Policy and institutional arrangements for agricultural biotechnologies in the region

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A recent survey (1991) of strategic technologies for maximizing the competitiveness of Australia's agriculture-based exports, organized by the Bureau of Rural Resources through consulting scientists in various national agencies, revealed that genetic engineering is the most likely technology to have maximum impact on the agricultural industries in the 1990s. Embryo manipulation, cell receptor manipulation and cell micropropagation were also considered to be extremely important technologies for the 1990s in the agricultural industries. Australia's agriculture-based exports amount to about US$15 billion per year. It is estimated that to these exports a value of around US$80 billion is added overseas. Australia sees an important role for biotechnology in value addition and product diversification for escalating its export earnings.

Generally, Australian scientists feel that their genetic engineering research base is reasonable as compared with most of the developed countries, but they cautioned that the base will erode in the near future if corrective action is not taken in time. Scientists also feel that the strongest hurdle to the development of genetic engineering in Australia is poor investment in research and innovation by the private sector. Many of Australia's experts in genetic engineering, especially basic researchers, are engaged in international research collaboration, but are often constrained by low budgets. Therefore, programmes that promote international collaboration would be favoured. Strengthening of international collaboration in the areas of embryo manipulation and micropropagation of plant and animal cells is also recommended.

Australia's ecosystem is unique in the world, with a wealth of unique flora, and the role of modern biotechnology in harnessing this biodiversity is well-recognized. It is further clear that genetic engineering may open Australia's produce to increasingly discriminating export markets. In the livestock industry, Australia has a good research base in embryo transfer technology and has commercialized the technology. The use of frozen embryos for germplasm conservation as well as for animal transport is emphasized. The country is highly advanced in research in immunology and in developing animal vaccine. Several Australian companies have worldwide links, but much is desired in vertical integration for attaining high efficiency.

Australia has an impressive plant biotechnology programme spread over universities, CSIRO, State Agriculture Departments and private companies, as given below (Gerlach, 1991):

University of Melbourne - incompatibility systems, pollen development

University of Adelaide - plant virology, viroids

Queensland University of Technology - plant virology

Queensland University - transformation techniques

(In Queensland, the work is mostly related to tropical crop species.)

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)

CSIRO is Australia's major government-funded research organization. It has various divisions that cover the range of the physical and life sciences. In the area of plant biotechnology there are several divisions with substantial expertise. Examples of these, together with some of their research areas are:

Division of Plant Industry/Canberra

Division of Tropical Crops and Pasture/Brisbane

Division of Horticulture/Adelaide

Division of Soils/Adelaide

State Agriculture Departments

The Agriculture Departments of the State Governments have traditionally been involved in plant breeding and extension in plant science. However, they are now becoming involved in specific areas of plant biotechnology. Examples are:

Queensland Department of Primary Industries - Plant pathology

Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Victoria - Plant improvement, virology

R&D companies in plant biotechnology are still relatively small in Australia, but represent the way in which the R&D infrastructure can be associated with international partners. Particular companies and their fields of interest are:

Calgene Pacific - Flower Colour, Delay in Senescence
Biocem Pacific - Male Gametophyte Development
Gene Shears - Gene Inactivation, Virus Disease Resistance

As regards funding, in Australia the financial input comes from a range of sources. These are briefly summarized.

Autonomous agencies: State and Commonwealth bodies such as universities, CSIRO and State Agriculture Departments have part of their funds provided from central appropriation sources. Approximately 70 percent of CSlRO's revenue is provided from treasury allocation.

These agencies also compete for funds from grant sources such as the Grains Research Corporation, Wool Research Development Board and other industry-based research initiatives supported from industry levies. Other competitive funds are provided by specific government departments. Examples of these are the R&D initiatives of the Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce, the Australian Research Council administered by the Department of Education, Employment and Training, and other specialist departments such as the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

Centres for Research Cooperation (CRC) Scheme: This scheme has been put in place by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to provide funding for up to 50 centres. The total allocation is A$100 million per year. The centres must involve new research initiatives by collaborating institutions and private industry involvement is strongly encouraged. Funding is assured for seven years, at which stage the progress of a centre will be extensively reviewed. A plant biotechnology centre has been established, for example, in Canberra, with the ANU Research School of Biological Sciences and CSIRO Division of Plant Industry as its major institutional partners. The Centre, called the Plant Science Centre, has programmes in the following areas:

Special initiative: Substantial new funding to scientific research was announced by the government. Some of this has been applied to biotechnology through University Centres of Excellence, increased numbers of studentships, and special allocations to priority research areas in CSIRO, such as the gene shears initiative in generic research in molecular genetics and the land and water care initiative in agriculture.

Private sector investment in biotechnology is being actively sought. Australia considers that it is not just applications products that earn returns, but that intellectual property is also valuable property. It can provide equity in commercial partnerships and such intellectual property rights can be very positive for scientists. As an example, the Gene Shears Pt Ltd company involves three partners at present. They are CSIRO, Group Limagrain and Johnson & Johnson. CSIRO contributed its intellectual property position on ribozyme technology, while the two commercial partners made staged financial inputs amounting to more than A$30 million as milestones were successfully met. Furthermore, Australian public research institutions and universities have been setting up commercial sections to assist scientists and cover negotiations with private sector companies.


Biotechnology is one of the seven high priority technology areas (other areas being space technology, information technology, laser technology, automation, energy technology and advanced materials) selected by the Chinese Government as critical for the development of China. Science and technology in the People's Republic of China are under the administration of the State Science and Technology Commission (SSTC), which sets broad goals in S&T policy. The actual research institutes are under the jurisdiction of individual ministries or government agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture, the State Pharmaceutical Administration and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), etc. (Fan, 1991). Most basic research is carried out in such institutes and, until recently, very little work of this nature took place at universities.

In March 1985, a new policy focused on market mechanisms as the principal stimulus for research and development was put forward by the government. This new policy advocated the following three things:

  1. Changes in the funding system based on competitive grants from both government agencies and individual companies, known as the contract system.
  2. Technology transfer through encouraging research institutions to promote development activities.
  3. Development of technological markets by making provisions for the technology originating laboratories to receive compensation from the industry.

Within the environment of the above policy declarations, the Chinese national policy on biotechnology was formulated in 1987 and initiated in 1988. It was further revised in May 1990. For accelerated and sustained agricultural production in agriculture, biotechnology is viewed as the most important technology option in China. Government involvement is at both national and provincial levels. The major government departments supporting biotechnology at the national level are:

  1. Chinese National Centre for Biotechnology Development (CNCBD)
  2. State Science and Technology Commission (SSTC)
  3. China's United Biotechnology Corporation
  4. Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS)
  5. Academy Sinica

The following are the priority areas under agricultural biotechnology:


Microbial processing


Many of the above activities constitute the "Spark Programme" which has been embodied in China's five-year plan.

The country has established effective multilateral and bilateral cooperative programmes for the generation and transfer of biotechnologies. It has been participating in the Rockefeller Foundation's International Network on Rice Biotechnology and several FAO, UNDP, UNIDO, UNEP, EEC and World Bank programmes on biotechnology. As regards bilateral assistance, Australia and the United Kingdom have been the major cooperators.


India has always accorded high priority to science and technology. The government during the past 15 years or so has evolved a well-defined policy and strategy in agricultural biotechnology. The Indian Sixth Five-Year Plan (1980-85) was the first policy document to cover biotechnology development in the country, stating that efforts would be strengthened to develop capability in new areas such as immunology and genetics, including molecular biology and genetic engineering, etc. The programmes included tissue culture, enzyme engineering, genetic engineering and molecular biology.

In 1982, India established the National Biotechnology Board (NBTB) which issued the Long-Term Plan in Biotechnology that spelled out priorities in view of national objectives, such as self-sufficiency in food and other vital areas: health, industry, energy, environment, communication and informatics, and education and training. In agriculture, the emphasis was on biological nitrogen fixation and biofertilizer, biological control of insects, development of disease resistant and stress-tolerant varieties of crops, improving nutrition and quality of food grains, and rapid propagation of high yielding fruits and other clonally propagated materials.

In the beginning of the Seventh Plan of India (1985-90), the Board was elevated to become the Department of Biotechnology, whose main responsibilities are as follows (DBT, 1989).

  1. To evolve integrated plans and programmes in biotechnology;
  2. To identify specific R&D programmes in biotechnology and biotechnology-related manufacturing;
  3. Establishment of infrastructural support at the national level;
  4. To act as an agent of the Government to import new recombinant DNA based biotechnological processes, products and technologies;
  5. To evolve biosafety guidelines for laboratory research, production, and application;
  6. To initiate scientific and technical efforts related to biotechnology;
  7. Programmes of personnel development in the areas of biotechnology; and
  8. Establishment of an International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

A Scientific Advisory Committee comprising experts from concerned scientific agencies, research institutes, universities and industry, advises the Department on policy issues and programmes. An interdisciplinary approach with emphasis on agriculture, animal husbandry, biomass production, health, industry, energy and environment is being pursued. Thirteen task forces to monitor scientific progress, identify priorities and prepare work plans were prepared (DBT, 1989). These were:

More than 200 scientists are involved in the main task forces and also in various subgroups and smaller committees. These task forces, through interactive processes, have identified thrust areas in which major initiatives were taken during the period of the current Eighth Plan. Concerted efforts are being made to implement projects, particularly in the gap areas covering upstream research and development and in product-based technology development, demonstration of proven technologies, establishment of pilot plants and special programmes for the development of rural areas of the country.

The national government is the major sponsor of biotechnology activities (Ramachandran, 1991). Nine national infrastructural activities have been targeted for development including a biochemical engineering and pilot plant, and a facility for the production and distribution of enzymes and biochemicals.

The major government ministries (and the related councils/departments) that support biotechnology are:

Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)

More specifically, the important government institutions at present involved include (Bhatia, 1993):

As regards funding, it is difficult to assess the amount accurately. DBT, ICAR and CSIR all support biotechnology activities. The budget of the Department of Biotechnology alone, which provides support for all aspects of biotechnology including biomedical and agriculture applications, was US$200 million for the Seventh Five-Year Plan (1985-90). No comparable budgets are available for the biotechnology activities supported by ICAR, CSIR, universities and other agencies. However, India's support for biotechnology is significant and may be one of the largest in absolute terms of any other developing country.

India hosts one of the two laboratories of the UNIDO International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), located in Delhi. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has its headquarters in Hyderabad. India (through ICAR and DBT) participates in the Rockefeller Foundation's International Network on Rice Biotechnology. It has also some bilateral biotechnology programmes with France, Australia and other countries.

The country has recognized that there is a need to promote facilities for development of biotech-based products, processes and services usable by society in a cost-effective manner. While the existing mechanisms of technology transfer need to be further augmented, the necessity for an institutional mechanism to ensure close interaction between research and development, pilot plant studies, market testing, certification and technology development to forge commercial success, has led to the creation of the Biotech Consortium India Ltd (BCIL). Inaugurated by the Prime Minister and incorporated in September 1990, with its headquarters in Delhi, BCIL has been promoted by a consortium of financial institutions led by the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) in association with the Department of Biotechnology.

The specific objectives of BCIL are given below (BCIL, 1991):

In the initial stages, BCIL chosen the following areas for priority attention: (i) plant biotechnology including tissue culture (animal and plant cells) micropropagation for ornamental/horticultural/cash crops and hybrid seeds; (ii) biocontrol agents and biopesticides; (iii) biofertilizers; (iv) oil palm; (v) animal husbandry; (vi) aquaculture; (vii) immunodiagnostics; (viii) information and other related services; and (ix) organizing training programmes using existing infrastructure in academic and research institutions (private and public sectors), national laboratories, etc.


The Indonesian Government, Ministry of Science and Technology, started formulating its biotechnology policy in 1982. In 1985, the Government declared biotechnology a priority in the framework of national development and envisaged four development targets, namely: (i) bioindustries for goods and services; (ii) development of research centres; (iii) development of educational institutes; and (iv) development of a national cooperative network in biotechnology. As regards agriculture, the policy on biotechnology aims at (i) stable food self-sufficiency, (ii) enhanced export of agricultural products; and (iii) enhanced employment opportunity (Dart, Manwan and Persley, 1991). To coordinate the work in biotechnology, through a presidential decree, a national centre for biotechnology was established under the Indonesian Institute of Sciences in 1986. The lead agency for agricultural biotechnology is the Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (AARD).

Although several institutes and universities are involved in biotechnology, the following are prominent:

  1. Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI)
  2. LIPI Biotechnology Centre for Research and Development at Cibinong
  3. Centre for Research in Biotechnology (CRIB), Bogor
  4. Research and Development Centre for Applied Chemistry (RDCAC), Bandung
  5. Inter-University Centres for Biotechnology (Bogor, Gajah Mada, Bandung)
  6. Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Tropical Biology (BIOTROP), Bogor
  7. Food Technology Development Centre, Bogor.

In agricultural biotechnology, the following centres are actively involved:

No estimates are available for recurrent and plan-wise expenditure on biotechnology. The national effort was supplemented by a World Bank loan of US$23 million during 1985-92 for three inter-university centres for biotechnology; one at Bogor for agriculture, at Gajah Mada for medicine and at Bandung for industrial biotechnology. The country has also been receiving bilateral aid from Australia (through an ASEAN-Australia Biotechnology Project), Japan, USAID, the EC, France and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) for the development of biotechnology.

Current priorities in biotechnology are work on fermentation of traditional food stuffs such as soy sauce, production of ethanol, amino acids and secondary metabolites from agricultural waste and production of bioactive products from plants for medicinal uses. In the agricultural sector, emphasis has been given to fermentation technology for ethanol, amino acids, single cell protein production, and production of biopesticides. Future priorities for agriculture biotechnology are: (i) cell and tissue culture for genetic improvement, production of disease free material, embryo culture, cell fusion, etc.; (ii) embryo transfer for increasing cattle productivity; and (iii) diagnostics for plant and animal diseases.


The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Japan, has been introducing and implementing a variety of policies and measures for research and development (R&D) and commercialization of biotechnology. The measures can be roughly divided into three categories: (i) those for R&D conducted mainly by the Ministry; (ii) those aiming to encourage R&D and practical application efforts by the private sector and prefectural governments; and (iii) those for the development of infrastructures for R&D and actual use of biotechnology (Sugishita, 1989). The first measure is described below, whereas the second and third (to a limited extent) are described later under the section "Commercialization and the role of the private sector".

MAFF established the National Institute of Agrobiological Resources and reinforced the systems of its laboratories and research institutes to be responsive to the potential and challenges of biotechnology. Cooperation among industries, universities and the public sector as well as global interactions were emphasized. In 1989, several new research programmes were initiated; three of the most important were: the "Comprehensive programme for the study of ecosystems in agriculture, forestry and fisheries and their optimal control", "Analysis of animal genes and development of their application technology", and "Development of new paddy field crops for greater demand (Super rice programme)". Other research projects include the "Comprehensive research programme of biotechnological plant breeding". This is a long-term programme aiming to carry out new breeding methods especially for environmental stress resistance based on genetical engineering.

The Ministry has a clearcut policy, initiated in 1984, for cooperation with universities to contribute to the fundamental researches of biotechnology from an interdisciplinary and long-range viewpoint. Named the "Advanced Biotechnological Study of Research Needs", this plan addresses advanced research in the area of plants, animals and enzymes, and was entrusted to researchers at universities.

The Ministry supports strong cooperation with the private sector. Between 1982 and 1990, about 150 joint projects between the private and public sectors were operational in the agricultural field. For instance, during 1987 and 1988 there were 18 and 6 joint projects in the field of bionursery, respectively. The joint studies brought out several remarkable results. One of them is the breeding of a somatic cell hybrid from orange and trifoliate orange by the cell fusion technique. The production system of erythritol, a non-caloric sweetener expected to be applicable to various purposes, was also created from the cooperative research between the Ministry and the private sector.

Japan is committed to international cooperation in biotechnology. It has bilateral collaboration with more than 15 countries, including the United States, France, China and India. The Tropical Agricultural Research Centre (TARC) through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has invited about 100 Ph.D. and post-doctoral participants in biotechnology from developing countries.

Republic of Korea

At the beginning of the 1980s, the Korean Government recognized the importance of biotechnology development and legislated a Genetic Engineering Promotion Bill for accelerating investments in biotechnology research and development programmes. The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) initiated a vast investment in biotechnology and other related sciences, including agriculture. The Korean National Planning and Coordination Council (KNPCC) supports research projects that are related to biotechnology work performed by individual investigators or multidisciplinary teams from any agricultural experiment station, college, university, other research institution or organization. It also encourages advanced training for biotechnology development including doctoral degree and post-doctoral research programmes, as well as supporting workshops, symposia or conferences to discuss and identify research needs. Health care including pharmaceuticals, agriculture, the food industry, chemicals, pollution control and bioenergy are priority areas for biotechnology programmes.

Rural Development Administration (RDA) through its Agricultural Biotechnology Research Council coordinates research and development of biotechnology in agriculture spread over its 12 research institutes, as shown below (Chung, 1991):

Biotech Research Council
Rural Development Administration

Plant Biotechnology
Agricultural Sciences Institute
Agricultural Chemicals Institute
Crop Experiment Station
Honam Crop Experiment Station
Youngnam Crop Experiment
Horticulture Exp. Station
Wheat and Barley Res. Institute
Alpine Experiment Station

Animal Biotechnology
Veterinary Research Institute
Livestock Experiment Station
Sericulture Experiment Station
Jeju Experiment Station

The Council monitors progress, directs research projects and investment planning and stimulates initiation of biotechnology research. Technological development and basic research on genetic engineering were carried out at the Agricultural Sciences Institute including the Biotechnology Division which was established in 1986 with 40 scientists, 15 of whom were qualified Ph.D.s.

The Veterinary Research Institute established biotechnology laboratories for basic molecular genetics studies and their applications in animals. Special emphasis has been on the improvement of diagnostic techniques using monoclonal antibodies and the development of vaccines against various animal diseases. The institutions responsible for breeding crops and livestock have also been responsible also for the application of biotechnologies for practical breeding to increase crop productivity and economic values. Symposia and workshops on specific topics in biotechnology have also been provided frequently by the Council to the members of public and private institutes. The Research Bureau of RDA supports the budget and administration for the activities of the Council, and the Biotechnology Division of ASI has responsibility for technical coordination.

Many other public sector institutes and government-supported organizations have their own biotechnology projects. These are the Institute of Forest Genetics, National Environment Research Institute, the National Institute for Health, Fisheries Researches and Development Agency, the Genetic Engineering Research Centre, Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology, and the Korea Ginseng and Tobacco Research Institute. In particular, the Genetic Engineering Research Centre (GERC) affiliated with the Korean Advanced Institute for Science and Technology (KAIST) concentrates on basic research. To train young scientists in this field, 15 universities established new Biotechnology or Genetic Engineering Departments; some universities established new institutes of biotechnology. More than 350 professors of various departments of the universities are participating in biotechnology research.

A breakdown of the national biotechnology budget and personnel during 1989 is given below:

Institution Budget (million $) Research personnel
KAISR 4.5 190
University Institutes 5.0 272
National Research Institutes 0.3 45
Rural Development Administration 1.9 63
Others 3.4 59
Total 14.9 629

In the national budget, the biotechnology budget for research projects related to plant development was about US$6 million. The government has earmarked US$800 million to be spent between 1990 and 2001 in the field of biotechnology. It is expected that about 10 percent of this amount will be diverted to agricultural biotechnology. The government is paying an attractive salary, equivalent to those in the West, and has other plans to repatriate trained Korean scientists (Chung, 1991).

A Bioscience Promotion Committee for National Prosperity has recently been established. The Committee has six subcommittees including agriculture. The Agriculture Sub-Committee selected the following biotechnology R&D objectives:

  1. Giving greater attention to the drainage of natural resources or pollution of the environment in the process of increasing agricultural productivity. In the twenty-first century, agriculture is to be born again as a competitive resource-conserving and environment-conserving industry.
  2. Attaining self-sufficiency in food production.
  3. Establishing a highly efficient production system for commercialized and specialized agriculture.
  4. Creating a prosperous rural society balanced with urban society.
  5. Conservation of the environment and of ecological systems and ensuring a pleasant living environment.


Malaysia is the world leader in the production and export of rubber and palm oil. Since agriculture is the primary activity, agricultural biotechnology has been assigned a high priority to increase the country's competitiveness in agricultural trade. The National Biotechnology Committee (NBC), formed in 1985 by the Ministry of Science and Environment, coordinates the work. In 1991, the NBC was transformed into a National Working Group (on biotechnology) under the restructured National Council for Scientific Research and Development or MPKSN (Zakri, 1991). The government's present policy is to promote biotechnology research and development efforts at specific "Centres of Excellence" selected from existing institutes and universities rather than creating a new central institute for biotechnology. The terms of reference of the National Working Group remain the same as those of the NBC and are as follows:

  1. To advise the government on matters pertaining to policy in research, funding and incentives to industries in the area of biotechnology.
  2. To monitor and assess worldwide development in biotechnology especially on the current state of the art of biotechnology and to relate it to national needs.
  3. Evaluate the economic and trade implication of the technology.
  4. To facilitate and promote cooperation in R&D between research institutions and the industry.
  5. To establish a mechanism for funding research activities.
  6. To prepare annual reports on the status and advancement of biotechnology in the country.
  7. To establish guidelines on code of ethics and safety in all aspects of biotechnology development.

Almost all the biotechnology activities in Malaysia are conducted by government institutions. Major government departments supporting biotechnology are:

  1. Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) - agricultural biotechnology
  2. Rubber Research Institute (RRI) - plant biotechnology
  3. Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia (PORIM) - lipid technology
  4. The Standards and Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM) - industrial biotechnology
  5. Three universities with biotechnology activities.

Approximately US$500 000 per annum is assigned to the National Biotechnology Committee for funding biotechnology and this is split evenly among the following five thrust areas:

The Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) established a Biotechnology Centre in March 1990 (Yusof, 1991). The objectives of the Centre are as follows:

A good beginning has been made in the application of biotechnologies in the areas of alcohol and biogas production, biomass conversion, biofertilizer production, tissue culture, food processing, animal feed production, and animal nutrition and health. Interest is focused on fermentation, single cell protein production, and enzyme and microbial technology. Genetic engineering is at an early stage in a few institutions. The application in palm oil, besides tissue culture, is directed towards improvement of fatty acid composition. In rubber production, current efforts are towards product diversification.

New Zealand

New Zealand considers biotechnology a key technology for the future competitive development of the country's food, fibre, floriculture and forestry industries. Although the Government does not have an explicit policy on biotechnology, it is in the process of developing one. The Ministry of Research, Science and Technology (MORST) had identified six output areas as priority themes relating to plant biotechnology, namely, forage plants, arable crops, horticulture, forestry production, fruit processing products, and wood products. Product diversification, product differentiation, development of new varieties, pest and disease resistance, and variety, plant and product improvement achieve high priority in these areas (Steele and Cooper, 1991).

Biotechnology research relating to horticulture, pasture and arable crops in New Zealand is primarily undertaken by government departments and by universities (Table 5).

The five major research institutions all have strong institutional support for plant biotechnology, and regard this field as a growth area for research. Salaries and operating costs are generally borne by the research institutes from budgetary allocations, with additional financial input from producer boards, private companies and university grants for certain programmes. There are a number of collaborative programmes between Auckland University and MAFF and between FRI, DSIR and Massey University. In such cases, costs are usually shared by cooperating organizations.

Table 5
Institutions conducting plant biotechnology research in New Zealand

Research entity Research centre or division Location
Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) Fruit and Trees 1/
Crop Research 1/
Grassland 1/
Auckland, Palmerston North
Palmerston North
Auckland University Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology 1/ Auckland
Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) Levin Horticultural
Research Centre 1/
Ruakura Agricultural
Research Centre
Forest Research Institute (FRI)   Rotorua
Massey University Department of Molecular Genetics Palmerston North
Canterbury University Department of Biotechnology Christchurch

1/ Denotes institutions conducting major research in plant biotechnology.

Facilities for research vary from adequate to excellent. Several institutions have custom- built facilities appropriate for their research requirements (e.g. a facility for monoclonal antibody production (DSIR Fruit and Trees); containment and non-containment greenhouse facilities (Auckland University, DSIR Grasslands); purpose-built laboratories (MAF, Levin; DSIR Grasslands); DNA sequencing facility (DSIR, Grasslands). Other equipment and facilities available include biocomputing facilities, oligonucleotide synthesizers, ELISA plate readers, isotope facilities, HPLC and FPLC.

Plant biotechnology research in New Zealand needs to be strengthened by linkages with complementary programmes in biochemistry, plant physiology, plant protection and plant breeding. Such underpinning of biotechnology research with traditional scientific methodologies should assist with the development and commercialization of genetically modified products.

In New Zealand financial support from non-government sources is small and consists of research grants from trusts, producer boards and commercial companies. In total this is estimated to be approximately US$1 million (Steele and Cooper, 1991).

The budgetary allocation for plant biotechnology for the 1990-91 financial year was:

Research entity $NZ million
DSIR Crop Research 1.33
DSIR Fruit and Trees 4.56
DSIR Grasslands 2.30
Auckland University 0.60
MAF (Levin Horticultural Research Centre) 2.70
MAF (Ruakura Agricultural Research Centre) 0.60
Forest Research Institute 0.66

Crown funding of science in New Zealand is distributed through the Public Good Science Pool on a contestable basis by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FORST). The government dictates funding priorities from this pool across all its disciplines. The Ministry of Research Science and Technology (MORST) is responsible for establishing research priorities.

A set of research goals for New Zealand has been developed using inputs from a general public opinion survey in which respondents were asked to rank the government's role in research on a broad sectoral basis; from a detailed survey of expert opinion covering a wide spectrum of groups and organizations representing industry, professional bodies, academics, scientists, welfare organizations, environmental groups, trade unions and local and national government; and an analysis of survey results in the light of other reports and recommendations that have dealt with socio-economic development issues. A draft version of the statement of these goals was subjected to broad public scrutiny and modified according to the responses received.

Outputs that classify research activity contribute to the attainment of research goals. Research priorities are set between and within outputs. A balance is maintained between demand-side priority-setting (strategic intention of government for its science investment in the context of its total mix of policies) and supply-side priority-setting (driven by current research, new problems and opportunities perceived by working scientists) through the government directing FORST to allocate particular levels of funding to each output. The nomination of themes within or across outputs identifies particular areas of research to which FORST will give preference in allocating research funds. Priority themes are determined from inputs from a wide range of consultative forums. Priorities between outputs are determined using a model.

The government sets upper limits for public good science expenditure for each output class each year. Decisions for allocation of funds within an output class are based on the contribution of research proposals to priority research themes.

The Philippines

Biotechnology has been singled out as one of the priority areas. The Philippines was one of the first countries in ASEAN to commit itself to a biotechnology policy and to fund new institutes to implement biotechnology activities. The first institute (BIOTECH) was founded in 1979 at the University of the Philippines at Los Baņos. The objective is to develop appropriate technology for the microbially based industries, and address issues relative to food, biofertilizers and fuel through biotechnological innovations. The programme covers research, pilot scale production and training and provides support to industry. The Institute has over 170 personnel and houses 13 laboratories and a pilot plant; it is now able to use frontline technologies such as recombinant DNA technology, and monoclonal antibodies (BIOTECH, 1990). lt is estimated that the Government provides 90 percent of the about US$1 million spent annually spent on biotechnology, while the remaining 10 percent is met by industry. The main public sector institutes involved are:

  1. Department of Science and Technology (DOST)
  2. Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI)
  3. University of the Philippines
  4. National Institutes of Biotechnology and Applied Microbiology (BIOTECH), UPLB, Los Baņos
  5. Natural Science Research Institute (NSRI), University of the Philippines, Diliman

Priority areas at each of the major institutions are listed below:

National Institute of Biotechnology and Applied Microbiology. at Los Baņos(BlOTECH)

Natural Resources Research Institute - University of the Philippines, Diliman (NSRI)

Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI)

Philippine Council for Industry-Energy R&D (PCIERD)

The country has several international cooperative programmes in biotechnology. It hosts the International Rice Research Institute and has close links with rice biotechnology work, including its participation in the rice biotechnology network supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. Bilateral collaboration with biotechnology programmes in Australia, Japan and the United States have also proved effective.


Thailand is one of the few developing countries that are major exporters of food and other plant products. Facing general decline and fluctuation in commodity prices, the country turned to biotechnology and formulated policies to develop materials and practices that would help reduce production costs, diversify crops and products and increase the production of value-added products. Therefore, biotechnology has been a high priority for the improvement of productivity and quality of raw agricultural products. Special attention is being paid to the use of new technologies in the agroindustry to develop value-added agricultural products for domestic and international markets. Considerable efforts and investment were made by the government to promote this important technology during the Sixth National Social and Economic Plan (198791). Support for the most effective mechanism for technology transfer to the industrial sector continues.

The National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (NCGEB), established under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Energy in 1983, is the main policy-making body that provides support and coordination for biotechnology research and development projects, and forges links with the private sector (Yuthavong and Bhumiratana, 1988). The establishment of the National Centre marked, for the first time, a significant local funding from the government towards development of a specific technology. Support for the technology is, moreover, provided as a complete package with provision of funding, information and training, and links with industries and international institutions. The National Centre has four affiliated laboratories, including pilot plants, and over 30 projects in ten institutions in the national network on biotechnology. To promote research activity in plant biotechnology, NCGEB in cooperation with Kasetsart University, has established a Plant Genetic Engineering Unit (PGEU) as an operation unit for basic and applied research in plants. The Department of Agriculture (DOA), Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, also serves as an important base for applied biotechnological research in agriculture.

It is estimated that Thailand has about 500 researchers in biotechnology. One-third are in plant biotechnology. Some plant biotechnolgoy research activities in major laboratories are as follows (Attathom, 1991 ):

The national emphasis is on the development, transfer and utilization of biotechnology including genetic engineering, in the following areas: industrial applications, agricultural applications, public health, energy and environmental applications, and strengthening of the basic infrastructure in genetic engineering and biotechnology. Under these specific technologies or industries the economic and social importance of the specific areas are assessed and the research, development and technology transfer needs are identified. Designated research projects are then formulated by researchers, often from more than one institution working together, and are funded after proper peer review. Under the Agricultural Technology Transfer Programme, supported by USAID, 38 agricultural biotechnology projects costing about US$8 million, were operational during 1986-91.

The Science and Technology for Development Programme established in 1985 with the cooperation of the US Agency for International Development (AID), is another major supporter of biotechnology research and development in Thailand. The Science and Technology Development Board (STDB), which runs this programme, has a wide interest covering bioscience and biotechnology, material technology and applied electronics and computer technology. The Board, supported by USAID, by mid-1991 had funded 42 biotechnology projects for a total of more than US$7 million. Other biotechnology research projects are supported by the National Research Council and by grants from universities. International funding is especially significant for biomedical and life sciences projects. Besides the United States, Japan and Israel have been providing financial and technical support in selected areas of biotechnology mutually agreed by the recipient and the donor governments.

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