[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: 28 November 2002 09:42
Subject: 60: Biotechnology research
This is from Dr Aisha, A. Badr, Tropical fruit division, Sabahia Horticultural Research Station, Alexandria Egypt.
I think that we cannot speak generally about priorities. This means that these priorities differ according to country and within country. In one country, we can find cities dependent on fishery, regions dependent on animal, or forestry activities and so on.
As an example, the ARC (Agriculture Research Center of Egypt) includes institutes of different fields of researches. There are also regional research stations distributed according to the main activities in these regions. You can find main crops, forest or fruit research stations in regions with great plantation area of crops, or forest or fruits. This does not prevent the presence of more than one station in the same place for serving local researches. This helps research trials for new varieties and selection in different locations. One of the best activities of ARC is the research groups, which contains different specialists for guiding growers, recognizing their problems for setting research to solve problems and to help them to apply new technology.
I think that this is the ideal way to inform growers about the fields of biotechnology and simplify the progress in research in such fields to small growers. This will help small growers to accept the progress in biotechnology (I explained this problem in conference 7 of this Forum [Dr. Badr submitted messages number 21, 29, 44 and 70 to the previous conference on GMOs and Gene Flow...Moderator]). Simply, when a small grower watches the success of a guide field experiment beside his field or farm and finds differences in yield, he will try to apply the same technology.
The question is: Who will decide the research, including biotechnology, for one of the developing countries, and who will be the decision makers? In my opinion, we must begin from the base. That means the growers needs and natives' needs. No one can feel hunger than those in poor countries. Did they stay hungry until we try biotechnology researches in their countries, or stay ten years to gain the advantages of these researches. We can ask them.
Biotechnology research is an amazing field and I am one of the researchers who worked for 35 years in the fields of both physiology and tropical fruit breeding and completing my research using new biotechnology research. So I am not against biotechnology research. At the same time, I believe that the research must continue even in poor starving countries, not only developing and developed countries (according to the needs of each one individually). First we must know the people's needs regionally and try to solve their problems. Human resources is one of the most important factors and training is also important. To find people appreciate the biotechnology research (not to put a jewel in mud). These trained people are also jewels. The collaboration must be internal and external because one only could not cover all fields of biotechnology research. Some countries need funds, others need experts and training, others need human resources and others need facilities. All the above, need safe biotechnology and research on safety.
One other comment about hunger. As we learned from prophet (SAW), to teach the poor or begger a work to help him all his life is better than giving him money as a begger. So, small projects and training can help for tomorrow's programs. This, besides giving immediate help for hunger.
Dr Aisha, A. Badr,
Tropical fruit division,
Sabahia Horticultural Research Station,
momidic (at) hotmail.com
Sent: 28 November 2002 11:54
Subject: 61: Re: Are we pursuing the wrong research objectives?
I think there is a need for me to respond to some of the points raised by Prof. Blanchfield (Message 58, November 27) and others.
I often find (in project proposals, research papers, lectures etc., even of my own) that when justification for carrying out a particular line of research is required, the arguments are lopsided, weighted in favour of biotechnology and the scope of the alternatives is underplayed. This perhaps might be happening with most researchers in all other areas of research too.
How then can we counter the exaggerated importance being given to biotechnology in terms of funds and scientific talent and its preoccupation for goals that are not always the priority in the short-term fight against hunger and poverty? Much of what is happening today is because of the hype and the charm of a new and fashionable science, whetted by the interest shown by huge biotech companies.
While the bulk of the laymen critics of biotechnology are so inclined because of ignorance, they do have a case as far as potential threat to the environment is concerned, if testing is not taken seriously. The scientists themselves are unjustifiably confident that GMOs pose no serious threat and are overtly anxious to stifle any dissenting opinion. In any case, even after the concerns of the anti-GM lobby have been addressed, biotechnologists still need to demonstrate that short- and medium-term benefits will be realized and is worth the time and money spent. Just look at the way some of the less sophisticated but appropriate biotechnologies (mentioned by Dr. Bhatia, Message 53, November 27), which require low capital, are hardly ever considered in a discussion on biotechnology.
To specifically respond to some of points mentioned by Prof. Blanchfield (Message 58, Nov. 27), who argued that "Without destroying the environment, this [feeding "a greatly escalated population (growth mainly in the developing countries)"...Moderator] will require development of":
* "Crops with improved agricultural performance (yields) and reduced usage
of agricultural chemicals"
- This is the focus of the majority of the biotechnologists today, but all I am asking is to have an audit of the allocation of funds and manpower vis-à-vis the benefits accrued, of biotechnology vs cheaper conventional technologies (not necessarily agricultural technology).
* "Ability to grow crops in previously inhospitable environments (e.g. via increased ability of plants to grow in conditions of drought, salinity, extremes of temperature, consequences of global warming, etc.)"
- Most of these are man-made situations. We need to decide which is easier to implement- the mass deployment of stress-tolerant crop varieties, developed through biotechnology and sold for a price, all over the world or work towards rehabilitation of the land and preventing the worsening of the situation.
* "Improved food quality (i.e. flavour, texture, shelf-life, nutritive value etc.)"
- I hardly consider this as a priority for the short-term needs of poor nations.
* "Improved processing characteristics leading to reduced waste and lower food costs to the consumer."
- This (energy saved!) is very important, but we would like to know if there is any significant interest in such research in biotechnology today.
Kerala Forest Research Institute
Peechi 680 653 Thrissur,
Kerala State, India
Email: emmurali (at) kfri.org
Sent: 28 November 2002 12:42
Subject: 62: Re: Are we pursuing the wrong research objectives?
My name is Farida Dollie and I am currently employed as a Senior Researcher at the South African Human Rights Commission. The Research Department is mandated by the South African Parliament to monitor human rights in our fledgling democracy. This includes economic and social rights such as the right to food and adequate nutrition, the right to health, housing, education, clean water, a healthy and sustainable environment, inter alia. I have been a research biochemist in the UK, Lebanon, Canada and South Africa and have always followed scientific developments especially in the area of increased food production and accessibility in so-called developing countries. The problem still remains unequal distribution and consumption of the world's resources and the pricing of "third world products" on world markets to the benefit of the rich North.
I tend to agree with Dr. E.M.Muralidharan's argument (message 61, November 28). In science, like in other fields, fashions prevail. At the moment, it is biotech- since companies can make huge profits. Scientists do not consider cheaper alternatives that may be more viable and sustainable on a regional basis to combat hunger and poverty which assail millions in developing countries.
Perhaps it is time to pause and re-prioritise.
South African Human Rights Commission
fdollie (at) sahrc.org.za
Sent: 28 November 2002 15:04
Subject: 63: Re: Are we pursuing the wrong research objectives?
This is Javier M. Claparols from the Ecological Society of the Philippines.
In this country we have the IRRI (the International Rice Research Institute), Philippine Rice Institute and other Research institutions and we are still one of the four largest importers of rice, our people's staple diet. In spite of all these institutions our production continues to decline. We all agree that the Green Revolution has not lived up to it's promise to feed the world's hungry. On the contrary it has polluted our enviroment and, in the process, caused tremendous damage to the peoples health. Let me add that it has also made many interest groups very rich.
Now we talk about GMOs that, again, are being projected as the solution to all the worlds hungry. Is it not time we re-research first the problems, causes, and solutions of the present before we jump into another "promise" of this new technology and ask who really benefits from this? In addition we should look at the economics of the unequal distribution of the resources and the subsidies of the rich north that keep poor developing countries poorer.
Javier M. Claparols
Ecological Society of the Philippines
jmc1 (at) mozcom.com
Sent: 28 November 2002 15:36
Subject: 64: Re: Are we pursuing the wrong research objectives?
Bob Howe, independent Organic Inspector, United States. Responding again.
I, too, tend to agree with Dr. Muralidharan's argument (message 61, November 28) that in science, like in other fields, fashions prevail. And, I think Farida Dollie (message 62, November 28) has inserted a sane response on the issue. These are words from someone on the front line and cannot be taken lightly. One thing I do take issue with is Dr. Muralidharan's statement "While the bulk of the laymen critics of biotechnology are so inclined because of ignorance..". I am an opponent and my views are thus because I have made a strong effort to both understand the process of genetic engineering and, with open mind, research the information about the effects and benefits of the science. I find that the majority of people I discuss the issues with are quite knowledgeable. Also, like me, they are justifiably suspicious of corporate activity and anything that is hyped as a panacea to hunger. As Farida Dollie states "The problem still remains unequal distribution and consumption of the world's resources and the pricing of "third world products" on world markets to the benefit of the rich North."
28 Brodhead Road
West Shokan, NY 12494 USA
earthorganic (at) aol.com