13 September 2012 | EN
Biotechnology could contribute to sustainable agriculture
[NEW DELHI] Open source biotechnology, through which biotechnology inventions are made freely available for others to use and improve upon, could help developing countries overcome hurdles created by stringent intellectual property rights (IPRs), a study says.
The concept is based on open source in software development. To date, open source software's free accessibility, low cost, openness to modification and customisation, and availability of community support have helped it solve practical problems in agriculture, education, environment and health in developing countries.
Now a team from the UN University, in Tokyo, Japan, is suggesting that a similar approach in biotechnology could help break the IPR 'logjam' that is slowing down development and diffusion of agricultural technologies.
In a study published in the August issue of Technology in Society, the authors point out that private firms dominate research and development in agriculture biotechnology. Furthermore, they say, just three multinational firms account for about 80 per cent of biotech patents in the 'cultivars' (varieties selected intentionally through cultivation) category.
Multinationals also dominate the seed industry, and tend to focus on crops that reap profits, while ignoring the 'orphan' crops central to livelihoods in developing countries, authors say.
Agricultural biotechnology can potentially contribute to sustainable agriculture in developing countries, by helping to develop drought-, pest- and herbicide-resistant crops.
But strict IPR block the easy implementation of new innovations, the study says. IPR also blocks access to research tools for scientists, who have to worry if their work infringes on patents.
It cites examples demonstrating how IPR has made agricultural technologies inaccessible to communities in most need. This includes 'golden rice': rice genetically engineered to contain a gene for carotene — the building block for vitamin A.
Another constraint is the different sets of rules that govern different aspects of agricultural innovation, with different unions focusing on new varieties, seed producers, biodiversity and farmers' rights, among others.
Open source biotechnology offers an alternative distribution model for agricultural innovations.
It seeks to overcome the 'patents thicket', by offering free research tools and technologies through open source licensing, and scope for cumulative improvements in technology and downstream transfer of open-source materials, the study says.
However, the study acknowledges several challenges to adopting open source biotechnology.
These include the need for training and for policies and infrastructures for supporting open source, and the high cost of IPR geared towards protecting farmers' resources.
"The proposed open source biotechnology framework could be a good solution for sharing, exchanging and improving technologies for the public good," Sridhar Gutam, a senior scientist at the Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture, in Lucknow, India, and convener of the 'Open Access India' movement, told SciDev.Net.
"When agriculture is a way of life, the data and information should be open access," Gutam said.
Technology in Society doi:10.1016/j.techsoc.2012.07.004 (2012)
KZT ( @kevinzt (twitter) | Japan )
14 September 2012
This is utter nonsense. Biotechnologies won't solve any problems of poverty, malnutrition or hunger, because modern agriculture fails to understand the way natural systems work in terms of soil microbiology and biodiversity to name just a few. With the current practices (that are mostly only 60 years old). Soil is currently being abused and ripped of its nutrients/life, left bare, exposed to the elements and erosion. As Einstein once said "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." therefore, just as biocides or chemical fertilizers emerged from the green revolution as a blessing from human intellect, they now turn to be the causes of the failures of modern agriculture in practicing a proper soil management.
Biotechnology is again creating a techno-fix, a yet-to-become instability in our ecosystem. There are more than 500 000 species of wild plants and we are farming worlwide (mainly) 80 species only (FAO facts). Yet Aboriginals and African hunter-gatherers used to collect 1000 species as food or raw material! What happened in our transition from gatherers to farmers to loose 90% of our knowledge through sedentism?
Golden rice is a good example of a truly unnecessary innovation, there are so many crops providing carotene, and if one really wants to make a nutrient rich, organic, sustainable, high yield per hectare crop (considering mineral and protein content), yet consuming low amounts of water... there's a aeons-old species of algae called Spirulina. Knowledge of what we already have, of good practices such as Permaculture, is already open source. We only need to spread the words faster and further. Open source is also in humanity's heritage of heirloom seeds that are currently threatened by seed corporations, and biotechnology promoters. Answers to our problems have always been standing in front of us, we have only been blinded by the way our society is driven by plutocrats, and debt/profit based economies.
pdjmoo ( The Natural Eye Project | United States of America )
17 September 2012
geneticroulettemovie.com/You all should really take the time to view this new groundbreaking movie "Genetic Roulette" The Gamble of Our Lives http://geneticroulettemovie.com/
AND 36 pages on why we need tight control over agricultural biotechnology
YOUR FOOD, YOUR HEALTH: Biotech Food, GMOs, Pesticides, Chemicals, CAFOs, BigAg http://bit.ly/zI1qHF
RD ( The Carbon Trap | United States of America )
17 September 2012
Frankenplants will proliferate with open source genetics. You'll lose control over new species development.
I wrote about this in my fiction novel, The Carbon Trap, where genetically modified CO2 trapping life forms are loosened upon the earth and threaten all life.
Krishna Ravi Srinivas ( India )
19 September 2012
There have been initiatives like CAMBIA,BIOS for using open source biotechnology in agriculture. Janet Hope's book BioBaazzaar also discusses Open Source Biotechnology.I have suggested Biolinux model to overcome and address some of IP related issues in agriculture/agri-biotech. I have suggested open innovation as an option in developing new varieties.
They can be downloaded from:
See also the paper downloadable from:
Some of the other publications including one on Open Source Drug Discovery are in:
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