Current progress of agbiotechnology

In contrast to GR research, which was conducted in the public sector and delivered international public goods had occurred intentionally in developing countries (importantly through CGIAR7 centers' research), most research in biotechnology has been done in developed countries (see also Chapter 3). This research using enabling process technologies privately protected under patents that are now mainly owned by a few large multinational corporations, on commodities that are principally for animal feed and fiber, with traits favorable to large capital-intensive commercial farms and, thus far, without many benefits for final food consumers.

The data in Table 17-2 indicate the global status of this technological revolution as of 2000 (James, 1998 and 2000). They show that expansion of the area planted in transgenic crops has been extraordinarily rapid, rising from zero in 1995 to 44.2 million hectares in 2000 and covering as much as 36% of the area in soybeans, 16% in cotton, 11% in canola, and 7% in maize (James, 2000). While the rate of area expansion declined after 1998, it remains high, still reaching 11% in 2000. There is, however, significant unevenness in diffusion among countries, crops, and traits. As much as 76% of the world area planted in transgenics is located in the developed countries, with the United States alone accounting for 69% of the total. Herbicide-tolerant soybeans and Bt corn (mainly for feed) are the dominant crop-trait combinations, followed by insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant cotton. In Argentina, the developing country by far most advanced in ag-biotechnology, the main transgenics are herbicide-tolerant soybeans, Bt corn, and Bt cotton. The global status of transgenic crops clearly shows developing countries lagging far behind and the purpose of transgenics directed at nonfood crops and principally laborsaving technological change. Observation of the frequency distribution of GMO field trials across countries indicates that several developing countries have advanced research capacity in DNA

6 Close relatives to crop varieties that acquire traits (such as herbicide tolerance) cannot be managed by preferred practices (e.g., a specific herbicide, in this case) and become more difficult to control.

7 The Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is an informal association that supports a network of 16 international agricultural research centers, primarily sponsored by the World Bank, FAO, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

techniques, notably China, Argentina, India, Brazil, Mexico, and Egypt, followed by countries with modest capacity, such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Kenya (Pray, Courtmanche, and Brennan, 1999).

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