[For further information on the Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and
Agriculture see the Forum website.
Note, participants are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf, unless they state otherwise.]
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:04
Subject: 23: Biotechnology: the African experience
My name is Worku Damena Yifru. I am a programme officer for biosafety law and policy in the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
My intervention focuses on why African progress in the development or adoption of biotechnologies has been low. Several African countries, including Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Mali, are conducting research (including field trials) to develop biotech products suitable to them. Like the other regions, Africa needs to consider the possible benefits and risks of potential applications of biotechnology very seriously without putting any prior conditions. This need seems to have been recognized when the African heads of states and governments established in 2005 a high level African Panel on Modern Biotechnology which submitted its report in 2007 with recommendations: http://www.nepadst.org/doclibrary/pdfs/biotech_africarep_2007.pdf
The African experience to date is not encouraging. Despite the billions of dollars of foreign aid, the thousands of foreign advisors and the technical assistance received by African countries in the past 40 or 50 years from foreign donors or partners for agricultural or biotechnological research, Africa is still far behind in the development and dissemination of appropriate agricultural technologies or products. One still wonders why knowledge that has brought so much social and economic transformation in other parts of the world seems to be so ineffective in Africa. The reason could perhaps be that the knowledge that Africans 'acquired' through the so called technical assistance, technology transfer, etc. was something that emerged from within the real-world of the other (mostly western) societies as responses to their own doubts, questions and problems, aspirations or as activities of self examination and self interpretation.
Until Africa reaches the stage where African researchers, scientists, innovators or entrepreneurs can define their own doubts, question their own questions and try to solve them in the context of their own thinking methods and values, most of the technologies remain alien to Africa. This is not to imply that Africa needs to re-invent the wheel for every piece of technological product. This does not also mean that reason and science, as they developed outside of Africa have little or no relevance to Africans' problems. Where there is technology to be borrowed, Africa should be able to do so. The point here is, the knowledge and technology that Africans borrow should not always be mimicked but mediated in their own context and used as a means for self-examination and active understanding of the African way of lives, in particular the needs of the various farming and pastoral communities. If Africa is to have any meaningful progress in science and technology in general and biotechnology in particular, every effort should have its roots in knowledge that has accumulated over time from within Africa or knowledge tuned with African realities. As the African Panel report mentioned above strongly recommends, universities in Africa have to play a key role in this regard. Governments should give utmost priority for reinvigorating their educational systems and institutions, and create conducive environment for biotechnology research and development in universities, especially in agricultural colleges and universities. These academic institutions should be reoriented and supported towards tackling real life problems.
In doing so, another trend should also be taken into account and addressed properly. In the past decade or so, a number of African prominent agricultural researchers and policy analysts have left their respective national agencies and joined regional or international agricultural organizations or centres run or supported by international development agencies. While the expertise and contribution of these professionals might still be available at region or sub-region levels, the trend has no doubt resulted in weakening the capacity of national agricultural research organizations and has created knowledge gaps. Synergy of research programmes, harmonization of policy approaches and the creation of centres of excellence may be important and useful in the African context. But at the end of the day, there will be no effective substitution for national capacity.
Worku Damena Yifru (Mr.)
Programme Officer, Policy and Legal, Biosafety Division,
Secretariat, Convention on Biological Diversity
United Nations Environment Programme
413 Saint-Jacques, Suite 800, Montreal, Quebec
H2Y 1N9 Canada
Tel. (514) 287 7006
Fax. (514) 288 6588
E-mail: worku.yifru (at) cbd.int
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:07
Subject: 24: Re: Bt cotton and MAS for crop improvement in India
This is from Dr. Dudhare. I am Assistant Professor of Biotechnology at Dr. Panjabrao Deshmukh Agricultural University, Akola, India. For the last 4 years, I am involved in teaching undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD studies and also studied biosafety issues in transgenic research and I did one year Post Graduate Certificate Course in Biosafety and Plant Biotechnology from Ghent University, Belgium.
I agree with Prof. P.K. Gupta statement (Message 2), that in India we have less space for research in transgenic development, because of our regulatory framework and opposition of NGOs, Most of the NGOs who mainly oppose GMO with some political motivation. They published reports which are mainly based on limited research or very less scientific analysis (death of goat in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Districts of India because of grazing on Bt cotton). I know because of NGOs opposition, scientists rethink on their research and minimize risk involved through GMO research, example like marker free transformation. If NGOs oppose without any motivation and only think about safety of human, animal and environment, then it is very good for development of GMOs.
Nowadays, developing countries lack food and there is a chance of the next world war only for food, as we know what happened last year in Africa. Nowadays, throughout the world there are so many products in market which are genetically modified. As we know, the European Union has strong regulation, they apply all biosafety regulations on the basis of process to product and this is best way to analyze GMO. They also approved some GMO products on limited bases for cultivation consumption in Europe. Then what is problem in India - why can we not approve our product very easily? Why do we require more time than other country to get approved? (like Bt Brinjal). Why we are lagging behind the world and not matching the pace with other countries? Shall we give enough food to hunger people in shortest period?
Dr. Dudhare M. S.
Department of Agril. Botany
Dr. Panjabrao Deshmukh Agricultural University
Akola 444 104
mahendra_s_d (at) yahoo.com
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:09
Subject: 25: Biotech developments in Argentina in the past
My name is Sandra Sharry. I am Professor of Biotechnology at the University of La Plata, Argentina. I am member of REDBIO/FAO-Argentina and of the International Foundation REDBIO (FRI). I am Research Secretary at the Faculty of Agronomy and Forestry Sciences. My area of research is Forest Biotechnology and Biotech comunication and education.
I agree with the contribution of Uchechukwu Chikezie (Message 4) and Olusola Oyewole (Message 8), among others, about the funding needs and capacity development. In my opinion, I think that Argentina is an special case and we learned a lot in the last 20 years. In general, all biotech areas are developing in Argentina. The country is one of the world's leading exporters of genetically modified (GM) crops and is a key player in the global politics of biotechnology. Whereas in other parts of the world, including other countries in Latin America, active civil societies and some governments have rejected the technology, Argentina has adopted and created it as a central accumulation strategy. The desirability of this strategy has been secured in material, institutional and discursive arenas of power, producing a particular expression of 'bio-hegemony'. Several national biotech products have been developed and recently, on behalf of the REDBIO Argentina Symposium 2009, a workshop about new national biotech products was held (http://www.redbioargentina.org.ar/Simposio/). Introduction of biotech soybeans in the late 1990s sparked a rapid expansion of production; Bio Sidus has accomplished the production of a hormone for bovine growth from cloned and transgenic calves. These developments usually start in public sector, and then the private sector develops and markets. All this was made possible by:1. Development of a strong and transparent biosafety regulatory system.
However, some questions are still under solution. The time and cost of liberalization and commercialization of the products is very high. So, the impact on the society is delayed. Legislative route is not without the dangers of excessive bureaucratic delays. This situation may limit investment and technology transfer and so, ultimately and paradoxically, thwart state sovereignty. On the other hand, the tendency exists for the debate to marginalize developing countries, by presuming that they do not have expertise in ethics, applying technologies, or developing regulatory frameworks. Developing countries should not be treated as a homogenous block, given the diverse range of economic development and needs in biotechnology. They have to decide which, when and how to develop each biotechnology.
While it is paramount to strengthen the country's research and development (R and D) for better food production, it is also imperative that R and D serves the interests of all the types of farmers (large and small-scale farmers) and all types of agriculture (coexistence). The governments should support and implement farming systems that respond to the needs of all farmers if they are serious in their objective in achieving food security and technological sovereignty. While GMOs have become an economic and political reality, questions regarding their necessity, inherent fairness and safety have persisted. Several governments have been reluctant to adopt this type of agriculture for fear of jeopardizing their domestic markets and precipitating long-term environmental damage. But, the question is: if they do not develop appropriate modern biotechnologies can they achieve technological sovereignty?
Sandra E. Sharry
Secretaria de Investigaciones Cientificas
Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias y Forestales
Universidad Nacional de La Plata
Tel. 54 221 423 6758
Fax. 54 221 425 2346
E-mail: investigaciones (at) agro.unlp.edu.ar
[REDBIO, la Red de Cooperacion Tecnica en Biotecnología Vegetal, http://www.redbio.org/default.asp, is the Technical Co-operation Network on Plant Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean, based at the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile. It began in 1990 under the auspices of FAO and by December 2008 comprised 5467 researchers in 738 agricultural biotechnology laboratories in 32 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean...Moderator].
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:10
Subject: 26: Re: GM cassava - CMVD resistance
I am Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists in the United States.
There has been work, which may still be ongoing, by the Danforth Center in the U.S. on cassava mosaic virus (CMV) resistance that has met with serious setbacks, and sounds like it may be the project that has been referred to in this conference. Danforth is, I believe, a non-profit research institute, but has been reported to have received major support from industry (Monsanto in particular).v
In the context of successes and failure, on the failure side should be noted genetically engineered sweet potato for resistance to Sweet Potato Feathery Mottle Virus in Kenya (and reported success with conventional breeding methods in Uganda). This project seems to have used up a lot of monetary resources and scientists' time with no product after a decade of work.
Doug Gurian-Sherman, Ph.D.
Food and Environment
Union of Concerned Scientists
1825 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006-1232
dgurian-sherman (at) ucsusa.org
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:11
Subject: 27: Nigeria - food sufficiency/security
My name is Chinyere Nzeduru, Biosafety Officer, Federal Ministry of Environment, Nigeria
Over the past three decades, the issue of food sufficiency and food security has been the concern of governments of most developing countries, especially in the sub Saharan Africa. This problem is compounded by the demographic trend in most third world countries translating to more people to be fed. In order to check hunger and malnutrition, many countries have adopted various agricultural development policies with their accompanying technologies, all geared towards providing sufficient food to their citizens. Nigeria, with her teeming population of over 140 million has made several efforts towards this direction without achieving much of the desired goal.
The consequences of the progressive population increase in Nigeria are enormous. These include the competition for minimal land space both for construction and cultivation. This is very serious given the fact that while the population of the country continues to grow, Nigeria's available land remains the same within her boundaries.
Many of the past agricultural development interventions promoted cultivation of large areas of land to increase yield. Nigerian scientists have always been looking out for ways to increase crop yields without having to increase land areas for cultivation. While the various technologies already in use have made remarkable and significant contributions in agricultural development in Nigeria, the potentials of modern biotechnology have been highlighted as one important tool that would help in achieving food sufficiency and food security in the country. Just as Chiedozie Egesi mentioned (Message 13), Nigeria is just about to embark on a confined field trial for 2 crops in 2 research institutions later this year. It is hoped that these trials will be successful and will be taken to the next level in the process of modern biotechnology application in agriculture. However, it is important to note the apprehensions of people regarding the technology of genetic modification and to ensure that human health and environmental sustainability are not compromised in the effort to harness the benefits of modern biotechnology. This is the concern of the biosafety regulators, ensuring that modern biotechnology activities do not impact negatively on human/animal health and the environment.
Federal Ministry of Environment
Indepedence Way (South), Central Area
P. M. B. 468
Garki - Abuja,
Tel: +234 9 8703444; Mobile: +234 703 3336570
Email: chicledia (at) live.com
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:12
Subject: 28: Bt cotton in India
I am Dr. Prakash, working as Senior Vegetable Breeder in Namdhari Seeds, one of the reputed seed companies based in South India.
Since its introduction in 2002, Bt technology in cotton is a huge success in India. Looking at the speed of adoption of this technology, now India has become the second largest producer of cotton in the world with production of 315 lakh bales. Approximately four million growers are cultivating Bt cotton in an area of 225 lakh acres in 2008 from a mere 72,000 acres in 2002, the year of introduction of this technology. [1 lakh = 100,000...Moderator]. Today, nearly 23 private seed companies are actively engaged in using Bollgard I and II events of Monsanto in cotton alone. Some of the public institutes are also engaged in tranferring this technology to the local cultivars of cotton to make sure this technology would be affordable to the poor farmers of India as well.
In addition to cotton, there are over a dozen transgenic crops including eggplant, okra, cabbage, cauliflower, corn and rice that are in the process of getting regulatory approval from the government for commercial cultivation. Looking into the present scenario, next couple of years would certainly be the technological era that Indian growers can look for the beneficial traits developed through biotechnology.
Senior Vegetable Breeder
Bidadi - 562 109
dr.prakash (at) namdhariseeds.com
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:13
Subject: 29: Failure due to constraints - animal science - India
I am Dr. Kumarasamy, Associate Professor, Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai, India. This institute comes under the Tamilnadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, (State Veterinary University status). Major funds are from the state government for salaries and we do research by writing projects and getting funds from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Government of India.
When I was a student, during the 1990s the word biotechnology started gaining importance and we thought that it will revolutionize the world. Of course certain extent in health sector by producing lots of vaccines, drugs etc. But in agriculture also some extent, some genetically modified crops have been developed. As far as animal science is concerned, we lack far behind. There are several reasons that may be pointed our. Few of them are:- Lack of coordination between agencies
The scientist involved in the research spends most of the time for clerical work for preparation of report or purchase of materials etc.. This should be taken care while sanctioning the project. Most of the research aims for publication of research articles but where is the application part ? We have to identify the problems from the field, it should be result oriented, it should be implemented in the field. Then only the biotechnology will be more effective in future. We hope we will have better future.
Dr. P. Kumarasamy
Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding
Madras Veterinary College
Chennai - 600 007,
Email: pksamy_2000 (at) yahoo.com
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:14
Subject: 30: Summarising the failures
I am Walter Ajambang, doctoral student in the department of plant breeding and biotechnology, Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia.
The advantages of biotechnology over conventional methods are tangible. Biotech methods enable us to save time and money. Success has been made at the level of tissue culturing, enabling research stations to maintain germplasm in vitro.
I will summarize the failures under the following subtitles; Fast moving technology, Patents, Energy and Tax policy.
1. Technology is moving very fast in the developed world. At the moment that scientific equipment is being shipped to Africa, the manufacturer based in the developed country is already preparing a new design. At the time we ask for spare parts, the answer is obvious; we no longer produce such designs. That is why a lady compatriot from Cameroon complained that our laboratories are completely storehouses (Message 9).
2. Patents are now on everything, from protocols through equipment, spare parts to seeds. Although we are not wishing that peoples' right be scraped off their intellectual properties, we expect that price to technologies should be rational to our revenue standards.
3. Power failures are rampant in our towns and laboratories in particular. What will be the result of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification that has suffered two power cuts when running? What about some light dependent experiments? What about the in vitro gene banks? Join me to estimate the loss of this research centre with 32 scientists, more than half with PhD who could not work because the centre was in total blackout for 3 months.
4. Custom duties do not discriminate between research/educational material from commercial material. You will have to pay 40% of cost price for any scientific pin you import. Which funding agency will accept that? They rather ask you to carry out the experiment in their labs. When you return to your empty lab, you may have more time to drink palm wine from our local biotechnology.
Laboratorium Biologi Molekuler
IRAD BP243, DOUALA
e-mail: wan_soleil (at) yahoo.com
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:14
Subject: 31: Need to identify real problems - India
This is from Dr. Satish Kumar. I am working as a Molecular Biologist at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India, and my group is interested in animal biodiversity and has generated some genomic resources aimed at genetic improvement of domestic buffalo. In addition, we are also involved in creating mouse models of human diseases through gene-knockout and transgenesis.
Dr. Kenneth Anchang Yongabi (Message 19) has raised very crucial issues. I totally agree with his observations. I would go even one step further. Most of the agricultural scientists (including animal scientists) spend time, energy and resources in 'inventing problems' based upon the scientific literature published from developed countries rather than appreciating the real problems facing their own societies. Once the diagnosis is incorrect it is no surprise that the 'solution' would also be no consequence.
If I take an example from my own field of speciality i.e. animal breeding in my own country, we do not have phenotypic records of any reasonable quality on performance traits in domestic animals but most of the animal breeding researchers have gone 'high tech'. The fact is that unless we go back and do some hard work with respect to putting in place some classical animal genetics experiments and collect quality data, the DNA markers research is unlikely to have any impact either in the short term or even in the long term. But then classical genetics is out of fashion!
In developing countries, there is lot of traditional knowledge that needs to be appropriated by our scientists and put in the modern scientific context. I think the first step is identification of the 'real problems' which need solutions rather than trying to create artificial problems and research projects. The other day I happen to review a scientific proposal from a prestigious institution proposing to find quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for milk production in a small ruminant. Let us count our 'sheeps' before worrying about "genes"!
Dr. Satish Kumar, MSc, PhD (Edinburgh, UK)
Deputy Director (Scientist F) and Scientist In-charge
National Facility for Transgenic and Gene Knockout Mice
Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology
Hyderabad- 500 007
Fax: +91-40-27160311/ 27160591
email: satishk (at) ccmb.res.in ; satishk.scientist (at) gmail.com
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:15
Subject: 32: Biotechnology applications - Philippines
My name is Von Mark Cruz, program manager at the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).
I would just like to add further to Dr. Falck-Zepeda's note (message 20) that for the past few years PG Economics also has reported on the 'yield effect' of biotech crops as well on their socio-economic and environmental impacts. Their reports can be found at their website http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/ .
Here in the Philippines, the Bureau of Plant Industry reports a continuous increase in adoption of biotech corn since their first planting in 2003. Aside from such crops by the private sector, there are many documented applications of biotechnology by government agencies. In rice, molecular markers have helped public-sector breeders in the introgression of disease resistance to new varieties, as well as in conducting purity analysis of hybrid rice seeds. The national genebank has also constantly relied on tissue culture in preserving a backup collection of their banana and yam collection, and on various molecular markers for further studying collection diversity and germplasm management practices.
The use of artificial insemination (AI) in the genetic improvement program of carabao (local buffalo) is also one good example of biotechnology use in native livestock. AI was introduced in the country on cattle and swine. But it is on carabao that a more organized genetic improvement scheme by the government came about, especially with the creation of a national center in 1993. AI has helped in the conservation of native breeds as well as in 'upgrading' its genetics for increased milk and meat production.
I support the notion that political will is very important especially in building capacities and establishing a critical mass of highly trained human resources on agricultural biotech in the developing world. Likewise, governments should provide a favorable environment and resources for conducting agbiotech research and help in the commercialization of products thereof. These on top of being more efficient in communicating and disseminating useful information to stakeholders of the technology as mentioned by Farai Catherine Muchadeyi (message 16). Such extension services should be strengthened in developing countries. In addition, the involvement of the private sector through partnerships in further development of agricultural biotechnology in such countries must be encouraged.
Von Mark Cruz, PhD
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA)
c/o International Rice Research Institute
DAPO Box 7777
Phone: +63 2 5805600 ext 2879
Fax: +63 49 5367216
Email: v.cruz at cgiar.org