Displaying 1-20 of 23 key documents
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: 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: 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: 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.
Source: The Berlin Group / Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education | 2006
This paper outlines the arguments in favour of adopting transgenic insect-resistant maize, rice and cotton in developing countries.
Drawing on published studies, it reviews the characteristics of available insect-resistant crops and explains how they affect conventional cultivation practices. The authors argue that these crops can benefit smallholder farmers in terms of economics, human health and the environment.
To sustain these advantages, they say, genetically modified crop cultivation must include an effective resistance management strategy and incorporate integrated pest management techniques.
Source: Current Science | August 2006
This article discusses herbicide-resistant transgenic crops (HRCs) and their relevance to Indian agriculture. The Delhi-based authors present their assessment of the key issues arising from herbicide-resistant (HR) technology.
Although the Indian government has not identified HR technology as a priority under its draft biotechnology policy, the authors discuss the potential contributions to weed control, and impacts on agricultural labour, crop breeding and the seed and pesticide industries. They also consider the emergence of herbicide resistance.
They conclude that HRCs may be useful in Indian weed-control regimes, but that technical issues and socio-economic and environmental implications need to be evaluated individually.
The discussions are relevant to other developing countries assessing whether to encourage the development and adoption of HRCs in their own agricultural systems.
Source: Nature Biotechnology | December 2004
This special supplement of Nature Biotechnology presents findings from a three-year study of biotechnology success stories from the South. The methods used in Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, South Africa and South Korea are examined.
The studies show that Brazil, with its rich biodiversity and strong commitment to scientific development, has great potential to expand its health biotechnology sector. China is said to be reorganising its research and development activities to promote biotech venture creation and move products from the laboratory to market. A study of Cuba shows that, despite the country's economic struggles since the 1961 US trade embargo, it has created a highly developed health biotechnology sector. Egypt is thought to have become one of the Arab world's leaders in science, with strong agri-biotech capabilities and a growing health biotechnology sector. A look at India shows substantial investments in biomedical research, leading to a strong research infrastructure and, in turn, an active private sector willing to invest in biotechnology ventures. An examination of South Africa says its strong scientific base, developed to support the apartheid regime, is now developing biotechnology in the country. The South Korean study claims biotechnology will be the next star industrial sector, following the successes of consumer electronics in the 1960s and information technology in the 1980s.
Source: World Bank | May 2006
The authors of this report use a "computable general equilibrium" model to assess current and future economic impacts of Bt cotton. The document argues that the potential advantages of Bt cotton adoption are likely to be greater in poorer countries — especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, it predicts that the benefits of Bt cotton adoption would be larger than the benefits of dismantling trade-distorting subsidies that rich countries use to support cotton cultivation and exports.
The econometric model used by the researchers does not measure environmental or human health effects, so cannot evaluate the impact of these effects on overall welfare. The paper is clearly presented and accessible to non-economists.
Source: AgBioForum | 2006
This article discusses two studies looking into agricultural biotechnology research in developing countries. The studies were conducted by researchers from the International Food Policy Research Institute.
The authors argue that regulations, insufficient collaboration between public and private sectors and inadequate information exchange between countries impede the commercial development of new agri-biotechnologies, particularly for genetically modified crops. The paper explores these problems and makes a set of recommendations.
The authors' conclusions may not persuade all readers. For example, are the regulatory frameworks themselves at fault, or do public sector research organisations lack the capacity to carry out necessary risk assessments and safety testing? Only 55 per cent of public sector research targets crops that are considered critical to poverty eradication and food security. This article provides a thought-provoking contribution to the debate.
Source: IFPRI | June 2006
This is a position statement issued by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The statement affirms IFPRI's commitment to take a "holistic approach" to biotechnology, encompassing biosafety, social and regulatory issues. The institute does not take a position on the utility and safety of genetically modified crops in general, because these issues need to be examined on a case-by-case basis. Instead, IFPRI endorses public dialogue and transparency, and commits itself to use its research and capacity-building efforts to support governments, farmers and consumers to make sound decisions on biotechnology.
Commenting on the statement IFPRI's director general, Joachim von Braun, wrote "We are aware that some biotechnologies are controversial. We further know that while these technologies alone cannot solve the complex problems of hunger and poverty, some do have great potential to alleviate hunger and malnutrition…".
Source: GRAIN / Seedling | April 2005
This article challenges the view that genetically modified, insect-resistant 'Bt' cotton has brought significant benefits to smallholder farmers in the Makhatini Flats of South Africa. The author is a former researcher with BioWatch South Africa. The paper summarises the findings of five years of research by the author and colleagues at BioWatch.
Makhatini smallholders' experiences with Bt cotton have been widely celebrated as demonstrating the benefits of GM crops for African smallholders. The author rejects this view, arguing that "initial results from the Makhatini cannot serve as a model for Africa". According to the BioWatch research, the initial very high rates of adoption for Bt cotton dropped dramatically within the first three years. Makhatini smallholders had accumulated very considerable debts and lacked effective extension support. Richer farmers and businessmen were said to have benefited from Bt cotton at the expense of poorer farmers.
The researchers were unable to obtain reliable data on production costs and yield. However, the strength of the research is that it is based on detailed local knowledge, observation and prolonged engagement with Makhatini farmers. Therefore the report provides an important and useful insight into the experiences of smallholders with GM crops in South Africa.
Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization | November 2005
The coming 'gene revolution' is often invoked as the successor to the Green Revolution of the 1960s–80s. However, as the authors of this paper point out, there have been important changes in the institutional context since the Green Revolution. In particular, the centre of technological innovation has shifted decisively from the public to the private sector. The new agricultural biotechnologies are reaching farmers through market mechanisms rather than public agencies.
The key problem that arises is that the private multinational sector focuses almost exclusively on commercially valuable crops and traits of interest to developed countries and global markets. Although there may be "spillover benefits", the authors note how difficult it is for public research systems in developing countries and ultimately poor farmers to capture these. The effectiveness of the public sector is often constrained by its narrow focus on national concerns, with too little collaboration across borders.
The report serves a useful purpose in highlighting these issues but raises more questions than it answers. The authors point to public–private collaboration as a possible mechanism for accessing transgenic technologies, but point out the risk that such partnerships may still fail to deliver useful and beneficial technologies to poor farmers. They call for a "third wave of globalisation" to ensure that spillovers reach the poor in future.
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute | 2005
This 300-page edited volume from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) arose from the first stage of an African multistakeholder dialogue that was convened in 2003 by IFPRI and the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), Harare, Zimbabwe. It brought together senior policy-makers, scientists and representatives of key organisations in roundtable discussions on biotechnology and its implications for food security in southern Africa.
The book presents background material that was prepared for the roundtable. The papers address the new and unfamiliar choices facing policy makers in five key areas: intellectual property rights, biosafety, trade, food safety and consumer choice, and public research. Other chapters deal with political, ethical and policy issues and the mechanics of multistakeholder processes. The editors round off the book with chapters that summarise the issues at stake and draw together the lessons arising from the dialogue.
This readable, informative book and the initiative behind it represent an important African effort to crystalise the policy dilemmas facing decision-makers in relation to agricultural biotechnology. It will be useful to anyone wanting to understand how these policy debates are evolving.
Source: AgBioForum | 2005
This article seeks to quantify the economic and environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops worldwide, since the first such strains were commercialised. The authors, two agricultural economists from the United Kingdom, look at three dimensions in particular: the effects on farm incomes, changes in insecticide and herbicide use, and the associated changes in carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) emissions into the atmosphere.
The authors claim to show that GM crops have led to substantial benefits in terms of farm incomes and reductions in pesticide spraying and carbon dioxide emissions from agriculture. However, herbicide tolerant GM crops have meant farmers need to till less and have led to an increase in herbicide applications in some countries.
The authors drew on data from various studies on the impacts of different types of GM crops in different countries. The analysis relies on highly aggregated data and simplified assumptions in order to arrive at broad averages that include countries and agricultural systems which are, in reality, very different. Nevertheless, the article represents a useful contribution to the debates about the impacts of GM crops since they were first commercialised. The authors call for further research into the dynamic, less-tangible and indirect economic impacts of GM crops.
Source: FAO | December 2004
This paper provides an overview of the state of biotechnology research in forest trees worldwide. It was written as part of the preparations for a review by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) to assess the global status and trends of genetic diversity in forest trees.
Worldwide, there are currently more than 210 trials of genetically modified (GM) trees in 16 countries, and GM trees have been released for commercial planting in China. Most of the research is focused on four genera — Pinus, Populus, Liquidambar and Eucalyptus — with traits such as gene stability, tissue culture and herbicide tolerance of prime interest. Biotechnology activities have been most numerous in Europe (39 per cent), followed by Asia (24 per cent).
The report contains an extensive overview of the scope and status of GM research in agro-forestry. It addresses issues such as regulation and intellectual property, as well as potential benefits of and obstacles to the genetic modification of trees. It also highlights past, current and future trends in research. The document is well researched and provides a valuable insight into the technology and its applications worldwide.
Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organisation | 2005
This document provides a concise overview of the data collected during the first phase of development of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) database on Biotechnology in Developing Countries (BioDeC http://www.fao.org/biotech/inventory_admin/dep/default.asp). The report summarises the range of different techniques and technologies, documented in the database, that are currently being researched, developed or applied in the developing world.
The report is organised into two main sections, covering non-GM and GM biotechnologies respectively. The non-GM technologies discussed include microbial products such as biopesticides and biofertilisers, applied cell biology techniques such as micropropagation and the use of molecular markers to support breeding programmes. GM technologies noted in the report include transgenic crops designed to resist viral, bacterial and fungal diseases, plants with enhanced resistance to pests, herbicides or abiotic stresses such as drought, and varieties with altered quality characteristics.
The authors emphasise that their findings are only preliminary, because the biotechnology-related activities under way around the world may have been under-reported. They point out that the BioDeC database is still being expanded after the first phase of its development. Nevertheless, this is the only reasonably comprehensive report of its kind, which provides the best glimpse of the range of activities under way around the world at present.
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) | November 2002
This paper reviews a number of studies by academic economists, who have attempted to model the effects of the commercialisation of GM crops on the international trade in agricultural commodities. The authors, Chantal Pohl Nielsen, Sherman Robinson and Karen Thierfelder, neatly summarise and compare the findings of studies published between 2000 and 2002.
Although there is not yet much data available on which to build reliable models, the ability to compare the findings of a range of different studies allows the authors to draw some tentative conclusions about the trade-related effects of GM crops. They conclude that, “if the costs of labelling and market segmentation are not large”, the arrival of GM crops is not likely to generate extreme price differences between GM and non-GM commodities or radically alter the patterns of international trade. In addition, the models suggest that the benefits of the new technology are likely to be shared quite widely, although adopters are likely to benefit more than non-adopters. This effect is clearest in relation to developing countries.
By providing a clear and concise survey of the findings of a number of different studies, this paper is a valuable resource for academics and policy analysts. Although some of the language is technical, it is generally accessible to non-economists.
Source: The International Council for Science (ICSU) | 2003
This report, written by Gabrielle Persley of the Doyle Foundation, reviews approximately 50 recent "science-based" studies and reports on the use of modern biotechnology in agriculture and food. It identifies areas of scientific consensus and disagreement as well as gaps in knowledge where further research is needed. This approach is used to review not only the state of scientific knowledge in areas like food safety and the evaluation of environmental impacts, but also to assess the state of regulatory frameworks and the effects of GM crops on international trade.
The report’s overview of the (then) current state of scientific knowledge in relation to the safety of GM foods and environmental impacts is clear and informative. The report is weaker where it seeks to draw conclusions on socio-economic and regulatory issues, such as the merits of labelling GM foods and the harmonisation of international regulations on GMOs.
This is a dense report containing a lot of information, clearly written and with helpful tables and a concise executive summary. It also includes a useful annotated bibliography of the reports on which it draws and web resources. It will be useful starting point for anyone seeking to understand the scientific basis for making policy judgements about GM crops and foods.
Source: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (UN) | 2004
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) annual State of Food and Agriculture report for 2004 asks whether agricultural biotechnology can address the needs of the poor. The report contains an overview of the techniques and capabilities of agricultural biotechnology and discusses how the new technologies are affecting the institutional structures and economics of agricultural research. The report also reviews the published evidence concerning economic, environmental and health impacts, as well as public attitudes towards the technology.
The report delivers a generally upbeat assessment of the capacity of biotechnology to produce benefits for poor people, provided that research systems are in place and policies are designed to encourage pro-poor research and development. The final section considers what policy provisions and institutional capacities need to be in place in order to “make biotechnology work for the poor”, and discusses the role of the FAO and other bodies. In particular, the report considers the forms of international support needed to help developing countries build their biotechnology research and development capabilities.
This is an important report, which gives an insight into the thinking of a major international body on agricultural biotechnology. Its positive message has been controversial among some development activists and campaigning organisations.
Source: Michigan State University | April 2001
An extensive (62 page) inventory examining the current status of agricultural biotechnology in countries belonging to The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) — Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
While not exhaustive, this inventory lists transgenic crops that are potentially available for field testing or commercial release within the next two to five years. The document was prepared for ASARECA primarily in order to provide the organisation with background information that enables them to develop their strategy for biotechnology research in the Eastern and Central Africa region. However, the authors also hope to demonstrate the potential benefits — in the short and longer term — of agricultural biotechnology to Africa.
The report is clearly written and provides much useful background information as well as brief descriptions of current projects.