Displaying 1-20 of 32 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: 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: 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: African Union | April 2001
The African Union (AU) developed the African Model Law on Safety in Biotechnology to help countries across the continent fulfil their obligations under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and manage related issues.
The AU encourages the development of a common position on biosafety regulation (see AU Biosafety Project) across the continent. It does not have the authority to legislate on behalf of its members — but it promotes the Model Law as a framework for individual countries to use in creating their own laws and institutions.
The Model Law is being revised through an ongoing consultation process before submission to AU governments for possible adoption at national level.
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: 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: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) | October 2005
This paper reports on the successful transfer of a key disease-resistance gene from maize into rice, demonstrating the feasibility of gene transfer between distantly related grasses. The technique has important implications for introducing resistance to diseases in crops with no inherited resistance.
It is important in that it reveals how a single gene can influence resistance to unrelated disease-causing microbes. The gene in question, called Rxo1, controls resistance to bacterial streak disease in rice, as well as bacterial stripe disease in sorghum and maize.
This work is of interest to companies and academic researchers working on diseases of cereal crops, and to policy-makers and research managers because of its implications for the development of disease resistance in some of the world’s major food crops. Overall, it offers an interesting insight into a potentially valuable avenue of research.
Source: Science | April 2005
This report by US and Chinese researchers analyses the impact of two insect-resistant GM rice varieties grown at eight trial sites in China. The authors studied crop yields, levels of pesticide application and whether farmers growing GM rice varieties reported fewer pesticide-related illnesses than non-GM farmers.
The study was carried out on pre-production trials, with data gathered from randomly selected households. External enumerators surveyed farmers and found that those growing GM rice applied pesticide less frequently than those growing non-GM rice (0.5 times per season as compared with 3.7 times by non-GM farmers). Yields of insect-resistant rice were 6 to 9 per cent higher than non-GM varieties. In addition, no farmer growing GM rice reported adverse health effects. By contrast, 8.3 per cent of farmers in 2002, and 3 per cent in 2003, reported feeling ill after applying pesticide to their non-GM rice crop.
These data on the impact of GM rice in pre-commercial trials are could pave the way for the introduction of other GM crops because the commercialisation of a major GM food crop such as rice is expected to influence the introduction of other GM food crops in the future.
Source: Panos | 2005
This report analyses key issues surrounding decision-making on GM crops in developing countries. The document was written by Ehsan Masood and others as part of Panos’ Communicating Research through the Media Programme, Relay.
Using case studies from Brazil, India, Kenya, Thailand and Zambia, the report explores how policies and regulations are developed, and who is involved in decision-making processes around GM technology. The authors look at the role played by scientists, international bodies, industry and farmers’ groups and the degree of public participation in decision-making, noting that scientific expertise is most influential throughout the process.
The document also examines the degree to which the media succeeds in performing its key role as facilitator of informed debate. In presenting evidence from their survey of media coverage of GM issues in the countries studied, the authors find a general lack of analytical reporting, with many journalists simply relaying government announcements. Farmers’ viewpoints are generally under represented.
This useful and informative report provides real-world examples of decision-making processes on GM in a variety of developing countries. It will be valuable to anyone interested in such processes or in how well the media supports them.
Source: Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture | May 2005
This article summarises the findings of a study undertaken by US-based academics at the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture and the State University of New Jersey. The authors analysed data on the impact of the adoption of genetically modified Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) maize on corn production in seven southern African countries: Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The report discusses the importance of corn in southern African farming and diets and describes the process of adoption of Bt corn, which was slow at first.
The study found that both large and small-scale farmers who planted Bt cotton benefited in terms of increased yields and reduced pesticide applications, although it was impossible to quantify the latter advantage in relation to smallholders. Small farmers said that they liked the quality of the Bt corn varieties.
The report goes on to estimate the potential impact of improved corn yield on food security in the region. The authors conclude by discussing possible measures that might encourage small farmers to adopt the new varieties.
Source: Australian Board of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) | October 2003
The authors of this report, from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), assess the likely socio-economic and environmental issues of adopting biotechnology. They conclude that some of the poorest regions of the world stand to gain the most by the technology, through higher yields, better nutrition and helping to develop crops that are better adapted to local conditions.
The report stresses the importance and value of cost-benefit analyses, and the need to consider technologies on a case-by-case basis. As well as outlining specific developments in agricultural biotechnology, the authors argue the cases for and against its use, and assess the potential economic impacts. Issues currently facing developing countries with regard to GM crops include the need for a sound regulatory system, trade impacts and intellectual property rights.
This report gives a general overview relating to GM crops in developing countries, with more emphasis on the socio-economic agenda than many other reports of this nature. It will be of specific interest to those focussing on the financial and trade impacts of GM crops for developing countries.
Source: GM Science Review Panel (UK) | January 2004
The GM Science Review formed one element of the UK government’s “national dialogue” on GM issues, which took place in 2003. The Science Review aimed to provide a summary of the (then) current scientific knowledge about GM crops, and fed directly into the UK government’s decision-making process on the commercialisation of GM crops. This, supplementary Second Report of the GM Science Review Panel, is a comprehensive literature review. It was co-authored by a panel of 22 selected specialists, ranging from plant breeders to environmental scientists.
The aim of the review was to ensure that policy-makers were informed about the best scientific evidence available. The panel was given a specific brief to highlight the remaining areas of uncertainty in scientific understanding of GM crops. The panel concludes that there is no scientific case for an outright ban on the commercial cultivation of GM crops in the UK, but neither do they find evidence to support a blanket approval. Instead, the panel recommends that new crops should be analysed on a case-by-case basis prior to commercial approval.
This report is a valuable summary of the state of scientific knowledge relating to the cultivation of GM crops, and is especially of interest to anyone who needs to refer to the fundamental research.
Source: Institute of Development Studies (IDS) | 2003
This series of briefing documents is based on a three year research programme into policy and governance issues surrounding agricultural biotechnology, especially GM crops, in developing countries. The research involved collaborators from the UK, China, India, Kenya and Zimbabwe. Co-funded by DFID and the Rockefeller Foundation, the series was coordinated by the Environment Group at the UK’s Institute of Development Studies.
The series consists of thirteen concise summaries focusing on particular topics, such as corporate dominance, biosafety regulation, intellectual property rights and public participation in decision-making. Specific briefings also discuss biotechnology in African farming and experiences with insect-resistant cotton in China, India and South Africa. The series draws together various dimensions of the debates about agricultural biotechnology in the context of development. The authors address the complex socio-economic issues surrounding the adoption of GM technology in the South, and frequently sound notes of caution about the likely benefits for the poor.
Of interest to policy-makers, academics and anyone interested in understanding the global socio-economic and development implications of agricultural biotechnology in developing countries.
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute | September 2003
More than fifty crops have now been genetically transformed – in the laboratory – in sixteen developing countries. However, regulatory approval and cultivation lags well behind the developed world, having only taken place in a handful of countries, and being restricted to just two crops – cotton and maize. This International Food Policy Research Institute policy briefing discusses some of the reasons for this.
In food safety assessment, developing countries face two problems: weak institutional, infrastructural and technological capabilities; and the lack of common international standards. This creates difficulties for developing countries in relation to their participation in international trade, particularly in terms of: operationalising the concept of 'substantial equivalence' (in which the novel characteristics of a GM product are evaluated against its non-GM counterpart); accessing safety data generated in other countries; building capacity to meet demanding international standards or importers’ requirements; and establishing food safety thresholds.
The authors note that safety assessment is not just about science, but about public perceptions and assuring importers about food safety. Nevertheless, they argue that credible science and reasonable international standards will "allow scientifically defensible decisions in the face of food safety questions coloured by each country’s perceptions and circumstances".
Source: The Plant Journal | January 2003
These two highly informative papers - which offer overviews of current status and regulations and of ecological risk assessment - are an excellent overview of the current status of GM crops in commercial production, as well as those that have been approved for release. The regulatory mechanisms surrounding the release of GM crops in different countries are compared, followed by a balanced discussion of the issues surrounding risk assessment and its role in decisions involving GM technology.
The first paper contains a comprehensive list of over 40 transgenic crops approved for commercial release, and discusses legislation in the United States, Argentina, Canada, China, the European Union, Australia, Japan and other countries. The authors caution against "the regulation of risk turning into the risk of regulation", which would lead to a situation in which only a few multinational companies could afford to tackle excessive regulatory processes.
The science of risk assessment is addressed in the second paper, concluding with the socio-economic context of judgements surrounding GM technology. The various concerns regarding the environmental release of transgenic crops are thoroughly discussed, including the likelihood and possible consequences of the invasion of existing ecosystems, outcrossing, horizontal gene transfer, 'superpests' and secondary ecological impacts on biodiversity and other agricultural practices.
The authors emphasise that the plants developed by traditional breeding offer the most appropriate reference point against which the potential impact of a GM crop should be judged, and that these judgements must be made on a case-by-case basis.
Source: Plant Journal | June 2002
This general overview illustrates the importance of effectively managing intellectual property (IP) and tangible property (TP) in the development of biotechnology-based products. It also emphasises the value of partnerships between the public and private sector in projects aimed at helping developing countries, as these nations often lack the capacity and resources to manage such issues.
As well as providing helpful definitions of legal and technical terminologies, the authors use a real and a fictional case study to demonstrate the various issues that inventors should consider. Examples include knowing the origins of every component of the product or system, any associated licences and patents, identifying ownership of resources, and having a suitable recording policy in laboratory notebooks, as well as awareness and training among staff.
As yet there is no international patent system, meaning that extra considerations must be taken when attempting to transfer technology across the globe. This has an impact on products destined for developing countries that must be taken into account early in the development process. However, the authors advise against undue anxiety relating to IP and TP. They stress that these issues should be viewed as simply another aspect of life in modern research laboratories, both in developing and industrialised countries.