The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)

 

 

Institutional Challenges for Harnessing Biotechnology for the Poor: Implications for Public Sector Research.

 

Derek Byerlee, World Bank, Washington DC

 

 

Abstract

 

It is widely accepted that their are significant market failures in harnessing

modern biotechnology for the benefit of poor producers and consumers. The public

sector, national and international, will have to play a major role in filling

this gap, and to do so will have to develop innovative partnerships with the

private sector to gain access to needed tools and technologies. For the past

year, I have been involved in several activities related to the challenge of

bringing the potential benefits of biotechnology to the poor producers and

consumers. First, the World Bank is reviewing what it can do through its lending

program and participation in global policy dialogue, to support agricultural

biotechnology for poverty alleviation. I chair the task force charged with

making recommendations to World Bank management in these areas. Second, I am a

member of the panel for the system wide review of biotechnology in the CGIAR,

which will provide recommendations on enhancing the CGIAR's effectiveness in

this area. Finally, I participated in a dialogue between the public and private

sectors, on defining roles and responsibilities with respect to plant breeding

and biotechnology in developing countries.

These activities have highlighted the complexity of the challenge in developing

new forms of collaboration between a variety of actors in the biotech area in

developing countries--public breeding programs, public biotech programs, IARCSs,

local private R&D companies, multinational life science companies, and advanced

research institutes in both industrialized and developing countries. This paper

will synthesize these challenges, using examples and case studies from national

research programs of different capacities--strong programs (such as India, China

and Brazil), which will be tool developers as well as users, programs that are

developing an adaptive capacity in biotech to use tools and methods developed

elsewhere, and a large number of countries whose research systems have virtually

no capacity at this time in molecular biology. Each type of program presents

special challenges and opportunities for accessing the new technologies, based

on local bargaining chips including germplasm, public-private partnerships,

local capacity to design arround proprietary technologies, use of IARCs as

intermediaries, regional collaboration and consortia, and segmentation of

markets, Many of the challenges involve developing appropriate strategies and

capacities in the management of intellectual property.

 


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