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Sent: 22 November 2002 10:05
Subject: 35: Developing countries stand to gain from agricultural biotechnology
According to Marcel Nwalozie (message 31, November 21), the debate is too much focused on why biotechnology "should be exclusive from developing countries". I think that nobody has claimed something like this here. But I recognize in this interpretation an argument that has been largely used recently by the pro-GMO lobby. I do believe that it is counter-productive to deform the arguments of the people who try to assess the interest of the GMO for the developing world but also for the developed world. This question is serious and the debate is necessary.
He is right to say that Africa is tired of aid but we probably know also that the donors are tired of helping Africa. One of the reasons is because the aid did not reach the people who were more in need and would have been capable of using it efficiently. Another reason is because the aid very often was based on technology transfers that were not at all adapted to the needs and the capacity. What about the adaptation of GMO technology to African needs? Do not forget that the main beneficiaries of this technology till now has been the powerful biotechnology industry? Do not forget that the situation of the small farmers in the USA and in Canada, two countries that have largely adopted GMOs, is day after day worse. Look at Argentina.
If the debate is about priorities of research and if you agree to consider the poor as the target group, I think that, without speaking about environmental and health issues, the utility of GMO development in Africa (but also in Europe) raises strong doubts.
Research Station on date palm and arid land farming systems.
E-mail: m.ferry (at) wanadoo.es
Sent: 22 November 2002 10:17
Subject: 36: Capacity of developing the technology and holding IPRs
This is Swapan Datta from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines.
Many people raised the question of how biotech products can reach the poor farmers in the remote villages of the developing countries. Good question, and I would like to respond with a simple answer.
Genetically improved seeds by genetic engineering (rice, maize, canola, cotton etc.) can reach anyone anywhere provided the national government takes care of developing it, or importing from elsewhere for the best interest of the people. Farmers need good seeds, either it comes from breeders or developed through molecular breeding. Either way, it serves to the people. The breeding, farming practice, integration in the environment etc. are all changing with time, we may need to perceive it through judgment of reality.
The most important question to me is the IPR (intellectual property rights) and how we can help the developing countries to have access to it. FAO, CGIAR (the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), World Bank, Rockefeller Foundation, USAID (the United States Agency for International Development), EU (the European Union), SIDA (the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) and others should help in this regard. Dr. Joseph Stiglitz (Noble laureate in Economics) asked me while visiting IRRI, how our work (transgenic rice research) can compete with companies like Monsanto/Syngenta. It is not the question of technology, whether it is safe or not, rather the difference is the capacity of developing the technology and holding the IPR.
SDatta (at) CGIAR.ORG
Sent: 22 November 2002 11:25
Subject: 37: Biotechnology should contribute to wealth creation in developing countries
This message is from Jane Morris, of the African Centre for Gene Technologies in South Africa.
As a contributor from the developing world, I believe that we need to utilize all the technologies at our disposal to increase food production, alleviate poverty and stimulate wealth creation. Biotechnology, in all its facets (both GMO and non-GMO) should be regarded as one of the tools, which may offer solutions where other conventional approaches fail. A few of the contributors to the conference from the developed world seem to have a somewhat patronizing attitude in presuming what is "right" or "wrong" for the developing world.
I feel it is essential if we are to fast-track development in Africa, the continent I am most familiar with, that we must rapidly engage in all facets of biotechnology development. Africa should not be merely a receiver of technology developed somewhere else, but must generate its own intellectual property (IP) and its own solutions. As long as technology is seen as being imposed from outside, we will not get rid of the syndrome (actually a total non sequitur) that states Technology=Multinationals=Bad.
Africa has a huge wealth of natural resources and biodiversity, which are generally under-utilised and under-developed. If we want to develop new crop varieties that are appropriate for African conditions (and that could have considerable economic potential for the rest of the world as well), we should look to generation of new IP through gene mining of our biodiversity. The generation of IP by Africans for wealth creation in Africa gives the continent some hope of getting out of the poverty trap. Let's emerge from the negativism and feelings of victimisation to engage positively with the economic trends of the rest of the world.
I would, at the same time, urge public funding bodies to develop a mind-set that encourages the growth of real wealth creating activities in the developing world. Publicly funded R&D frequently does not lead to the development of true globally competitive research capacity in the developing world, and is often not self sustaining because IPR may not be retained by the organization undertaking the research. There also seems to be a temptation for funding agencies to fund organizations in the developed world to undertake research for the benefit of the developing world. This may act as a sop to the consciences of the funding bodies, but does nothing to enhance long term competitiveness of the developing countries.
E Jane Morris PhD
African Centre for Gene Technologies
P O Box 75011
Tel: +27 12 841 2642
Fax: +27 12 841 3105
Cellular: +27 82 566 2210
e-mail: jmorris (at) csir.co.za
[Note, in many messages posted this week there has been a tendency to focus on "whether biotechnology (particularily genetic modification) is appropriate for developing countries". We would like to emphasise that this is not the primary theme of the conference, it is instead, "What should be the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research agendas of developing countries?". As most of you are aware, this FAO Biotechnology Forum, since it was established in 2000, takes particular areas of the entire "agricultural biotechnology for developing countries" debate and runs specific, time-limited e-mail conferences on these areas. We have, for example, dedicated Conference 6 to the theme of IPRs; Conference 7 to GMOs and gene flow; Conference 5 to the role of agricultural biotechnology in reducing hunger and increasing food security. This current conference focuses on agricultural research in developing countries and the role and focus that biotechnology (or, indeed, the range of available biotechnologies) should have here. We encourage participants to focus more on this theme in the remainder of the conference. The kinds of specific questions we would like to see addressed are those from Section 4 of the Background Document and these are included below as a reminder...Moderator]
- Of the limited resources (human and financial) dedicated to agricultural research in developing countries, how much should be devoted to biotechnology?
- Of the resources devoted to agricultural biotechnology research in developing countries, what priorities should be given to the different agricultural sectors (crop, fishery, forest, agro-industry or livestock)? How should these priorities be set?
- Of the resources devoted to agricultural biotechnology research in developing countries, which biotechnologies should be prioritised (e.g. use of molecular markers, tissue culture, genetic modification etc.)?
- Which objectives (e.g. increased production, better animal health etc.) should biotechnology research be prioritising within each of these sectors?
- At which level (regional, sub-regional or national) should the objectives of research in agricultural biotechnology be prioritised?
- Should some (or all) of the biotechnology research in developing countries preferably be carried out within the NARS or through collaborative regional efforts?
- For agricultural biotechnology research in developing countries, how important should collaboration with the IARCs be?
- For agricultural biotechnology research in developing countries, how important should collaboration with the private sector or universities in developed countries be?
- Should developing countries focus on developing the biotechnology products themselves or should they focus on adapting biotechnologies that have been developed elsewhere?
- Individual developing countries differ greatly in their capacities to do biotechnology research and in the resources they have available for such activities. How important are these differences for the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research agenda?
- The needs of small farmers are generally being ignored in the so-called "biotechnology revolution". How can the biotechnology research agenda in developing countries be focused towards their needs? What concrete actions can be taken?
Sent: 22 November 2002 14:31
Subject: 38: National agrobiotechnology must be supported globally
This is from Prof. Nazimi Acikgoz. I am one of the administrators of a seed technology center in Turkey and also the editor of a monthly, bilingual (turkish/English) on-line agricultural biotechnology journal (AGBIYOTEK - http://www.agbiyotek.ege.edu.tr ) which is in its fourth year. Since the beginning of my career in rice breeding, I have been one of the few people who tried to develop the establishment of agricultural biotechnology in Turkey, which still requires the employment of some specific strategies. Our experiences might be valuable to evaluate the settlement of agricultural biotechnology in developing countries.1. If everyone in the public, from consumers to politicians, is bombarded with biased information from one direction and made to believe that transgenic varieties are Frankenstein; it is extremely difficult for pro-biotechnologists to make their case and persuade the public. At this point, what is required is financially strong NGOs. (Switzerland, late 90's!)
- CamBioTec (The Canada-Latin America Initiative on Biotechnology for
Sustainable Development): Canada, Mexico, Argentine, Colombia, Chile, and
Cuba Biotechnology Partnership. Let's take a look at some of the
organizations that support this partnership: Canadian International
Development Agency(CIDA), Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, Industry Canada,
Environment Canada, Intermadiary Biotechnology Service (IBS), International
Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR)
- FAO's Technical Co-operation Network on Plant Biotechnology (REDBIO), in Latin America;
- The Ibero-American Program for Science and Technology (CYTED) Bioatlantec,
- Indo-Swiss Collaboration in Biotechnology (ISCB)
Such successful consortiums offer solutions for a number of challenges
- Forming agricultural developing strategies;
- Helping prepare required regulations;
- Easily sharing research conclusions and solving the intellectual property rights (IPR) problem;
- Conducting field trials and easy commercialization.
There are many local plant varieties in each country which, in the short term, should be replaced by new cultivars of higher yield or quality, which are resistant to a particular disease or insect, to meet consumer demands. This implies that national agrobiotechnology must be supported globally. Such an initiative led by FAO, CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) or ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications) (as coordinator of private companies) seems to be indispensable.
Prof. Dr. Nazimi Acikgoz
EGE UNI. Seed Technology Center
nacikgoz (at) ziraat.ege.edu.tr