of use, production, consumption and commercialization, including human resources, administrative mechanism and technical infrastructure.
2. Insufficient partnership between and among governmental and non-governmental institutions, including the private sector.
3. Lack of information on modern biotechnology of general public as consumers, decision makers, local communities as farmers and breeders and private sector.
Dr. Süleyman Karahan
Head of Field Crops Res. Dept
General Directorate of Agricultural Research
Ministry of Agriculture of Turkey
P.O. Box: 78
suleyman_karahan (at) ankara.tagem.gov.tr
Sent: 13 December 2002 16:29
Subject: 114: Meeting the research needs of small farmers in developing countries
This is Dr Aisha, A. Badr, Egypt.
First of all we must separate working in research to meet 1) the needs of poor starving who may be farmers, fishers or forest workers and 2) the needs of small farmers.
For the first group: The starving countries need quick help of food/medicine and, in most cases, a place to protect them from environmental factors, so their need of biotechnology is something they may need in the long term. At the same time, we cannot ignore that they have ambitious researchers who need to follow the research biotechnology development and who need funds, facilities, laboratories and the experience of scientists, not only from developed countries but also from developing countries similar to their status or environments and may be surrounded by or previously suffered from the same conditions and solved their problems. They also need education as mentioned by Dr Muir (message 104. December 11).
For the second group - the needs of small farmers in developing countries: In fact, each developing country can put its priorities according to people needs, but we notice that the concentration is on one or two economical crops because of the lack of funds and because most of projects are coming with people graduated from developed countries. It is logical that developing countries must put funds into building infrastructure, health, education, services. So what funds remain for research is too little. Therefore, the need for funds, facilities and training are the first demand of researchers - in fact, there are enough human resources, as labourers or graduates.
Biotechnology research or funded projects can help small farmers by increasing the chances of work, either for labourers or technicians or even graduates who need training and work for building a new generation of researchers. It also can provide fruit and forest trees growers with fast-adapted selected native trees using micropropagation methods. For safe biotechnology research, it may concentrate on using natural substances in tissue culture and micropropagation cultures (substituting harmful chemicals by natural extracted substances). As mentioned by Dr. Muir regarding introduced tilapia: "When these were introduced into villages, several farmers quickly adopted the "new technology", dug shallow ponds, and soon had a cash crop. Unfortunately there was no one to purchase the fish, or no way to transport to markets". This is what happened in small projects and we need social economic studies.
In agreement with Denis Murphy (message 106, December 11) with his thanks for this interesting and benefical conference and "I hope we can expand this kind of dialogue in the future - May be via a more permanent forum?", I suggest to begin FAO site for association of "fao" participants in all fields of sciences for sharing thoughts, interests and needs of new discussions for new conferences, including work groups of different specializations
Dr Aisha, A. Badr,
Tropical fruit division,
Sabahia Horticultural Research Station,
momidic (at) hotmail.com
[Regarding the last point, we certainly hope some of you may return to share your views and experiences in future conferences of this FAO Biotechnology Forum...Moderator].