Biotechnology and the improvement of poor farmers - Azuero Earth ...

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Feb 20, 2013 (4 years and 8 months ago)

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Biotechnology and the improvement of poor farmers’ livelihoods: reality or speculation?

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Brian E. Love

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Dean Spaner

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

6

ABSTRACT.

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...

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7

INTRODUCTION.

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Biotechnology and poor farmers defined

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Global context: population, poverty, poor farmers, and food

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AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY

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Biological nitrogen fixation and mycorrhizae

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Biological control of pests

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Molecular markers

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Tissue culture

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15

Transgenic organisms

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9

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INDUSTRIAL BIOTECHNOLOGY

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Fermentation technology

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18

Cell culture

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Molecular diagnostics

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Bioremediation

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MEDICAL BIOTECHNOLOGY

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.

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Genomics

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Combinatorial chemistry

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Vaccine delivery

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Molecular diagnostics

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Transgenic organisms

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GENERAL CONSTRAINTS

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CONCLUSIONS
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CITED LITERATURE

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2

ABSTRAC
T.

33

Poverty reduction and food security require the livelihoods of poor farmers be improved.
34

The potential of biotechnology to improve the livelihoods of farmers has been hotly debated and
35

primarily focused on “modern” agricultural biotechnology. Biotechn
ology is much broader than
36

this narrow focus and includes “traditional” biotechnologies as well as industrial and medical
37

sectors. These different types of biotechnology have different effects and these effects are
38

molded by the macro
-
economic policies of

the countries where they are implemented.
39

Generally, the problems of poor farmers are not technological. The benefits of biotechnology are
40

unlikely to reach poor farmers unless these ‘non
-
technical’ problems are addressed first.

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INTRODUCTION.

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The value

of biotechnology for food security
(Altieri and Rosset, 1999; Serageldin,
44

1999a)
, developing countries
(Lele, 2003; Hohn and Leisinger, 1999; Sasson and Costarini,
45

1991)

and sustainable agriculture
(Serageldin and Persley, 2003; Shantharam and Montgomery,
46

1999; Zechendorf, 1999; Mannion, 1992)

has been hotly debated. Improving the livelihoods of
47

poor farmers is required for food security
(Altieri, 2002)

and sustainable agriculture
(Altieri,
48

1992)
. However, the specific case of poor farmers and biotechnology has not received much
49

attention, although some case studies and reviews exist
(Qaim, 2005; Morse et al., 200
4; Bunders
50

and Broerse, 1991)
. Agricultural biotechnology
(Hall, 2005; Qaim, 2005; Dookun, 2001;
51

Pinstrup
-
Andersen and Cohen, 2000)

and genetically modified organisms
(Qaim, 2005; Qaim
52

and Zilberman, 2003; Chrispeels, 2000; Serageldin, 1999a)

have usually been the focus of
53

debate. This narrowing of the topic ignores potential contributions f
rom other biotechnology
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sectors. This review provides a broad treatment of biotechnology and identifies areas of
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potential where poor farmers are concerned.

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Biotechnology and poor farmers defined

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Biotechnology has many definitions
(Jones, 1990)
. Narrow definitions equate it with
59

genetically modified organisms
(Ridley, 2004)
, while broad definitions, such as “the application
60

of biological knowledge for a useful end”
(Jones, 1990)
, encompass a large range of
61

technologies. The terms “modern” and “tradit
ional” biotechnology are often attached to these
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narrow and broad definitions, respectively. Broad definitions include technologies such as
63

nitrogen
-
fixing bacteria, biological control agents, and fermentation technology because these
64

technologies involve

strategic application and manipulation of biological organisms. Modern
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and traditional biotechnologies can overlap, with genetic modification being used to enhance
66

traditional biotechnologies. Generally, biotechnology is divided into: 1) agricultural, 2
)
67

industrial, and 3) medical sectors
(Johnston, 2003)
.

68

Poor farmers are farmers whose resources (land, water, labor, ca
pital) do not permit a
69

secure livelihood
(Chambers and Ghildyal, 1985)
. The terms resource
-
poor farmer, smallholder,
70

small
-
scale farmer, and low
-
income farmer have also been used. Globally, there may be as many
71

as

450 million resource
-
poor farmers supporting 1.2
5 billion people
(Mazoyer, 2001)
.

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73

Global context: population, poverty, poor farmers,

and food

74

By 2050, world population may total 8.8 billion
(Lutz et al., 2001)
, with ninety eight
75

percent of

population growth occurring in developing countries
(Bureau, 2004)
.

Currently, poor
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farmers, their families, and the landless account for 70%
(James, 2000)

of the world’s
1.2 billion
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poor people (consumption < $1 US/day)
(IFAD, 2001)
. In develop
ing countries, poor farmers
78

produce up to 90% of domestically consumed food
(Odulaja and Kiros, 1996)

but
i
n many cases
79

do so at a net loss
(Perales et al., 1998)
. Low
-
farm income necessitates off
-
farm work
(Nweke,
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1980)

and non
-
farm employment
(Lanjouw and Lanjouw, 2001)
, and remittances from urban
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areas
(Start, 2001)

are an increasingly important part of rural economies. Poor farmers often
82

have health and nutrition levels below national averages
(Bovet, 1983)
, which negatively affects
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their agricultural productivity
(Croppenstedt and Muller, 2000)

and ability to adopt new
84

technologies
(Ersado et al., 2004)
.

85

Globally, hunger (inability to meet basic energy requir
ements) affects 800 million people
86

(Dixon et al., 2001)
. Hid
den hunger (lack of essential nutrients) affects 2 billion people
(Lorch,
87

2001)

and 3 billion people experience micronutrient defici
encies
(WHO, 1996)
. Additionally,
88

many countries will experience local food crises by 2020
(Evenson, 1999)
. Population growth
89

(Borlaug, 1997)
, regional shortages
(Alexandratos, 1999)
, and the goal of food security
90

(Rosegrant and Cline, 2003)

necessitate increased agricultural production. Grain production in
91

developing countries may have to increase by 28% by 2020
(Chrispeels, 2000)
.

92

Communicable diseases disproportionately affect developing countries
(Gwatkin and
93

Guillot, 2000)
,

claiming millions of lives every year
(Acharya et al., 2004; Folch et al., 2003)
.
94

Emerging infectious diseases are often associated with agriculture
(Morse, 1995)
.
Malaria alone
95

kills 2.5 million annually
(Delorenzi et al., 2002)

and threatens 2.5 billion people
(Nevill, 1990)
.
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Leishmania
sis affects 12 million people around the world and tuberculosis kills upwards of 2
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million people annually
(Acharya et al., 2004)
. In 2000, 56 million HIV/AIDS infections had
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resulted in 20 mi
llion death
(Piot et al., 2001)
, with 90% of those deaths

occurring in developing
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countries
(Farmer et al., 2001)
. In develop
ing countries, HIV/AIDS is

eroding the viability of
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farming livelihoods
(de Waal and Whiteside, 2003)

a
nd threatens food security
(Rosegrant and
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Cline, 2003)
.

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Non
-
communicable diseases in developing countries are in
creasing in importance
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(Acharya et al., 2004)

including: sickle cell anemia
(Steinberg, 1999)
, thalassaemia
(de Silva et
104

al., 2000)
, diabetes
(King et al
., 1998)
, and cardio vascular disease
(Reddy and Yusuf, 1998)
. The
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health and productivity of farm
ers could be improved by controlling diseases
(Haskell, 1977)
.
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Agricultural pesticides negatively affect human health, with 3 million poisonings annually
107

(Pimentel and Grei
ner, 1997)
. Poor farmers are especially at risk
(Forget, 1991)

because of
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inadequate equipment and knowledge
(Paoletti and Pimentel, 2000)
. Biotechnology c
ould assist
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poor farmers by increasing: 1) food security, 2) health, and 3) income.

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AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY

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In the 1960s and 70s the “Green Revolution” increased food
-
grain per capita availability
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by 18% despite strong population growth
(Khush, 1999)
. Currently, y
ield may be reaching
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plateau levels for many major crop species
(Cooper et al., 2001; Pinstrup
-
An
dersen and Pandya
-
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Lorch, 1995)

and “modern” agricultural biotechnology is being touted as the “gene revolution”
116

that will achieve future food security
(Serageldin, 1999b)
. Technologies such as biological
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nitrogen fixation, mycorrhizae, biocontrol, molecular markers, and transgenic organisms are
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forms of agricultural biotechnology.

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Biological nitrogen fixation and my
corrhizae

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Biological nitrogen fixation occurs when microbes in symbiosis with plants assimilate
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atmospheric nitrogen and make it available to plants
(Hirsch et al., 2001)
. Mycorrhizae are fungi
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that that increase plant nutrient uptake through root associations
(Sanchez and Salinas, 1981)
.
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Different forms/strains of microbes occur naturally and they have plant variety specific effects
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(Boonkerd, 2002)
. Selection of optimal microbial strains in the lab can help develop efficient
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nitrogen fixation
(Sanchez and Salinas, 1981)

and mycorrhizae
(Rengel, 2002)

technologies.

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Microbe inoculation of plants
is thousands of years old
(Dart, 1990a)
. Cover crops that
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fix nitrogen can re
-
establish fertility in low
-
input agriculture
(Sanchez and Benites, 1987)

and
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improve the productivity of poor farmers
(Bunch, 1985)
, but poor farmers adoption of cover
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crops is hindered by insecure land tenure
(Honlonkou et al., 1999)
. In Thailand, soybean
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inoculation can increase net profits by
US $144 ha
-
1

(Boonkerd, 2002)
.
Azolla

(water fern)
-
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Anabaena

(blue
-
green
-
algae, planktonic cyanobacteria) nitrogen fixing association increases
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paddy rice yields: China (24%), Egypt (26%), India (9
-
11%) and is a high prote
in livestock feed
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(Bifani, 1992)
.
Mycorrhizae can improve poor farmers yields and permit continuous cultivation
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of poor soils
(Salami and Osonubi, 2002)
, but their contribution to yield has not been adequately
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quantified
(Ryan and Graham, 2002)
.

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The low transport costs and simplicity of inoculants make them appr
opriate for
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developing countries
(Bifani, 1992)
, however poor transportation infrastructure can limit use
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(Odame, 1997)
. Inoculants generate employment by increasing labour demand
(Bifani, 1992)
.
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Nitrogen fixing bacteria vary in their tolerance to soil properties such as soil pH
(Date and
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Halliday, 1979)

and in some cases inoculant biotechnology has not been able to overcome the
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extreme soil conditions (high temperature, acidi
ty, salinity, and drought) of poor farmers
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(Odame, 1997)
.
Genetic engineering of nitrogen fixing bacte
ria may help address these
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constraints and has increased yields by 5
-
10% in China
(Chen and Gu, 1993)
.

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Biological control of pests

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Biological contr
ol (biocontrol) involves the control of pests (insects, pathogens, weeds)
148

with beneficial organisms (insects, pathogens), and is an alternative to chemical pest control
149

(Ehlers, 1996)
. Examples of biocontrol include: 1) Directly applied control agents such as
150

bacteria e.g
Bacillus thurengensis

(Ehlers, 1996)
, fungi e.g.
Beauveria bassianan

and
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Metarhi
zium aniospliae

(Burges and Pillai, 1987)
, viruses
(Whitten and Oakeshott, 1990)
, and
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beneficial insects
(Howarth, 1991)

to control in
sects and in some cases weeds
(Seastedt et al.,
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2003)
, 2) Endophytic microorganisms that live inside plants and confer protection through toxin
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production
(Azevedo et al., 2000)
, and 3) Viral vaccines that confer resistance to viral diseases
155

(F
lasinski et al., 2002)
.

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Biocontrol is the principal pest control strategy of poor farmers
(Altieri and von der
157

Weid, 2000)
. Biocontrol’s low capital costs and expertise requirements make it appropriate for
158

developing countries
(Bedding et al., 1993)

but p
oor farmers must rely on centralized supply and
159

application expertise
(Burges and Pillai, 1987)
. Biocontrol poses ecological risks
(Simberloff
160

and Stiling, 1996)
. Genetic engineering could increase the virulence of biocontrol agents
161

(Gressel, 2001)
, but poses unevaluated risks
(Paoletti and Pimentel, 1996)
.
Biocontrols have
162

narrow pest ranges, which can limit application to high
-
value niche markets
(Whitten and
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Oakeshott, 1990)
.

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Molecular markers

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Biochemical and molecular markers are used to detect unique proteins or DNA
167

sequences. Glaubitz and Moran
(2000)

review many of these marker syste
ms and their
168

protocols. These markers can facilitate the detection and selection of genes involved in plant
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traits, which can be difficult or expensive to select for in the field. Marker assisted selection of
170

plant traits was first purposed by Sax
(1923)

using associated phenotypic traits.

Quantitative
171

trait loci have been identified with markers for many agronomic traits: drought resistance
172

(Quarrie, 1996)
, disease resistance
(Young, 1996)
, maturity
(Lin et al., 1995)
, and oil and protein
173

content
(Diers et al., 1992)
.

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Quantitative traits are plant traits (e.g. yield) that are controlled by a number of genes
175

(Poehlman and Sleper, 1995)
. Theoretically, marker assisted selection could increase the
176

efficiency of selection for quantitative traits
(Lande and Thompson, 1990)
. Despite claims that
177

markers could reduce breeding cycle times from 15 to 3 years
(Kidd, 1994)
, there are few
178

examples of markers resulting in commercialized varieties to date
(Gupta et al., 2002)
.
179

Currently, most marker associations are not robust enough for efficient breeding
(Young, 1999)
,
180

costs are prohibitive
(Charcoset and Moreau, 2004)
, and selection procedures are largely limited
181

to the crosses used to map the markers
(Ayoub et al., 2003)
. New marker systems such as
182

single
-
nucleotide
-
polymorphisms
(Rafalski, 2002)
, new mapping approaches such as asso
ciation
183

mapping
(Stich et al., 2006)
, and new methods for old mapping approaches
(Podlich et al., 2004)

184

could make marker assisted selection more cost effective in the future.

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186

Tissue culture

187

Tissue culture includes a range of techniques su
ch as micropropagation, embryo rescue,
188

anther culture, and cell cultures. Micropropagation is the clonal propagation of plants from a
189

single parent plant whose parts (usually shoot or root meristem tissue) are grown into new plants
190

(Kyte, 1996)
. Embryo rescue involves salvaging weak embryos (usually the product of broad
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crosses) and culturing them into plants
(Sharma et al., 1996)
. Anther culture grows pollen spores
192

into plants that contain only half a genome (haploids)
(Guha and Maheshwari, 1964)
.

193

Vegetatively propagated crops such as cassava,

yam, and bananas are poor farmer staples
194

and their vegetative propagation can spread disease
(Aljanabi et al., 2001)
, which reduces yield
195

(Thro et al., 1999)
. Micropropagation requires little capital or skill
(Dart, 1990b)

and can
196

produce disease free materials for rapid distributi
on to farmers
(Larkin and Scowcroft, 1981)
.
197

Unfortunately, the cultural practices of poor farmers tend to spread disease
(Calvert and
Thresh,
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2002)
, making disease eradication difficult. Nevertheless, m
icropropagation has improved of
199

potato and tea adoption by poor farmers
(Mureithi and Makau, 1992)
.

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Embryo rescue permits interspecific
(Mallikarjuna, 1999)

and intergeneric
(Momotaz,
201

1998)

crosses between normally incompatible breeding materials. These wide crosses can be
202

used to incorporate genes for
abiotic and biotic stresses into breeding programs
(Mallikarjuna,
203

1999)
. Anther cultu
re coupled with chemical treatment produces homozygous plants much
204

faster than inbreeding techniques
(Morrison and Evans, 1988)
. This technique has been used in
205

China to develop high yielding, superior quality, pathogen
-
resistant rice varieties
(Chen and Gu,
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1993)
. Unfortunately, tissue culture for production of haploid plants is 1) difficult in some
207

species, 2) prone to deleterious mutations, and 3) non
-
random with regards to recovered gametes
208

(Morrison and Evans, 1988)
.

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Transgenic organisms

211

Inserting foreign DNA into an organism creates a tran
sgenic organism. Agricultural
212

plants and animals have been modified in this way
(Serageldin and Persley, 2000)
. In 2003, 7
213

million farmers planted 67.7 million hectares of transgenic crops
(James, 2003)
. Notably, 6
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million of these farmers were poor farmers planting Bt cotton in China and South Africa
(James,
215

2003)
. Currently, widely commercialized transgenic crops are either insect or herbicide resistant
216

(Lele, 2003; James, 2000)
, with the latter being of little use to poor farmers
(Qaim, 2005)
.

217

Pest resistance has been engineered largely through the use of
Bacillus thuringiensis
218

genes, which
produce crystallized proteins called δ
-
endotoxins
(Cohen, 1999)
. This technology
219

has reduced pesticide use
(Qaim and Zilberman, 2003)

and
is associated with improved cotton
220

farmer health
(Pray et al., 2001)
. Health ben
efits may be limited to cotton as it is heavily
221

sprayed whereas most other poor farmer crops (e.g. maize, rice, cassava) are not
(Maumbe and
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Swinton, 2003)
. In contrast, transgenic herbicide resistance could lead to massive labour
223

displac
ement
(Ahmed, 1991)

because manual weeding is an important off
-
farm work opportunity
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for poor farmers
(Benjamin, 1992)
.

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Transgenic crops with improved nutrient profiles are the next wave of transgenic crops.
226

Beta
-
carotine enriched transgenic rice (
Golden Rice)
(Potrykus, 2001)

addresses vitamin A
227

deficiency, which results in 1 to 2 million child deaths each year
(Ye et al., 2000)
. Oral vitamin
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A intervention has distribution problems and general food fortification is excessively costly
229

(Pirie, 1983)
. Critics suggest golden rice is an inappropriate high
-
tech solution to the complex
230

problem of food access
(Lorch, 2001)
. Only 12 countries with vitamin A deficiency problems
231

have sufficient rice consumption to make golden rice an effective alternative
(RAFI, 2000)
.

232

Transgenic crops can be designed to produce rare and valuable oils

(Napier and
233

Michaelson, 2001)
. Use of plants as p
roduction factories has been referred to as molecular
234

farming
(Horn et al., 2004)

a
nd could enhance the value of low
-
value crop plants in developing
235

countries. Currently, only three molecularly farmed products are marketed (Avidin, b
-
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Glucuronidase, and Trypsin) and food supply contamination is a concern
(Horn et al., 2004)
.
237

Required safety precautions will likely prevent poor farmer involvement in molecular farming.

238

Phenotypes that are difficult to breed for might be produced through genetic engineering
239

(Paoletti and Pimentel, 1996)
. Altering a single trait can produce salt
-
tolerant
(Zhang and
240

Blumwald, 2001)
, aluminum tolerant
(de la Fuente et al., 1997)
, or phosphorous mineralizing
241

(Zimmermann et al., 2003)

transgenic plants. Aluminum toxicity
(Rao et al., 1993)
, saline
242

conditions
(Malik and Ahmad, 2002)

and nutrient deficient soils
(Sanchez and Benites, 1987)

are
243

characte
ristic of poor farmers’ marginal lands.

244

To date, transgenic crops have not substantially increased yields
(Sinclair et al., 2004;
245

Mara et al., 2002; Miflin, 2000; Lauer and Wedberg, 1999; Ruttan, 1999)
, which is a concern
246

given the need for yield increases in developing countries
(Ruttan, 1999)
. Lack of yield gains at
247

present may not reflect future performance
(Qaim and Zilberman, 2003)
. Recent case
-
studies
248

(Qaim and de Janvry, 2005; Qaim and Zilberman, 2003; Ismael et al., 2002)

suggest yield
249

increases may be possible. Yield gains are occurr
ing because insect resistant transgenic crops
250

are now being introduced into the fields of poor farmers, which are characterized by elevated
251

pest pressure that normally goes uncontrolled. Even without yield increases, poor farmers may
252

benefit from increase
d profits due to reduced input costs (pesticides, labor)
(Ismael et al., 2002;
253

Pray et al., 2001)
.

254

Often yield
-
enhancing technology reduces global prices a
nd indirectly serves to
255

impoverish poor farmers who do not adopt the technologies
(
Ahmed, 1988)
. The use

of Bt
256

cotton in the United States reduced prices and is estimated to have cost international cotton
257

producers US $21.6 million
(Falck
-
Zepeda et al., 2000)
.
Alternatively, poor farmers could
258

increase productivity faster than falling prices
(IFAD, 2001)
.
Claims have been made that
259


12

biotechnology is scale
-
neutral and therefore easily adoptable
(Prakash, 1999)
, but even scale
-
260

neutral technology is often not adopted by farmers with low levels of education
(Arends
-
261

Kuenning and Makundi, 2000)
.

Furthermore, t
ransgenic crop development currently bypasses
262

many crops and traits important
to the developing world
(Lele, 2003; Huang et al., 2002)
.

263


264

INDUSTRIAL BIOTECHNOLOGY

265


Industrial biotechnologies encompass technologies that are used in

industrial processes.
266

In this review, fermentation, cell tissue culture, molecular diagnostics, and bioremediation are
267

discussed as forms of industrial biotechnology.

268


269

Fermentation technology

270


Broadly defined, fermentation technologies are: chemical reac
tions facilitated by living
271

organisms that break complex organic compounds into simpler ones. Food fermentation
272

technology has been used for centuries
(Warhurst, 1985)

and

can improve food protein and
273

vitamin quality
(Bifani, 1992)
. Improved fermentation processes are needed to reduce
274

c
ontamination of traditional foods by aflatoxins and toxaflavins
(Giddings, 1990)
. Reduced
275

contamination could improve the health of poor farmers.

276

Fermentation can produce single celled protein for animal con
sumption
(Okereke, 1992;
277

Kenney and Buttel, 1985)
. In Cuba, such protein is produced from sugarca
ne waste
(Bifani,
278

1992)
. Fermentation can also preserve animal feeds in the form of silage
(Woolford, 1984)
.
279

Biogas fermentation reactor
s produce methane from wastes and have been advocated for poor
280

farmers
(Xuan
-
An et al., 1997; Pathania and Sharma, 1995)
, but high capit
al outlays direct this
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13

technology towards larger farmers. Biogas reactors improve sanitary conditions, produce quality
282

fertilizer, and are used by 4 million families in China
(Li, 1987)
.

283

Enzymatic f
ermentation can produce new compounds that lead to product substitution.
284

Product substitutions result in annual export loses of US $10 billion for developing countries
285

(Ahmed, 1991)
.
High fructose corn syrup, a sweetner that substitutes for sugar, is produced
286

using enzymatic fermentation and reduced world sugar prices by as much as 33%
(Borrell and
287

Duncan, 1992)
. Price depression negatively affects poor farmers through labour displacement
288

and low
er commodity prices
(Shand, 1989)
.

289


290

Cell culture

291

Cell culture is a general form of tissue culture involving the growth and maintenan
ce of
292

cells after their extraction from a living organism. This form of tissue culture combines
293

fermentation and purification processes and provides greater control over the supply, quality and
294

cost of producing novel chemical compounds
(Sahai and Knuth,
1985)
.

295

Cell culture products are labeled as ‘natural’ products, which is a powerful marketing tool
296

(e.g. chemical vanillin at US $12 Kg
-
1

versus natural vanillin at US $4000 Kg
-
l
)
(Krings and
297

Berger, 1998)

and can lead to substitution of farmed commodities. Tissue culture substitutes for
298

organic vanilla could disenfranchise tens of thousa
nds of small farmers in Africa
(Leisinger,
299

1999b)
. Likewise cocoa butter, of which poor farmers produce half the world’s supply
300

(Ruive
nkamp, 1992)
, is targeted for substitution
(Smith, 1999)
. It is difficult to produce complex
301

mixtures through tissue cultur
e
(Sahai and Knuth, 1985)

and to date tissue cultured vanillin has
302

not been economically viable
(Rao and Ravishankar, 2000)
. However, eventual substitution of
303


14

products such as vanilla, cocoa, fragrances, spices, and cooking oils may reduce developing
304

country exports
(Smith, 1999)
.

305


306

Molecular diagnostics

307

Engvall and Perlmann
(1971)

developed the enzyme
-
linked immunosorbent assay, which
308

uses antibodies produced by hybrid cell lines to detect compounds
(Miller and Williams, 1990)
.
309

These techniques can detect mycoplasm
-
like organisms,
Rhizobium
, mycotoxins, and viruses
310

(Reddy et al., 1988)
, plant pathogens (e.g. fungi, bacteria, nematodes)
(Miller and Williams,
311

1990)

and toxic chemicals
(Vanderlaan et al., 1988)
.

312

Diagnostic techniques can prevent the export of contaminated germplasm
(Dale, 199
0)
,
313

use of diseased planting material
(Miller and Williams, 1990)
, and consumption of products
314

contaminated by pesticides
(Meulenberg et al., 1995)

or mycotoxins
(Mendez
-
Albores et al.,
315

2004)
. Aflatoxins cause human
cancers
(Harrison et al., 1993; Dvorackova, 1976)

as well as
316

animal toxicoses
(Bodine and Mertens, 1983)

and are present in traditional maize food products
317

(Mendez
-
Albores et al., 2004)
. Molecular diagnostics could prevent the

sale of contaminated
318

food and feed to poor farmers. However, these technologies are expensive to develop and their
319

transfer to developing countries is difficult because of different target organisms and testing
320

conditions
(Miller and Williams, 1990)
.

321


322

Bioremediation

323


Bioremediation is the use of plants and/or microorganisms to clean up toxic contaminants
324

in the environment
(Acharya et al., 2004)
. Poor farmers are threatened by a number of
325

contaminants. For instance, half of Bangladesh’s population is at risk of ground water arsenic
326


15

poisoning
(Mudur, 2000)
. Bioremediation by a fern that hyperaccumulates arsenic
(Ma et al.,
327

2001)

or an arsenic degrading microbe
(Santini et al., 2000)

could address the problems posed by
328

arsenic contamination.

Plants and microorganisms can also remediate pesticide contaminated
329

land and water
(Van Eerd et al., 2003)

as well as reclaim lands affected by salinity
(Qadir et al.,
330

1997)
. Genetic modification has been suggested as a means by which bioremediation could be
331

enhanced
(Kiyono and Pan
-
Hou, 2006)
.

332


333

MEDICAL BIOTECHNOLOGY

334

Medical biotechnology effectively addresses disease problems
(Feldbaum, 2002)

and
335

draws on many aspects of biotechnology including: genomics, combinatorial chemistry, drug
336

delivery technologies, molecular diagnostics, and genetic modification.

337


338

Genomics

339

Genomics is the study of genes: including their sequence, structure, and function.
340

Advances in genomics may permit future vaccine development not only for infectious disease,
341

but also for
allergies, autoimmunity and carcinogenesis
(Andre, 2001)
. It has been suggested
342

that genomics has shortened vaccine development times from 5
-
15 to 2
-
5 years
(Masignani et al.,
343

2003)
. Sequencing of pathogen
(Singer and Daar, 2001)

and
vector genomes (e.g. mosquito
344

species for malaria)
(Aultman et al., 2002)

may facilitate the development of
treatments
. In the
345

case of malaria, sequence data identified fomidomycin, a previously little known antibiotic, as a
346

potential treatment
(Jomaa et al., 1999)
. Information about viral genomes has made the
347

development of anti
-
viral drugs possible
(WHO, 2002)
. Sequencing can lead to the development
348

of subunit vaccines
(Singer and Daar, 2001)
, which are advantageous because they consist of an
349


16

immunogenic protein from the pathogen rather than a weakened pathogen and, as such, cannot
350

become virulent
(Rowlandson and Tackaberry, 2003)
.
Subunit vaccines for tuberculosis
(Coler
351

et al., 2001)
, HIV
(McMichael and Hanke, 2003)
, malaria
(Bojang et al., 2001)
, and hepatitis C
352

(Nemchinov et al., 2000)

have or are being developed.
Quicker development of safer vaccines
353

and novel approaches to identify
ing drug candidates could underpin initiatives that improve the
354

health of poor farmers.

355


356

Combinatorial chemistry

357

Combinatorial chemistry is the systematic production of synthetic chemical compounds
358

by adding or removing chemical building blocks from a base

molecule, which can assist in drug
359

development
(Szostak, 1997)
. Artemisinin, an anti
-
malarial drug, had its purity, bioavailability,
360

and activity

improved through combinatorial techniques
(Vennerstrom et al., 2004)
. Drugs for
361

treating Leishmaniasis h
ave been discovered by combinatorial chemistry
(Graven et al., 2001)
.
362

Combinatorial chemistry can hel
p prevent development of microbe resistance to drugs
(Nicolaou
363

et al., 2001)
. As such, these combinatorial approaches could lead to the development of effective
364

treatments for diseases that afflict poor farmers.

While these techniques permit the production
365

and screening of thousands of compounds
(Dobson, 2004)

they cannot entirely replace drug
366

discovery based on natural compou
nds
(Ortholand and Ganesan, 2004)
.

367


368

Vaccine delivery

369


Vaccine delivery

in developing countries is complicated due to the need for trained
370

personnel, refrigeration
(Acharya et al., 2004)
, and needle injections
(Simosen et al., 199
9)
.
371

Annually, unsafe injections due to dirty needles result in 80


160 thousand, 8
-
16 million, and
372


17

2.3
-
4.6 million new cases of HIV/AIDS, Heptitis B, and Hepatitis C, respectively
(Acharya et

373

al., 2004)
. Trehalose a disaccharide shows potential for stabilizing vaccine and drug compounds
374

at high temperatures
(Levine and Sztein, 2004)

and could address the issue of refrigeration.
375

Powdered
(Maa et al., 2003)
, pressure injected
(Levine, 2003; Chen et al., 2000)
, patch
376

(Guereña
-
Burgueño et al., 2002)
, and edible plant
(Sala et al., 2003)

vaccines could eliminate the
377

need for injections. Control released vaccines, requiring fewer injections
(Korkusuz et al.,
378

2001)
, may further reduce the need for injections. Poor farmers often live in remote inaccessible
379

areas
(Porter, 2002)
, making improved vaccine delivery an important part of health
380

improvement. Reduction or elimination of injections would protect poor farmers from having
381

their health negatively affected by vaccinati
on campaigns.

382


383

Molecular diagnostics

384

Molecular diagnostics are important for infectious disease diagnosis in developing
385

countries
(Daar et al., 2002; Louie et al., 2000)
. Diagnostic techniques have been developed for
386

diseases such as malaria
(Palmer et al., 1998)
, dengue
(Ananda
-
Ra
o et al., 2005)
, HIV
(O'Connell
387

et al., 2003)
, leichmaniansis
(Harris et al., 1998)
, and chagas
(Huete
-
Perez et al., 2005)
.
388

Diagnostic technologies can also help identify human populations that respond differently to
389

disease
(Cooke and Hill, 2001)

and drugs
(Bell, 2004)
. Human populations that are resistant to
390

malaria
(Weatherall and Clegg, 2002)

and that impede HIV/AIDS treatment by breaking down
391

administered d
rugs
(Schaeffeler et al., 2001)

have been identified. Diagnostic screening for
392

membership to these populations helps researchers test and target treatments
(Weatherall, 2003)
.
393

Previously diagnostic technologies required time consuming, cumbersome and expensive
394

procedures
(Acharya et al., 2004)
. New diagnostic technologies such as dip sticks are simple,
395


18

quick to use, and can be more accurate than traditional techniques
(Palmer et al., 1998)
.
396

Development of easily used diagnostic tech
niques for diseases that affect poor farmers may
397

improve the delivery of healthcare to poor farmers.

398


399

Transgenic organisms

400

Genetic modification can transform organisms (e.g. yeast) to produce pharmaceutical
401

products such as insulin
(Goeddel et al., 1979)
. Vaccines available or in development, of use to
402

poor farmers, that use such recombinant technology inclu
de: HIV/AIDS
(Aldovini and Young,
403

1991)
, malaria
(Bojang et al., 2001)
, tuberculosis
(Carol and Sacksteder, 2002)
, leichmaliansis,
404

hep B
(Young et al., 2001)
, and meningitis
(Thorsteinsd
ottir et al., 2004b)
. Recombinant
405

technology often reduces the cost of drug production
(Juma and Yee
-
Cheong, 2005)
. A number
406

of developing countries are now producing their own recombinant insulin
(Ferrer et al., 2004)
.
407

Artemisinin, a malarial
drug, can now be cheaply produced using recombinant technology
408

(Towie, 2006)
. Cheap production of drugs and vaccines may result in them becoming

more
409

accessible to poor farmers who rely on state funded health care.

410

Some diseases such as malaria have not responded well to subunit vaccines. Genetically
411

weakened malaria parasites are presently being studied for use as vaccines
(Mueller et al., 2005)
.
412

Genetically modified mosquitoes, resistant to harboring parasites, are also being studied
(Kim et
413

al., 2004)
. Biocide gels containing genetically modified Lactobacillus, which secr
etes an HIV
414

combating antigen, is currently being studied for its potential to reduced HIV transmission
415

(Boyd, 1997)
. Transgenic animals such as the sickle
-
cell anemia mouse model
(Ryan et al.,
416

1997)

assist in the study of diseases and treatments.

417


19

Genetically modified plants could be used to produce edible vaccines

(Horn et al., 2004)
.
418

Edible vaccines may be either purified from transgenic plant

tissues or administered as a food
419

product
(Streatfield and Howard, 2003)
. Edible vaccines for cholera a
nd hepatitis B are
420

currently being developed
(Singer a
nd Daar, 2001)
. Unpredictable levels of antigen
421

accumulation in plant tissues is currently the biggest obstacle to edible vaccine development
422

(Mor et al., 1998)
.

423

Medical biotechnology is often highly integrated with many technologies are employed
424

to produce a product. For instance the sequencing of a pathogen genome, ident
ification of
425

possible targets using bioinformatics, use of combinatorial chemistry to produce candidates,
426

testing of candidates in genetically engineered animal models, low cost production of the
427

compound using recombinant technology, and guided delivery o
f the product based on molecular
428

diagnostics may all be employed to treat a single disease. Recently, private philanthropic
429

institutions have made substantial contributions to the health sector. For instance, the Gates
430

Foundation is viewed as rearranging

the public health sector by investing US $ 2.5 billion in
431

healthcare to the poor, which includes addressing diseases that affect poor farmers such as
432

malaria and HIV/AIDS
(Cohen, 2002)
.
Likewise, the United States has launched at US $ 1.2
433

billion initiative to combat malaria in 2006, which is aligned with the United States’ older US $
434

15 billion emergency HIV/AIDS relief plan
(Brown, 2007)
. Much of this research will employ
435

biotechnology tools but it remains to be seen whether the pr
omising treatments being developed
436

at present will be successful at combating these diseases.

437


438


20

GENERAL CONSTRAINTS

439


In discussing various forms of biotechnology, specific constraints have been outlined.
440

More general constraints also prevent biotechnologi
es from reaching poor farmers. The private
441

sector conducts most

biotechnology research
(Pray and Umali
-
Deininger, 1998)

and is unwilling
442

to address the problems of poor farmers because they do not represent a lucrative market
443

(Kenney and Buttel, 1985)
. Medical biotechnology is a good example of market forces guiding
444

research.
Currently, there is little investment in infectious disease research for developing
445

countrie
s because they are considered unprofitable high
-
risk markets
(Masignani et al., 2003)
.
446

Less than 1% of new c
ommercialized chemical entities from 1975
-
1996 were specifically for
447

tropical diseases
(Trouiller and Olliaro, 1999)
.
Even large pharmaceutical markets (e.g. Brazil,
448

India) are unattractive due to weak intellectual property laws
(Tzotozos, 2000)
. Currently, 90%
449

of the world’s health problems receive less than 10% of private health sector research funding
450

(Davey, 2000)
.

451

Developing countries have difficulties transferring technology from laboratories to
452

industry because of weak organizational and administrative mechanisms and obsolete legal rules
453

(Zilinskas, 1993)
. Transfer of transgenic sweet potato technology to Kenya took 10 years of
454

negotiation to approve pr
eliminary trials
(Cohen and Paarlberg, 2004)
. P
ublic institutions often
455

can
not conduct biotechnology research because private companies hold most of the relevant
456

patents
(Qaim, 2000)
.
Nevertheless, Cuba has developed an applied biotechnology sector that
457

benefits its people
(Kenney and Buttel, 1985)

and China has made substantial advances
because
458

it has many well
-
trained scientists, large germplasm collections, and a low
-
cost research
459

environment
(Huang et al., 2002)
. A number of developing countries including: Brazil
(Ferrer et
460


21

al., 2004)
, Cuba
(Thorsteinsdottir et al., 2004b)
, India
(Jayaraman, 2005)
, and South Africa
461

(Burton and Cowan, 2002)

have and are making in roads in “modern” biotechnology.

462

Public
-
private partnerships that transfer te
chnology from private firms in developed
463

countries to public institutions in developing countries
(Brumby et al., 1990)

can help develop
464

biotechnology i
n developing countries.
The International Service for the Acquisition of
465

Agribiotech Applications facilitates the transfer of agricultural biotechnology to developing
466

countries with the aim of alleviating poverty and increasing productivity in developing
countries
467

(James, 2001)
.
Pub
lic
-
private partnerships have given rise to research and development
468

initiatives for malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS
(Wheeler and Berkley, 2001)
. Donations and
469

tiered pricing also help developing countries access drugs and vaccines
(Widdus, 2001)
.
470

Nevertheless, local capacity must be developed if medical biotechnology is to directly address
471

important developing c
ountry medical issues
(Thorsteinsdottir et al., 2004a)
.
Co
-
development is
472

a better form of partnership than technology transfer, but this requires a substantial investment in
473

human reso
urces and infrastructure
(Madkour, 2003)
. Only large developing countries (China,
474

Brazil, and India) have deve
loped public
-
private linkages for co
-
development
(Pray, 2001)
.

475

The brain drain (movement of scientists from developing to developed countries) may be
476

a greater obstacle to biotechnology development than capital resources
(Kenney and Buttel,
477

1985)
. The biotechnology brain drain negatively affects the ability of the public sector
(La
478

Montagne, 2001)

and developing countries
(Thorsteinsdottir et al., 2004a)

to conduct research
479

and development. Curren
tly, developed countries have 10 times more scientists than in
480

developing countries
(Lele, 2003)

and only a few developing countries (Mexico, Brazil, India,
481

Cuba and China) have the critical mass of researchers needed to sustain biotechnology research
482

(Kenney and Buttel, 1985)
.

483


22

Many biotechnologies are tools used within larger programs. For instance, molecular
484

marker

and tissue culture biotechnologies are tools used by breeding programs
(Brenner, 1996)
.
485

Conventional breeding programs
typically focus on high
-
input environments and often neglect
486

the marginal environments of poor farmers
(Ceccarelli et al., 2001)
. Until the focus of breeding
487

programs changes, the benefits of these biotechnologies will not reach poor farmers. Vaccines
488

and drugs developed through biotechnology are tools of the health profession. In developing
489

countries,
w
eak distribution structures prevent drugs and vaccines from reaching the poor
490

(Widdus, 2001)
. If these general access issues are not addressed in breeding and healthcare,
491

biotechnology’s benefits for poor farmers will continue to be limited.

492

International structures such as trade policies also adversely affect
poor farmers. In 2001
493

subsidies for US cotton growers totalled US $3.6 billion, which reduced world cotton prices by
494

25% and directly compromised 10
-
11 million cotton farmers in West Africa
(Watkins, 2003)
.
495

Recently, West African cotton farmers have threatened to leave the industry because United
496

States’ subsidies in 2004
-
2005 of

US $ 4.2 billion have cost sub
-
Saharan farmers US $ 400
497

million

(Guardian, 2007)
. Member states of the Organiza
tion for Economic Cooperation and
498

Development have annual agricultural subsidies totalling US $350 billion, which lower global
499

market prices, negatively impact imports, and lead to inequitable income distribution
(Lele,
500

2003)
. Regulatory constraints such as quality certificatio
n processes can act as barriers that
501

protect domestic markets
(Caswell et al., 1998)
, making development of markets for the products
502

of poor farmers more difficult
.

503

Hardin
(1968)

recognized tha
t many problems have no technical solution. Without
504

access to land, agricultural extension service, marketing opportunities, working equipment and
505

fair credit poor farmers will not benefit from agricultural biotechnology’s technical solutions
506


23

(Leisinger, 1999a)
. Similarly, medical biotechnology will not reach poor people if healthcare
507

delivery infrastructure is n
ot in place
(Widdus, 2001)
. Biotechnology will only benef
it poor
508

farmers in countries where these non
-
technical problems are addressed effectively.

509


510

CONCLUSIONS

511

Generally, poor farmers’ problems are not due to technological inadequacies. Rather,
512

unfavorable macro
-
economic policies (e.g. subsidies, protectionism
, substitution) and lack of
513

access to resources
(Mukhawana, 2003)

prevent improvement of poor people’s livelihoods.
514

Differential technol
ogy adoption has resulted in the marginalization of large regions of the world
515

economy
(Otero, 1991)
. Biotechnologies

(agricultural, medical, industrial) are tools that can
516

potentially benefit poor farmers in developing countries. Medical biotechnology provides the
517

clearest benefits for poor farmers although health care access issues and how to focus research
518

on local p
roblems representing low
-
value markets must be addressed. Industrial biotechnology
519

has mixed effects. There are potential benefits in terms of bioremediation, diagnostics, and
520

certain fermentation technologies. However, cell culture and fermentation tec
hnologies that lead
521

to substitution of imported products often negatively affect poor farmers. Agricultural
522

biotechnology provides clear benefit where traditional technologies (biological nitrogen
-
fixation
523

and biocontrol) are concerned. Transgenic biotec
hnologies seem to have had some success, but
524

remain largely oriented towards the developed world. If transgenic crops reduce global
525

commodity prices faster than poor farmers can increase production, the net effect will be
526

negative.

527

Overall, b
iotechnology
is risky because social, political and economic constraints can
528

precipitate negative impacts of potentially beneficial technologies
(Leisinger, 1999a)
.

This
529


24

situation is further exasperated by the unequal political and socio
-
economic position of
530

developing countries vis
-
à
-
vis developed countries which shape markets; and thus may prevent
531

the disenfranchised from de
riving equitable benefits
(Smith, 1999)
. Constraints and power
532

incongruities (manifested in subsidies and regulatory framewo
rks) will largely determine how
533

biotechnologies affect poor farmers lives. Some developing countries with large economies
534

(China, Brazil, India, Mexico, Egypt), or with well
-
developed social and physical infrastructure
535

(Cuba), have and will be able to dev
elop biotechnologies for use by poor farmers. Traditional
536

biotechnologies such as biological nitrogen fixation and fermentation have a long history of use
537

by poor farmers. Focusing on these technologies and their improvement using “modern”
538

biotechnologie
s could result in immediate utility to poor farmers. The consequences of
539

biotechnology for poor farmers will continue to unfold and will vary with the technology in
540

question and the country where it is applied. Rigid proclamations that biotechnology will

541

“benefit” or “marginalize” poor farmers does not do justice to the complex and dynamic
542

development of biotechnology. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that the ability of biotechnology to
543

improve the livelihoods of poor farmers across all developing countr
ies is currently speculation
544

rather than reality.

545


546

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