Displaying 1-20 of 86 key documents
Source: UNU-MERIT | June, 2011
This paper describes two case studies of smallholder farms in South Africa to assess the processes involved in agricultural innovation carried out jointly with farmers. It highlights the importance of experimentation and cooperation for cash crop and subsistence farmers, and reviews current policies to evaluate how grassroots innovation is being supported in South Africa.
The paper points to inadequate policy support for grassroots innovation. It outlines the characteristics of innovation systems including social contexts, learning cycles and self-reflection, and discusses intellectual property rights. The authors identify triggers for innovation, including the potential to cut down on labour, and suggest that policymakers and local communities need to engage in cooperative activities to create an enabling environment for grassroots innovation. Policy suggestions include creating links between formal and informal research and viewing collaboration as a key indicator of success.
Source: Food Security (2011) | April 2011
This journal article investigates the significance of drought and other water-related constraints in South Asia compared with other limitations to the production of four major food crops — wheat, rice, sorghum and chickpea — in five South Asian farming systems.
The study was based on a survey of 330 'expert informants'. It indicates that water shortages and constraints such as high-cost irrigation or flooding of low-lying fields contribute to no more than 30 per cent of current yield gaps in major food crops. Other constraints contribute the most to yield losses, particularly soil infertility and poor management of fertiliser, weeds, pests and diseases. The respondents suggested interventions to address these constraints and improve food security, which include biotechnology and improvements in soil fertility.
Source: International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV)
This report details the proceedings of the 2nd World Seed Conference, held on 8–10 September 2009 at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Headquarters, to investigate the role of plant breeding in improving seed quality and crop varieties that are crucial for food security.
The proceedings contain the presentations, discussions and conclusions from a one-day policy forum and the five sessions of the two-day expert forum. Areas covered include the importance of genetic resources for plant breeding, access and benefit sharing; plant variety protection; and the importance of seed quality in agriculture.
The conclusions emphasised the importance of encouraging plant breeding to enable the production and distribution of high-quality seed. Participants highlighted the International Treaty on Plant and Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture as an innovative instrument for achieving food security through conservation and access to genetic resources, and the importance of protecting intellectual property. They also recommended that countries develop the capabilities needed to determine seed quality and certify seed varieties.
The conference was organised by the FAO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, the International Seed Federation and the International Seed Testing Association.
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) | 2009
This book, published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), reviews the policies, programs and investments that have been crucial in promoting agricultural development and alleviating poverty, hunger and malnutrition across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
By identifying cases where interventions — to enhance productivity, combat disease, conserve natural resources or expand market opportunities — have been especially successful, this book draws out some valuable lessons that can be applied to other efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger.
Successes highlighted include the Green Revolution in Asia, community forestry in Nepal and land tenure reform in China.
Source: Nature | November 2003
This feature article examines some of the key debates around the role of genetically modified (GM) technology in Africa.
The technology promises much to malnourished populations on a continent that climate change threatens to make even more inhospitable to crops. But anti-GM campaigners maintain that Africa's hunger crisis will not be solved by biotechnology.
US agri-biotech corporations such as Monsanto who lobby African governments to buy into such technology also have a large financial stake in rolling out GM over such a large continent. The anti-GM lobby, traditionally made up of environment charities such as Greenpeace, are now seeing aid charities such as Oxfam join its ranks.
The real stand-off, however, is between the largely pro-GM United States and a cautious Europe. The US Agency for International Development (USAID), which is pro-GM, has provided millions of dollars to support biosafety policymaking and research in the developing world.
European countries meanwhile do not rule out introducing GM technology to Africa but want GM products labelled and traceable to their source. The deciding factor may be how effective GM is in improving nutrition — and that remains under debate.
Source: Royal Society | October 2009
Food security is a major challenge in global health. Agriculture will need a significant boost if we are to feed the expected global population of nine billion people in 2050. This detailed report outlines the case for 'sustainable intensification'.
Climate change is already putting pressure on existing agricultural systems and will likely continue to alter rainfall patterns, temperatures and soil quality. But climate change isn't the only culprit — agricultural output has also fallen through growing pesticide resistance and low crop diversity.
The report argues that crop management must take these biological factors into account. But to be sustainable it must also support poor farmers and rural populations. This will require technological approaches underpinned by robust science, says the report.
The authors provide a detailed overview of how climate change will affect food production and the latest genetic techniques available to boost output. No single approach is going to work, and splitting agriculture into different camps — genetically modified or not, for example — will have no traction. The key is to consider the problem holistically and see how different approaches could be combined for the best results.
The report calls for agricultural sciences to be placed at the forefront of innovation, and supports its position in university courses, arguing that if agriculture is to see a revolution, it will need talented scientists.
Source: GeneWatch UK | July 2009
This report from GeneWatch UK describes the use of genetically modified (GM) crops as agrofuels and makes policy recommendations on their use.
Civil society groups have raised concerns over the sustainability of using food supplies to produce biofuel. Industry and government have responded by investing in genetically modified 'second generation' biofuels to try and increase energy output from a broader range of plant sources.
The author says that assessments of GM biofuels must consider their impact on biodiversity, food supply and land use, how much they can realistically reduce carbon emissions and their technical feasibility.
GeneWatch UK recommends an independent appraisal for second-generation GM agrofuels. It suggests that gaps in research and regulation must be addressed, particularly those regarding environmental concerns such as factory waste streams containing GM organisms.
Source: FAO | 2008
This report combines a background paper and summary report from a moderated email conference held by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in March 2007.
The background paper outlines the current and future challenges for water availability. The authors discuss options for dealing with water scarcity, focusing on agricultural water use, and ask how biotechnologies — from microorganisms for pest control to genetically modified crops — can help.
The summary report highlights the consensus among conference participants that biotechnology has a valuable role to play in addressing water scarcity in developing countries.
It presents examples of biotechnologies being used in the developing world, including marker-assisted selection, genetic modification, biofertilisers and wastewater recycling. But the report calls for increased collaboration and interdisciplinary research, as well as more involvement of stakeholders in designing solutions, to help biotechnologies move from the lab to farmers' fields.
Source: Biotechnology Journal | September 2007
The way discussions about biotechnology are framed is also dealt with, concluding that innovative, new techniques are required to create a rational dialogue with the public.
Source: International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) | 2005
Innovation systems perspectives on agricultural research and technological change are fast becoming a popular approach to the study of how society generates, disseminates, and utilises knowledge. It provides an opportunity to study and explore complex relationships between the many agents and institutions that make up an innovation system. Early applications of the innovation systems framework to developing-country agriculture suggest opportunities for more intensive and extensive analysis.
This paper analyses these applications and suggests several ways of strengthening the mode of inquiry and quality of analysis. This paper will be of interest to science and technology policy analysts and policymakers in developing countries seeking to apply innovative concepts to agriculture.
Source: African Journal of Biotechnology | November 2004
This scientific article provides an insight into the status of public research in genetically modified (GM) crops in Egypt, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe in 2004.
The authors document 54 transgenic 'events' — specific instances of genetic transformation — across the four countries. They identify work to develop GM strains for 20 crops, including cotton, maize, potatoes, sugar cane, tomatoes and wheat. South Africa is shown to be a particularly important centre for biotech research, accounting for 28 out of the 54 events examined.
The authors call for a simplified system to facilitate regulatory approval of GM crop trials and commercial releases across the continent as a whole and suggest measures to encourage inter-institutional links and South–South collaborations.
Source: International Journal of Biotechnology | 2005
This research article, by Rosemary Wolson at the University of Cape Town, assesses South Africa's biotechnology policies, reviewing three major initiatives — the national research and development strategy, biotechnology strategy and proposed laws to govern intellectual property rights derived from publicly funded research. Wolson explains the origins, goals and implementation of each.
The projects aim to create a coordinated strategy for promoting biotechnology in South Africa. Wolson concludes that the efforts are an encouraging sign of governmental commitment, but notes the continuing challenge of integrating the individual projects into a coherent framework. This may depend on promoting social networks to catalyse innovative industries.
She calls for the government to encourage more private enterprise and investment while remaining committed to basic research.
This article is useful to anyone hoping to understand the policy framework for biotechnology in one of sub-Saharan Africa's key scientific and industrial powers.
Source: International Journal of Biotechnology | 2005
In this research article, Victor Konde of the University of Zambia argues that industrial biotechnologies can improve food security in Africa through improved livestock feeds and vaccines, as well as biotechnological pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides. He adds that biotechnology can also help farmers process crop and livestock products for new markets.
But Africa must first overcome a number of key challenges, says Konde — including restrictions on agricultural exports, weaknesses in scientific capacity and investment, and a lack of diplomatic strength to effectively promote its interests in international negotiations.
The author proposes ways for African policymakers to encourage biotech enterprise and investment, collaborative and interdisciplinary research, strategic alliances and public–private partnerships.
Source: The National Agricultural Biotechnology Council (NABC, USA) | July 2006
These proceedings from the 2006 World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing broadly focus on the development of new biotechnology and bioprocessing industries, including biofuel crops.
Although they give a predominantly developed world perspective, they may be of interest to developing countries examining the potential of GM crops or other agricultural biotechnologies for producing energy or industrial compounds to address their own priorities and needs.
The discussions range across scientific, technical, economic and political topics. The section on feedstocks for bioprocessing is particularly interesting as it considers the potential for creating new molecules from plants, biomass harvesting and processing to produce energy.
Source: Friends of the Earth International | January 2007
This document from Friends of the Earth is a partisan analysis challenging claims that genetically modified (GM) crops have brought significant benefits for the environment and poverty alleviation.
It nevertheless provides a useful summary of the key areas where the environmental movement takes issue with the GM movement. The authors are particularly critical of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, which they argue paints a misleadingly positive picture of the impacts of GM crops.
Drawing on a wide range of sources, they examine several GM crops in the United States, GM soybeans in South America and the international community's experience with GM cotton. They also review the current status and prospects for rice, wheat, pharmaceutical crops, biofuels, bentgrass, cassava, sweet potato and potato.
Source: UN Environment Programme–Global Environment Facility | December 2006
This analysis looks at lessons learnt from the 132 countries that participated in a UN and Global Environment Facility project supporting developing countries to design and implement national biosafety frameworks.
The report examines how participating countries tailored their regulations to meet national development priorities, policy contexts and legal and institutional frameworks. It describes different approaches to promoting public awareness, education and participation. A key message is the need to include all relevant stakeholders in the regulatory design and implementation.
This report may help other policymakers design biosafety regulations of their own and demonstrates how national priorities can be balanced against international obligations.
Source: Current Anthropology | February 2007
This article presents four years of field research into the commercialisation of genetically modified Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh, India.
The author, Glenn Stone, challenges the assumption that the rapid spread of Bt cotton is due to farmers carefully assessing the technology on a small scale before adopting it more widely.
Instead, Stone likens the process to a "craze", arguing that Bt cotton technology has disrupted farmers' learning process, as they rely less on experimentation and observation and more on advertising and copying their neighbours.
The article includes critical commentaries by leading scholars from Europe and the United States.
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization | January 2007
This report summarises six conferences from the Food and Agriculture Organization's forum on biotechnology in food and agriculture. The background documents for each conference are presented with a summary of the key points raised.
The topics covered include: gene flow; biotechnology's role in developing countries' agricultural research strategies; regulations for genetically modified organisms; molecular marker-assisted selection for improving crop and livestock; and biotechnology applications in food processing and public participation in decision-making.
The report draws together the insights and perspectives of informed individuals from different countries, professions and sectors.
Source: Argentine Council for Information and Development of Biotechnology | December 2006
This report evaluates the impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops in Argentina between 1996 and 2005, alongside wider trends in the country's agriculture and national economy.
The authors calculate the financial benefits of three GM crops — soybeans, maize and cotton — to be over US$20 billion, although they also estimate that about US$2.3 billion is needed to restore soil fertility after soybean cultivation.
They say that introducing GM crops to Argentina resulted in approximately one million new jobs over ten years, and led to lower global soybean prices.
The authors conclude that the benefits of introducing GM crops such as soybeans outweigh the costs.
But they call for public debate and policy intervention to address the environmental problems caused by long-term soybean monocultures, and the risks of depending too heavily on soybean exports.
Source: African Journal of Biotechnology | December 2006
This paper provides a helpful overview of the history, current status and potential value of biotechnology from an African perspective. The authors — three Nigerian scientists — review modern biotechnological tools and techniques, outline their applications, and discuss their benefits and risks.
They focus on the relevance of microbial techniques for fermentation and food processing in developing countries. They also discuss how technologies such as genetic modification can be used to enhance food products' nutritional quality and shelf-life, boost crop yields, develop disease and pest-resistant crop varieties, and diagnose plant diseases.
The authors discuss the key socio-economic, policy and legal issues surrounding biotechnology for developing countries, including intellectual property rights and the need for proper infrastructure.