ESA Working Paper No. 03-08



Biotechnology R&D: Policy Options to
Ensure Access and Benefits for the Poor

Carl E. Pray and Anwar Naseem


PDF (348 KB)

Agricultural and Development Economics Division
The Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations



The majority of biotech research and almost all of the commercialization of genetically engineered crops has been done by private firms based in industrialized countries. The dominance of the private sector in biotechnology research and product development has raised concern in developing countries that their farmers – particularly poor farmers – may not benefit from biotechnology either because it is not available or is too expensive. This paper examines the consequences of the emergence of a few large companies as the leaders in the commercialization of biotechnology and analyses a number of concerns about who benefits from biotech research. It reviews the status of crop biotechnology research worldwide and analyses the influence of intellectual property rights and market concentration on the development and diffusion of new technology. The paper explores the potential of public-private partnerships recommends policy measures and investments that could focus more biotechnology research on the problems of the poor and alleviate some of the concerns about the impacts of biotechnology.

This paper was prepared as background material for the 2003 issue of The State of Food and Agriculture, which has the theme “Agricultural Biotechnology: Meeting the Needs of the Poor?” Several companion papers are also available in the ESA Working Paper series.


© FAO 2003