Asian Development Bank

ADB has made several strategic and innovative investments in agricultural biotechnology over the past decade. These investments have been in the form of loans and technical assistance projects.

a. Components of Agriculture and Science and Technology Loan Projects

Several governments have requested ADB financial support for human resource development, laboratory facilities, and equipment for agricultural biotechnology programs. These programs have been integrating new applications of biotechnology into their conventional agricultural R&D programs. The applications include the use of new molecular diagnostics for pests and diseases and MAS for crop and livestock breeding. Such components are being supported under ongoing ADB projects in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand (Table 3.2). ADB has provided other loans and grants in closely related areas such as in integrated pest management in cotton under the Cotton Development Project in Pakistan.

b. ADB Regional Technical Assistance Projects

ADB has provided regional technical assistance grants for the development of the three regional crop biotechnology networks over the past decade (Table 3.2). The networks are the Asian Rice Biotechnology Network (ARBN), initiated in 1993, the Asian Maize Biotechnology Network (AMBIONET), initiated in 1998 and the recently established Asian Semi-Arid Crops Network. These networks have been influential in developing capacity to use new techniques in crop breeding for the major cereal crops (rice, maize) and the crops important in the semi-arid regions (sorghum, pigeonpea, and groundnut). The networks are managed by three IARCs (IRRI, CIMMYT, and ICRISAT) that work with national re-

Table 3.1: Status of Agricultural Biotechnology


Key Institution

Research Area

People's Republic of China




Institute of Biotechnology Research, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, China National Center for Biotechnology Development

Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology

Agency for Agricultural Research and Development, Center for Biotechnology Research and Development

National Biotechnology Directorate; Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment

Disease and insect resistance; tolerance for abiotic stress; product quality in rice, cotton, maize, wheat, and vegetables

Coordination of nationwide biotechnology activities; R&D in biofertilizers and bioinsecticides; nitrogen fixation; immunodiagnostics; genetic engineering; embryo-transfer

Crops: rice, maize, cotton, citrus, coffee, mangrove, vanilla, and cardamom

Coordination of agricultural biotechnology; R&D in rice, cassava, maize, cotton, soybean; tissue culture; mycorrhiza; rhizobium; genetic engineering; biodiversity

Tissue culture, embryo transfer; genetic engineering; value-added products; feed, edible fungal protein; diagnostics; biomass conversion




Viet Nam

National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, Center of Excellence in Molecular Biology

National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

Institute of Biotechnology, National Center of Natural Science and Technology

Crops: rice, papaya, orchid, chili, rubber, and oilpalm

Biopesticides, biofertilizers; molecular breeding; genetic engineering for crop improvement

Crops: rice, cotton, and chickpea

Nitrogen fixation; biofuel, food fermentation, antibiotics, diagnostics; plant cell culture; high value added products; genetic engineering

Crops: rice, maize, coconut, mango, and papaya

Coordination of biotechnology; biocontrol; DNA fingerprinting; genetic engineering

Focus: rice, shrimp, cassava, dairy cows, fruits, and vegetables

Plant tissue culture; insect and disease resistance; tolerance for abiotic stress; genetic engineering

Crops: rice, maize, potato, sweetpotato, cassava, soybean, sugarcane, and cotton

Sources: Zhang (2000), Sharman (2000), Dart et al (2001), Nair and Abu Bakar (2001), Zafar (2001), de la Cruz 2000), Tanticharoen (2000), Tuong-Van Nguyen (2000).

in Some Asian Countries, 2000

Biosafety Mechanism


Biosafety regulations on GMOs approved in 1996

Transgenic cotton is grown over an area of 500,000 ha. About 50 genetically modified varieties have been approved for environmental release or small-scale field testing

Biosafety guidelines for transgenic seeds, plants, and plant parts developed

Field testing of some promising transgenic crops in progress

Biosafety guidelines and labeling regulations developed

Field testing of transgenic crops in progress

National Biosafety Law has been drafted, but it has yet to be approved by the Government

Good progress in developing transgenic rice, papaya, banana, orchids, pineapple, oilpalm, and rubber; field testing of papaya has been approved

Biosafety guidelines and regulations are being prepared

Concentrated mostly on traditional biotechnology

Biosafety guidelines for contained use and release of GMOs developed. Commercialization guidelines ready for approval

Field testing of transgenic crops in progress

Biosafety guidelines for laboratory and field trials developed

Biosafety guidelines and regulations are being prepared

The application of biotechnology to develop new molecular diagnostics for diagnosis and control of virus diseases in shrimp has been successful; some transgenic crops (tomato, papaya, chili, pepper, and cotton) are undergoing field testing

Still in the early stage of modern biotechnology development

Table 3.2: Summary of ADB-Funded

Loan/ RETA No.



1. RETA 5331

2. RETA 5510

Establishment of Plant Biotechnology Research and Training

Establishment of the Asian Rice Biotechnology Network



3. RETA 5667 Asian Rice Biotechnology Network -

From Products to Impact

4. RETA 5766 Application of Biotechnology to Maize

Improvement in Asia



5. RETA 5812

6. RETA 5945

Asian Rice Biotechnology Network: Achieving Impact and Sustainability

Rapid Crop Improvement for Poor Farmers in Semi-Arid Tropics of Asia

Cotton Development




2. 1535-SRI Science and Technology Personnel



3. 1698-THA

Agriculture Sector Program

4. 1740-PHI

Grains Sector Development Program


ADB = Asian Development Bank, CIMMYT = International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, DOA = Department of Agriculture, EA = executing agency, ICRISAT = International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, IRRI = International Rice Research Institute, MINFAL = Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, MOF = Ministry of Finance, MOST = Ministry of Science and Technology, R&D = research and development, RETA = regional technical assistance.

Source: Asian Development Bank (various documents).

Projects in Biotechnology

Approval Date

Grant/Loan Amount ($'000)


29 Apr 1989


A well equipped biotechnology laboratory was established at ICRISAT

21 Nov1992

900 An Asian Rice Biotechnology Network covering several Asian countries was established

9 Jan 1996

29 Dec 1997


Further support to rice biotechnology was provided

An Asian Maize Biotechnology Network covering some Asian countries has been established

22 Oct 1998

17 Oct 2000



The third phase of rice biotechnology research is supported by ADB

High-yielding varieties of groundnut, chickpea, and sorghum will be developed using marker-assisted selection

30 Sep 1986

11 Sep 1997



Loan savings used to strengthen biotechnology R&D of cotton in Pakistan

Part of the loan was used to expand science and technology personnel development and to strengthen the biotechnology research agency in Sri Lanka

23 Sep 1999

300,000 Some of the local currency of the loan was used to strengthen the biotechnology R&D in Thailand

24 Apr 2000

100,000 Part of the loan is being used to support rice biotechnology research in the Philippine Rice Research Institute search institutes to implement the programs on rice, maize, and semi-arid crops.

A recent evaluation of ADB's research investments through the international centers reported favorably on the achievements of the rice and maize biotechnology networks, and recommended further support for this type of research cooperation.

The networks provide a platform by which countries and the IARCs can collaborate in the use of the new tools of functional genomics to identify genes that control important traits such as drought and salinity tolerance. This will speed up the breeding of crop varieties with these characteristics that have been difficult to address through conventional breeding. There will be increasing opportunities for cooperation between the networks, as more knowledge is gained on the commonality of genes between species and their control.

Box 3.1: Asian Rice Biotechnology Network

The rice growing countries in Asia recognized in the early 1 990s that biotechnology could provide powerful new tools for rice improvement. These tools included tissue culture, wide hybridization, molecular markers, and genetic engineering. The ARBN was initiated in 1993 to provide a vehicle for collaborative research in these areas with universities and national rice research institutes.

The objectives of ARBN are to (i) promote human resource and infrastructure development for biotechnology at selected national agricultural research systems (NARSs) institutes through joint research and training coordinated by IRRI, and (ii) generate biotechnology tools and products for use by NARSs through IRRI research and infrastructure development.

ARBN was established with funds provided by ADB and the German Government's Budenministerium fur Technische Zussamenarbeit, which has been supporting IRRI's development of biotechnological products of direct use to NARSs. ADB supports research and infrastructure development at NARSs with additional funding for training and shuttle research by NARSs scientists at IRRI.

Box 3.2: Asian Maize Biotechnology Network

Member countries of AMBIONET are PRC, India, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand. The network was established in 1998 with financial support from the ADB. AMBIONET emphasizes developing molecular markers for specific traits and using them in the selection of new maize varieties. The goals of AMBIONET are to:

• increase the scientific capacity of Asian maize and biotechnology programs to ensure higher, more stable, and more sustainable maize productivity for farmers in Asia, and thereby help meet the region's rapidly growing demand for maize;

• develop sustainable, environmentally friendly, and natural resource conserving maize production systems;

• empower national programs to effectively use modern biotechnology for maize improvement;

• strengthen the ability of national programs to identify and overcome the key production constraints faced by maize farmers in the region; and

• generate and distribute improved maize cultivars, and implement improved crop management strategies, in collaboration with existing national program personnel, and by using facilities and other resources more effectively to avoid duplication; and ensuring the long-term sustainability of integrated maize and biotechnology research programs in participating countries.

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