This paper was prepared as a background document for the conference organised by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture in 2002. The paper addresses the role and focus that biotechnology should have in agricultural research agendas in developing countries.

The paper outlines key trends in agricultural research and agricultural biotechnology research, and identifies the questions with most relevance to developing countries that were addressed in the forum.

In the light of the resource constraints that developing countries operate under, the paper highlights the following key issues facing policy makers in developing countries regarding agricultural biotechnology research:

  • How much importance should developing countries give to biotechnology research?
  • How should they allocate biotechnology research resources with respect to the different agricultural sectors or to the different kinds of biotechnologies available?
  • How should they prioritise the different kinds of problems (and specifically those affecting poor farmers) that might be addressed by the research?
  • How should developing countries carry out this research — by focusing on their national agricultural research systems (NARS), by collaborating with other countries in their region, or by working with the private sector or universities in the developed world?

These questions were dealt with in an electronic conference and in a related summary document — which provides a summary of key conclusions on the issues.