The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)


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Biotechnology Policies and Strategies for Emerging Research Systems
Derek Byerlee

 This paper will discuss key policy and strategy issues for emerging research systems in dealing with the biotechnology revolution. On the one side these systems are confronted with the reality of huge investments in biotechnology in industrialized countries, much of it in the private sector, combined with growing commercialization of technologies. On the other hand, emerging systems in small and medium developing countries are struggling to develop sustainable applied and adaptive research systems, against a back ground of a public funding crisis for research, fragile public research organizations, and growing demands on science to address problems of rural poverty, food security and environmental conservation. For these countries, market size and lack of commercial development of the agricultural sector severely limit private sector investment in R&D.

The paper will focus on small and medium-size emerging national research systems to discuss (a) the development of an appropriate regulatory framework and the capacity to implement it, (b) development of capacity in low-end biotechnology processes and products, (c) formulation of a strategy and priorities for accessing biotechnological products, especially genetically transformed products, through collaboration with international research centers and negotiations with private companies, and (d) the role of regional collaboration to realize economies of size in R&D and to develop a common regulatory framework.

Given the limited human and financial resources that characterize emerging research systems, developing biotechnology research capacity and regulatory framework (biosafety and intellectual property rights) poses opportunity costs to society. A benefit-cost framework will be used to discuss options for each theme -- building research capacity, developing regulatory framework, and accessing products and processes of agricultural biotechnology. The environmental and economic benefits of new biotechnology products and processes (e.g., transgenic crops with resistance to insects) to farmers and society as a whole will be examined in the light of the costs of accessing, developing and implementing the biotechnology research policies in emerging research systems. The paper will draw on the authors' experiences in Kenya, Ethiopia, Peru, Ghana, Egypt, and Costa Rica (with reference also to larger systems in India and Indonesia).

The authors combine varied experiences in biotechnology and economic analysis of research policy decisions. Derek Byerlee works on agricultural research policy issues for the World Bank, emphasising institutional development of research systems, Karim Maredia, works with the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project at Michigan State University which is supporting the development of IPR and Biosafety regulatory frameworks in several countries, and Mywish Maredia works on economic efficiency of agricultural research investments in crop breeding and economics of biosafety, also at Michigan State University.