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«Biotechnology-Assisted Participatory Plant Breeding: Complement or Contradiction? PPB Monograph No. 3 Ann Mane Thro and Charlie Spillane 1 7 ...»

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-141 I SBN 958-694-053-5


Participatory Plant Breeding:

Complement or Contradiction?

PPB Monograph No. 3

Ann Mane Thro and Charlie Spillane

1 7 MAR.2ü04








€I PRGA Program 2003. AlI nghts reserved.

PRGA Program Coordination Office

Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical {CIA" Intematiollol Center for Tropical Agriculture Apa rtado Aéreo 6713 Cali, Colom bia Phone : +57 (2) 4450000 (direct) or + 1 (650) 833662 5 (vla USA) Fax : +57 (2) 4450073 (direct) or + 1 (6 50) 8336626 (via USA) E-mail : prga@:cgiar.org Web slte: ~vww. prga program.o rg ISBN 958-694-053 -5 Press ru n : 500 Printed in Colombia Decem ber 2003 Thro, Ann Marie Biotechnology-assisted participator); pl","t breeding : complement or c:ontradiction? I A.M. Thro and C. Spillane. - - Cali, CO : COlAR Systemwide Program on Participatory Research a nd Gender Analysis ror Technology Development and Il1 stitutional lnnovation ;

Cassava Biotechnology Network (C BN), 2003.

153 p. -- (PPB monograph ; no. 3) ISBN 958-694 -0 53 -5

AG ROVOC descriptora in Spanish :

l. F'itomejoram ie nto. 2. Biotccnología vegetal. 3. Invest igación pal·ticipativa.

"'. Análisis de costos y beneficios. 5. Propiedad intelectual. 6. Bioseguridad.

AO ROVOC descriptor!'! in Englis h:

1. Plant breed ing. 2. Pla nt biotechnology. 3. Participatory resea rch. 4. Cost benefit ana lysis. 5. lntellectual property. 6. Blosarety.

1. Tit. 11. Spillane, Charlic. 111. COlAR Systemwide Progrn m on Participatof}' Rcsearch ami Oender Ana lysis ror Technology Development a mi Institutional Innovation.

IV. Cassava Biotechnology Net.....ork. V. Ser.

¡\ GRl S s ubJeel ca tegorics: F30 Gcnetica vegetal y fitomejoram ielHo I Plant gcnct.!cs and breeding ASO Investigación agricola I Agricultural research LC classificauon : SB 123.T47 Ann M,n; c Thro, USDA, CSREES, Walerfront Centre, 800 9th Sto SW, Washington OC

20024. USA. E· mail : nthro(ffiree usda.gov Charlíe Spil\ane, Institu te or Plant Biology, Umvenita t ZOrich, Zollikerstmsse 107, CH -8008 Zu rich. Sch\Ve iz/Sy,~tzerland. E-mail: spillane@botinst. unizh.ch Contents Page vü Preface Acknowl

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To achieve an impact that benefits poor peo pIe, lhe participation of farmers (especially women) is criti cal in tcchnol ogy development. In poor countries, women 's access lo technology appropiate for lhcir needs vitally affects hou sehold Coad security, and especially lhe well being oC children. Far this Teasan, lhe Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (COlAR) system decided lo strengthen, consolidate, and m ainstream its participatory research a n d gender anaIys is. Thus it Cormed the Syste mwidc Program on Participatory Research and Gcnder Analysis for Tech nology Development and Institutional Innovati on (lhe PRGA Program ) a high priority, high-vi s ibility program th a t recognizes [arme r participation as an important s trategic research issue.

The progra m's goal is to improve the ability of lhe CO lAR system and olher colla borating institutions to develop technology that alleviates poverty, improves [ood security, and protects the en viron ment with greater equ ity. This goal will be accom plis h ed throu gh collaborative rescarch to assess and develop rnethodologies and organizational innovations for gen der· sensi tive participatory research. The Program 's.overall strategy is lo introd uce a nd strengthen th e a ppropriate use of PRGA approaches and method s in the CGIAR's and partner s' eor e researeh areas.

The Program focu ses on participatory approach es to technology development and insti tu tion al innova tion that use action rescarch. The lauer is defin ed as research conducted via ha nd s-on involvement in processes of d evelopin g technologies or institulional innovations, in contrast to only studyin g or documen ting thi s dcvclopment. Priority is given to two m a in thrusts: (1) th e partici pation of farrncrs, particu lary ru ral wornen, in farmer -led research, a nd (2) the participa tion o f ·profes iona l scicn tists in farmer- Ied rescarc h.

Over the last 10 years or so, substantial work ha s bee n done to introduce a u ser perspective into a d aplive rescarch. Recent ev ide nce s u ggests that u ser participa tion can be critica! In the preadaptive stages of cer lain types of rescarch. This is wh en it brings users inlo the earIy stages of technology d evelopm ent as researchers and decision vii Bioteclmology-Ass isted PPB: Complement or Colltradiction?

makers who help set priorities, define criteria for success, and determine when an innovation is "ready" for release. This new role changes the division of labor between farmers a nd scie nti sts, a nd ffiay dramatically reduce the cost of applied rescarch. We have evidence that this n ovel approach can s ignifican tly improve th e impact of rcsearch for poor farmers, especially wom en. Howevcr, evidence is patchy and how to rep licate success o n a la rge scale is not well und erstood. A key contribution of the Prograrn is to develo p clear gui delines on how to ach ieve this cnd, ruld to build the capacity to pul novel approaches into practice.


The authors a re grateful ror lhe time and thought of several hundred colleagues who con tributed ideas and observations lo this paper and lo the panel oC readers \Vho co mmentcd on th e first dra ft.

Contributors included farm crs, panicipa tory resea rch expe rts, plant breeders, biotechnologists, resea rch managers, a nd donar rcpresenta tives. They were drawn (rom public n atianal a nd internation al resear ch an d development programs, lhe private sector, and non-governmcntal organization. Without their conlributions, the pape r would nal exist. The authors have made cvery attempt lo be accurate. However, omissions or crrc rs in representalion of views may have occurred. Responsibility ror such crrcrs, and [or lhe text in its entirety, rests with the a uthors.

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Executive Summary Contemporary plant biotechnologies and farmer participatory plant breedi ng (PPB) have evolved from different disciplines and along different traj cctorics. As approaches to improving rural livelihoods in de veloping cou ntries, could they complement one another? The very existe nce of PPB sugges ts that farme rs' landraces do not conlain a11 that farm crs need; and biotechnology offers new tools for getting a n d managing variatio n.

Among these new tool s are m arker-assis ted selection, indu cible promoters, controllable male sterility, inducible apomixes, visuaJ markcrs, and more to come. Can the se too1s mcrease the range of oplions from which farmers can choose? Can they provide new types af plants or traits, that meet farmers n eeds? Can biotech tools empower famters? that is, can thcy increase farm e rs' ability to recombine and select from lheir own gennplasm, ar to manage biological p rocesses at work in their famu"ng syslems?

This p aper is th e record of an exploration of international thinking on biotechnology and farmer PPB. The au tho rs' goal was to encourage

and info rm discussion about:

Whether and ho w bio technology can benefit small-scale, resource· poor farmers in developing cou ntri es;

Whethe r far mers can more fully participate, as colleagues or leaders, in shaping and creating the benefits;

The potcntial of specific biotechnologies lo strengthen farmer participalOI)' research.

The study included an extensive series of in terviews, d.i scussion s, a nd surveys throughout 1999 an d 2000, involving at lcast 500 (anners, participatory researchers, plant breeders, and biotechnologists

in developing and developed countries. The au thors conclude:

There is real potentialfor synergy between plant biotech nology and participa tal)' rescarch to assist re sou rce -poor small-scale farmers Farmer participation could strengthen biotechnology research with a 'rcality check' to sharpen its focus

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Communication. Mechanisms for sustained communication between biotechnologists, plant breeders, participatory re search practitioners, farmers, and the publico Investment. Public irwestrnent requires public support in donor and developing countries. There is liUJe interaction with the public about agricultural research needs of developing countries. An opposing view, that research is harmCul, is actively presented. This imbalance has created a polarized opinion dimate in which public investment was not sufficient even during the unprecedented prosperity oC the late 20th Century. Win-win commercial in vestmeTlt or joint ventures are conceivable-farmers are themselves private investors-and may have a dvan tages in sustainability a nd choices.

Polarization oC opinion constrains private investment also.

Short-term benefits for farmers. To compensate farrners for risks and costs of experirncntation. and address th eir rnost pressing needs, without sacrificing opportunities Cor long-term benefits.

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Effective "problem transfer". A problem has been "transCerred" when researchers identify with Carmcrs' needs as their own.

Problem transfer can happen through appropriate pu blic-scctor rewards; private cnterpriscs that depend on mutual benefit; or direct control for farrncrs' groups over research funds and objectives. Accountability mechanisms support problem transfer.

Access to enabling technologies via negotiation with proprietary sources, development of a pu blic biotechnology tool-box, or strategic alliances with key public research institutions.

Effective and efficient regulatory systems. Regulatory systems are designed to ensure responsible use of transgenic biotechnology.

They also create costs, often exceeding research costs, that direcUy affect what technologies are developed Cor and with resource-poor Carmers. Sorne of the illllovations discussed in ihis stu..dy would incur regulatory costs, particularly innovations to enable ¡armers lo manage on-farm biological processes.

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Inltlative and conUnulty. Arare blend of realism. idealism, and stability will be required. Highly h etcrogeneou s partnerships must be formed and kept {ocu sed and motiuated.

OlJer a halJ-century of experience in motivating interdisciplinary research nctworks is available in the cen te rs of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Rescarch (CGIAR). The ccnters pioneered participatory networks working with re source-poor rural people to articula te and achieue local goals. They have created neutral spaces for cooperation among groups that in other situations are rivals, or inaccessible to each other. These achievements make the centers a valuable resource as coordinators of biotechnology-assisted participatory projects.

Polarized pu blic opinion h as, howcvcr, severe consequences to COlAR centers and othcr entities 'that could provide leadership.

Funding has becn insufficient, and- most difficult to overcomemessages from stakeholders are contradictory. Without pro-active com.munication between faml and city, opportunities are highly constrained for any partners wishing to explore benefits from biotechnology-assisted PPB for small-scale farmers in poor rural areas.

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Background It is less than 20 years since modern biotechnologies and farrncr participatory research techniques were first applied lo agricultural research and crop improvement. Since th en, many questions have arisen regarding the potential social and economic impact of both approaches. Modern biotechnology emerged from the naturaL sciences and participatory research from the social sciences. Their difTerent starting points have led to separate evolution in markedly different directions. Even loday, there is often hUle cornmunication betwecn the biotechnology and farmer participatory research communities. As a result there may be unexplored complementarities bctwccn the tWQ approaches that can be harnessed lo improve farmers' livelihoods. It is vital that institutional and educational strait-jackets do not prevent us from exploiting these complementarities.

This working paper examines current thinking on two questions:

(il can modem plant biotechnologies offer benefits to small-scale, resource-poor farmers in developing countries? (ii) can a nd should thesc farmers and their organizations more fully participate in creating and shaping those benefits? Specifically, the paper aims to explore and advance understanding of how modern biotechnologies might assist farmer participatory crop improvement by improving the latte r's products and/or processes.

Priva te-sector biotechnology companies cannot answer these qucstions, because their existence depends on responding succcssfully to commercial opportunities in capitalized agricu lture. Jt is therefore up to the public sector, which has a mandate to address the nceds of resource-poor [armers, to do so. Accordingly, the Systemwide Program on Participatory Rcsearch and Gender Analysis (SWP-PRGA) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) invited the authors to engage a broad range of participants in interviews, discu ssions, and surveys on this subject. Approximately 500 people, including farmers, plant biotechnologists, plant breeclers, and participatory research experts, took parto This working paper is the res ult. The pape r is still prehminary, and the authors would

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wclcornc readers' comments, whether lo correct e rrors, presc n t a dditional views, or further advance our thinking.

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