For the purpose of this inventory, biotechnology has been defined as “any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use” (CBD, 1992). This definition can be interpreted in a wide sense to cover not only recombinant DNA technologies such as genetic engineering which result in transgenic organisms, but also to include other forms of non-transgenic biotechnology R&D such as genomics, marker-assisted breeding, micropropagation and agricultural diagnostics. For definitions of these and other technical terms used throughout the document, see FAO (2001).
At this stage, the FAO-BioDeC includes about 2 000 entries from 71 developing countries, including countries with economies in transition (Appendix 1). The database in this initial phase is limited to research, testing and commercialization of specific crop technologies and products in developing countries. It also has a section on country profiles, which summarize individual country biotechnology-related policies, regulations and activities. The database will be later expanded to include the animal, fisheries and forestry sectors as well as information on the biotechnology regulatory status in the member countries.
No quantitative information is available with regard to the human capacity or funding involved. It does not cover activities carried out in developed countries even if they are meant for subsequent use or adoption in developing countries, nor does it cover research being carried out at international research centres, such as those that are part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), located in developing countries.
To compile the FAO-BioDeC a number of data sources have been consulted. In particular, information on plant biotechnology products and techniques gathered from a survey undertaken in Latin America by the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) and from country biotechnology status assessment reports undertaken by FAO in South East Asia, Africa, and transition countries in Eastern Europe. Some information was obtained from country reports and published literature.
The initial biotechnology application data obtained has been classified on a country/regional/continental basis, by species, trait analysed or technique used, and by whether the application is in the research phase, field testing phase or already commercially released (or routinely utilized in the case of non-GM technologies).
The data currently entered in the FAO-BioDeC has been subjected to some preliminary analysis outlined in the text in different sections of this document.