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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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Under a RockefelLer Foundation projecl, the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (CIMMYT) is colLaborating with Pioneer Hi-Bred lo provide a non-transgenic herbicide-resislant straio of yellow maize lo serve as fue source of the herbicide resistance trait. This has beeo crossed ioto the preferred African white maize varieties. Tests 00 the new materials obtained are currently being conducted in fanners' fields.

SOURCES: M.J. Sampaio (pers. comm.); Ooldburg el al (1989); Hindmarsh (1991);

Rissler and Mellan (1996); Oressel el al (1996); Oressel (pers. cornm.);

J. Jiggins (pers. comm.); Smith and HeimHch (1999); Hartman and Tanimooure (19911; Abayo et al (1996); Coghlan (1996).

be particularly useful as a basis for making decisions about where to collect accessions of threatened species.

The lntemationaJ Centre for Research in Agroforestry (lCRAF) is combining molecular analysis with the use of participatory plant collection missions and on-farm research to domesticate and hence save valuable tree species that are threatened with extinction in the wild (Bo" 15).

Biotechnology Products and New Management Knowledge Sorne commentators believe that biotechnology for r esource-poor [armers should not demand the absorption of too much new information and too many new skilLs by farmcrs. They argue that the rnain reason why many resource-poor farmers do not adopt new technologies, or adopt them late, is the dearth of information about them, rather than risk aversion or mere conservatism (R. Gerster, B. Stocldi, pers. cornms.). The lack of information is considered to be generaUy related to weak extcnsioo sernces-a shor tcomin g which sorne participatory research approaches aim ro rectify.

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Box 15 Saving Prunus africanus Prunus africanus is a slow-growing h ardwood tree species found in the cool moist forests of highland Africa. Its bark is a valuable remedy against prostate disorders.

To ¡ocrease their profits, collectors ofte n han'est the bark unustainably, killing the tree, which is now threatcned with extinc tion.

ICRAF and its partners are \Vorking to save the tree by domes ticating it. In collaboration with the Kenya Forestry Researeh Institu te (KEFRI) and Cameroon's In stitut de reeherehe agronomique pour le développeme nt (IRAD), they have participa ted in co llection missions in Kenya aod Camerooo. The accession s a re beiog grown io a range of rescarch sites in the two countries. Once the bcst accessions have beco idenLified, the stands wilL serve as s election gardcns and seed orchards, from which small-scale fanners ;.viII be invited to choose materials for growing on their farm s.

Studying all the populaLions of prunus by collecting seed and growing it under observation in the field would talce up far too much space and time, especially as the species is slow growing. To malee the process of conservation more effi cient, the scientists are usiog RAPD to analyze the diversity of populations from Ethiopia, Kenya. Cameroon, Uganda. and Madagascar. The techniques do not cut out the need to collect and grow ma terial, but they grea tly redu ce it by pinpointing the sources of genetic diversity in advance.

The results obtained so far show that Ethiopian and Kenyan materirus are closely related, while those from Cameroon and Uganda fonn aoother disttnct group. Populations from Madagascar are quite unHke any other group. suggesting they may be particularly worth conserving and evaluating. Overall. the level of variation between countnes is greater than between populations wilhin the same country, implying that evaJuation should be carried out aeross the whole range oi the species, nOI just within local populations.

The molecular s tudies are being combined with research to improve vegetative propagation. so as to ¡ncrease the supply of high-quality plantin g materials. These matenals are being tested through on-farm research designed to fiod out whether farm ers are wil1ing to grow the tree as a·long-tetm investment.

SOURCE, ICRAF (1999).

di ssemination system s (e. lves, pers. comm.). However, so rne u sefu!

biotechnologies, alth ough low-cost. a re highly knowledge-inten sive.

This poses aclditiona l questions about wh ether th ey are practical for resource-poor farmers and can be adopted by them (E. Friis-Ha nsen, pers. cornm.).

Transgenic, inscct-resistant crop varieties are one example of a biotechnology product that would requ ire rela tively hi gh levels of farme r m a nagement. A farmer growing transgen ic insect-resistant maize must und erstand how to ma nage the crop in a new way ir the ben efits of the resistance trait are to be preserved (M cGaughey el al, 1998). The sarnc Relevant Products from BI:oteclulOlogy Research will apply to the Colombian farmers who requested insect-resistant ~ cassava as a result of the DGIS priority-setting exercise. Other products that can be developed using biotechnology, such as varieties with gene expression 'switches' to turn traits on or off in s pecific situations or new products for managing recombination and selection on-farm, would similarly require special management practices.

PPB projects may be highly compatible with the development 01 such products, since farmers would be involved from the start in developing the new management techniques and evaluating their practicality. The Colombian farmers, for example, are looking forward to being involved in developing their management package (L.E.





Herazo, pcrs. cornm.).

–  –  –

6. Implementation Issues In this ch a pter we take a brief look at sorne of the factors that may affect th e implementatíon of biotechnology-asssisted PPB: society's vision of its future, enterprise dcveIopment. in tellectua l property.

biosafety, and planning and providing resources.

Biotechnology and Society By 2025, world food demand is predicted to rise by about 60% (McCalla, 1994). Expectations of higher living standards, including better health care and edu cation as well as better diets and greater consurnption of consumer goods, are wide spread. Local mcreases in the yieIds of food staples will be vital in the struggle to eradica te poverty and hunger in the rural arcas of developing countri es (Lipton. 1999). People hold diverse and often conflicting views on the role of small-scale agriculture in a world that must meet these de rnand s. on the suitability of biotechnology or ofparticipatory research as tools for bringing a bout the required changes in an effective and socially desirable way. and on the n eed to retain traditional cultural values and practices while meeting the rising expectations of individuals.

One cornmentator said th at it is 'disingcnous to divorce consideration s of a tcchnology's potcntíal frorn the context (i.e., human and social factors) in which it might be u sed ' (J. Jiggins, pers. cornm.).

The authors point out that the context includes n ot only thc local farming system and the natural resource base but a lso the market, th e poliey environmcnt, and ath er influences fram the outside \VorId to which even the most remote rural arcas are increasing connected. And.

most important, the contcxt also ineludes the aspirations of both those who will use a tc chnology a nd those who will feel its impact in other ways.

Obtaining a shared \tision of a community's future is an important part of project planning for biotechnol ogy-assisted PPB, increasing th e chan ces of designing a successfu l projec t. This is particula rly the case given the long time-frame of biotechnology research. It \Vould be unrea listic to expect all th e protagonists in a PPB project ta share an identical vision, so taking minority viewpoints into account is also im portant.

Implem.entation Issues

In the deveJoped countries, lobby groups that are both pro- and antibiotechnology in agriculture' have formed in recent years. These groups often represent quite srnall sections of society, yet have acquired a disproportionate influence over public opinion and, in sorne cases, a disproportionate amount of control over the direction of public-sector research. Giving a voice in the technology and agriculture debate to resource-poor farmers and other poor social groups in food-deficit cou ntries is essential if the current imbalance is to be righted (Spillane, 2000). This could even attract more laboratories in developed countries to work on problerns relevant to such farrners, since they would realize that by doing SO they could improve their public image at horneo Stakeholder analyses, which outline the main threats and opportunities perceived by each group potentially affected by a new project or techno logy, can provide useful inputs to biotechnology research planning. They rnay be especially useful in helping the biotechnology cornrnunity reatize who its clients are and where shared interests lie. This would help anchor discussion of the possibilities for collaboration and participation and of the obstacles and incentives facing different stakeholder groups (A. Sutherland, pers. comm.). Given the diversity of stakeholdc r groups, it may be necessary to move beyond the farmer participatory research framework to use a broader client-oriented framework such as that developed by Merrill-Sands et al (1991) in the 1980s.

There is a tremendous need to shift the biotechnology debate from unproductive confrontation between devotees and critics to the development of the necessary policies, mechanisms, and institutions that will ensure that resource-poor farmers in developing countries share in the benefits of biotechnology.

Employment and Enterprise Development Agriculture remains the principal source of employrnent for over 75% of the developing world's rural people and over 8% of its urban people.

Over half the world's poor depend on farming for their Iivelihoods. In the debate about incTeasing crop yields, it is orten forgotten that the production, pTocessing, and marketing of food staples wiU continue to be the most prolific SOUTce of work and income in developing countries for the forseeable futurc. Job creation and income generation for rural people should be key objectives of agricultura! research for developing countries (Lipton, 1999). WhethcT this \Viii require technology that increases yields per se OT other yield -increasing innovations, plant biotechnologies are likely to be part of the answer.

Increases in the incornes of poor rural people can slÍ mulate the establishment of non-farm enterprises, further contributing to poverty eradication. Sorne commentators fee l that the prospects for technology

–  –  –

adoption may be poor where there is no link to rural enterprise development (C. Juma, pers. comm.). The development of rural enterprises is one way of en surin g that research continues to have an impact once a publically funded project ends (see Box 12).

Arguably, a marriage between contract farming and fanner cooperatives could increase farmers' aceess to new technologies and market opportunities. Farmer cooperatives have a stronger negotiating position than individual farmers in their interaction with agribusiness, which is rapidly developing new models of contraet farming.

Coultee et al (1999) review a eange ofinitiatives that could ernpower farmers going in for contraet farrning.

Just as tissue culture can serve as an 'cntry-level biotechnology' (O. Hens haw, pers. comm.), so tissue culture micro-enterprises may provide a madel that \ViII stimulate the formation of other smalI-scale, local businesses, appropriate for disseminating other bioteehnology tools and products. Cooperatives or family-level secd enterprises could disseminate biotechnologies develaped through PPB, as they already do in the case of at least sorne of the technology developed th rough conventiona! plant breeding. Loca l enterprises could also serve as the interrnediary between farmer customers and professional breeders and biotechnology laboratories, interpreting the needs of farrners and making the necessary connections to obtain what is needed (D. Duvick, pers. comm.). Perhaps such businesses eould, in the longer term, also serve as economicalIy sustainable successors to the multidisciplinary pubhc fora proposed to meet today's immediate needs (see Background, p. 1, and How Can Resource-Poor Farmers..., p. 31).

Certain conditions must be met if local biotechnology s uppLiers are to emerge as a functioning part of the rural econorny in developing countries. These conditions inelude not only a supply of useful technologies, but a1so political stability, fair traders, honest agri cultural institutian s (inc1uding banks and courts), affordable technology licensing arrangements, reliabl e markets and prices, a nd a reasonable transport and communications infrastructure (D. Duvick, pers. cornm.). In sorne developing eountries, for example in Latin America. many of these requirements can already be found or are developing; in others. su eh as many African countries, they remain elu sive.

Intellectual Property Issues

The issues associated with IPR relevant to biotechnology-assisted PPB will vary according to the jurisdiction obtaining in different countries, as well as the biotechnology being developed and disserninated. They will require tran sparent discussion and understanding among participating farmers, researchers, national program scientists and Implementation IS$ues tl1eir intemational partners, the relevant regulatory authorities, and the suppliers of any proprietary gennplasm or other technology used (Spillane, 1999).

Farmcrs ¡nvolved in projects that may use proprietary biotechnologies have a right as well as a respons~bility to understand the issues and participate in discussions and negotiations. Another paper in ili,is senes wiU examine IPR issues in PPB in more detail.

–  –  –

Not all biotechnologies raise the issue of biosafety. MAS and tissue culture, for example, do noL At present this issue refers mainly to the development and use of transgenic organisms.

The involvement of fanners in biosafety risk assessment may help identify and balance the risks and opportunities inherent in transgenic products. The opportunity costs of participation in such assessments by individual farmers may be high-especially ir attempts are made to involve women, who typically have many other tasks to pcrfonn. This is an area where farmcrs' organizations may have a role to play (Spillane, 1999).



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