As noted in more detail in Chapter 3, the GR started with the release of hybrid maize in the United States in the 1950s (Griliches, 1957). It was
2 IPR policy is national: Countries have sovereign control of the granting of private property rights over intellectual materials within their own borders. However, recent international treaties have strongly influenced many developing countries' domestic IPR legislation, including the Convention on Biodiversity and the World Trade Organization Trade Related Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement.
extended to the developing countries with the introduction of semidwarf varieties of rice and wheat in the mid-1960s. The GR in developing countries can be decomposed into two epochs:
GR I (1965-1975): The main purpose of research was to achieve rapid increases in yields through high-yielding varieties (HYVs), and success was immense, creating large indirect effects for the poor via declining staple food prices and rising employment in agriculture and related activities. Direct poverty reduction effects were, however, small and often negative: HYVs were designed for the best areas (irrigation, high soil fertility) with chemical-intensive technology (Byerlee, 1996). They consequently diffused first among commercial farmers, sometimes with backlash effects on nonadopting poor farmers through falling prices (Scobie and Posada, 1978). This first epoch also often had negative environmental effects through genetic erosion and chemical run-offs.
GR II (1975-today): Research was aimed at the broadening of desirable traits to consolidate yield gains and to extend the benefits of the GR to other crops, areas, and types of farmers. This allowed the increase of pest and drought resistance. The benefits of the GR were thus extended toward rainfed areas (Byerlee and Moya, 1993) and small farms, enhancing direct effects on poverty. These technological innovations were, however, not able to prevent a steady decline in the growth of yields, reducing the pace of gains in poverty reduction through indirect effects compared to GR I.
Three major scientific developments are creating a new generation of technological change in agriculture: The information technology revolution that opened the field of precision farming, the better understanding of ecological systems that underlies production ecology, and the genetic revolution that launched biotechnology. While intellectually separate, these three technological advances should be seen as complementary in the domain of applications.
i) Precision farming is one of the major impacts of the information revolution on agriculture (Wolf and Buttel, 1996). It is based on information derived from global positioning satellite systems and electronic monitoring, and processed through a geographical information system. This allows farmers to take into account the heterogeneity of their fields over space and time, and to adapt cultural practices to that heterogeneity through variable rates in planting densities, chemical applications, and irrigation doses, and through just-in-time application of treatments. This increased precision is applied to the use of traditional agricultural technologies: chemical fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, tractor-based mechanization, and genetically uniform HYVs. Fine tuning in the use of these technologies has postponed decreasing returns and reduced pollution where there was overuse of chemicals.
In the industrialized countries, precision farming allows farmers to deal with heterogeneity in spite of scale, recuperating the informational advantages of small-scale farming at a larger scale. Hence, information technology has been used to disaggregate large heterogeneous farms into locationally differentiated management practices. In the developing countries, information technology has been used to aggregate heterogeneous small-scale plots into homogenous (spatially disconnected) mega-environments to which common technological practices can be applied (CIMMYT, 2001). While monitoring in the industrialized countries is done at the farm level, it is done through centralized services in developing countries such as weather stations, satellite monitoring of biomass, and regional intelligence on insect infestations.
ii) Production ecology uses the concept of the agroecosystem as the fundamental unit of analysis (Harwood, 1998). Such systems are characterized by complex biological processes and relationships through which a multitude of species interacts. Production ecology starts from the analysis of these processes, and defines a set of interventions to modify them to achieve desirable outcomes. Interventions thus include the management of carbon flows and biota, increased nutrient cycling from soil to crops, integrated pest management and ecologically based pest management, diversified farming with crop rotations and multiple cropping, the provision of ecosystem services (hydrological cycling, wildlife habitat, preservation of animal and plant diversity, and landscape management), and use of carbon sinks to improve atmospheric chemical balance. The approach has been successfully pursued in agroforestry systems (e.g., by ICRAF, the International Center for Research on Agro-Forestry) and agroecology for smallholders (e.g., by CLADES, the Latin American Consortium on Agroecology and Sustainable Development). Except in the organic agriculture movement, it has not yet gained mainstream recognition but offers considerable promise.
iii) Biotechnology is based on the understanding of how biological organisms function at the molecular level, and manipulation of organisms at the cellular and molecular level, including the DNA molecules that constitute organisms' genetic code, to achieve desirable outcomes (Chapter 12).
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