Data and Previous Findings on Genetic Flows

Several previous studies have looked at the flows of genetic material in cultivated crops. Evenson and Gollin (1997) provide an analysis of genetic flows in rice. Byerlee and Moya (1993), Smale et al. (1996), Smale and McBride (1996), and Maredia et al. (1995, 1996) document flows in wheat. These studies examine the borrowing of varieties and parental materials in national breeding programmes over time. This chapter goes beyond previous work by accounting for flows of ancestral germplasm in rice. The aim is to ask to what extent each rice-growing country is cultivating varieties that are based on 'foreign' landrace ancestors. This is the kind of calculation which would determine patterns of compensation under a global system of farmers' rights. For example, if farmers in Brazil are growing rice varieties that incorporate germplasm from Chinese landraces, the Convention on Biological Diversity (as currently interpreted) would suggest that Brazil would need to pay China some compensation. Similarly, if Chinese varieties incorporate germplasm from Brazilian landraces, a reciprocal flow of compensation would take place. There is not yet any agreement on how genetic contributions would be assessed or on how value would be assigned, but in principle the kind of analysis undertaken in this chapter would be relevant in assessing compensation levels.

This study draws on a database of 1709 modern rice varieties released since the early 1960s.5 For each of these released varieties, a complete genealogy was assembled. This included the date and origin of the cross on which the variety was based, as well as the data and origin of all parents, grandparents and other ancestors. Thus ancestry was traced back to original progenitors - in most cases, landraces or wild species.6 Table 17.1 gives the frequency of release by country and by time period. Where release dates were not available, approximate dates were estimated based on available information. The data set includes materials from numerous countries, but it is relatively more complete for rice-producing countries of South and Southeast Asia than for those from other regions. India, in particular, is represented in the data set at a level that appears to be disproportionately large, with 643 varieties. Although India's breeding programmes have a long and productive history, the data set probably reflects a bias towards India based on the extensive and available data.7 For a number of reasons, Japanese varieties were not included in this analysis.8 The data indicate that numbers of released varieties rose steadily during the 1970s but have stabilized over the past 15 years. In some countries and regions, however, such as Latin America, varietal release totals have climbed markedly in the most recent period.

Previous analysis of these data (Evenson and Gollin, 1997) indicated that the international borrowing of modern varieties has been widespread. Flows of advanced varieties have included both direct release in one country of varieties developed elsewhere and indirect borrowing, chiefly through the use of foreign-developed varieties as parent materials. Of the 1709 released varieties, 390 (24%) were the result of a cross made outside the releasing country. The IRRI

Table 17.1. Numbers of varieties included in the data set, by country and by time period.

Country/region Pre-1965 1966-70 1971-75 1976-80 1981-85 1986-91 Total

Table 17.1. Numbers of varieties included in the data set, by country and by time period.

Country/region Pre-1965 1966-70 1971-75 1976-80 1981-85 1986-91 Total

Africa

3

7

6

17

26

2

61

Bangladesh

1

7

8

11

4

33

64

Burma

0

4

6

21

37

8

76

China

9

1

8

30

31

12

91

India

10

68

136

139

125

166

644

Indonesia

1

2

5

21

10

9

48

Korea

0

5

11

35

40

15

106

Latin America

7

9

48

32

43

100

239

Nepal

0

0

1

10

4

2

17

Oceania

0

1

4

1

0

0

6

Pakistan

0

4

2

3

3

0

12

The Philippines

3

4

13

23

8

2

53

Sri Lanka

3

14

4

8

21

3

53

Taiwan

0

3

0

3

0

0

6

Thailand

1

2

4

8

5

3

23

USA

2

5

18

17

3

6

51

Vietnam

0

16

6

16

16

5

59

Other SE Asia

2

1

8

7

6

5

29

Other

0

7

15

15

15

19

71

Total

42

160

303

417

397

390

1709

was the source for 294 (17%) of these varieties. Other national programmes were the source for 96 releases. After IRRI, India was the next largest exporter of varieties, with 28 Indian varieties released elsewhere. India was also a large importer of varieties; 70 of its 643 varieties originated elsewhere, with 53 from IRRI. Sri Lankan varieties were released 11 times in other countries. Twelve Thai varieties were released in Myanmar. Myanmar was one of the largest importers of rice varieties; 43 of its 76 releases were imported varieties, including varieties from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, IRRI, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Perhaps more remarkable than the direct international flows of varieties have been the international flows of parents of the varieties. Nearly three-quarters of the varieties in the data set (1263) have at least one imported parent. Including imported varieties, 810 releases (47%) have at least one parent from IRRI, and 619 (36%) have at least one parent from another national programme. Excluding imported varieties, more than 500 varieties have at least one parent from IRRI. Excluding both imported varieties and those with IRRI parents, more than 350 released varieties have at least one parent from another national programme. This indicates that importing of parent materials is taking place across national programmes on a large scale.

The extent of international exchange - both of varieties and of parents -implies that a large majority of the varieties in the data set were developed using breeding lines from outside the country of release. In fact, only 145 varieties out of 1709 (8.5%) were developed entirely from own-country parents, grandparents and other ancestors. Most of these were simple varieties with fewer than four ancestors in their pedigree. The extent of this international flow of germplasm is extraordinary. No country in the data set has failed to take advantage of unimproved or improved germplasm from other countries.

But the flows of germplasm described above are essentially flows of advanced lines, primarily developed in public institutions. It is not clear whether these would be covered by any form of IPR protection under the Convention on Biological Diversity. There are no issues of farmers' rights that can be immediately discerned here. If India uses IRRI-bred varieties to develop its own modern lines, but the IRRI-bred varieties depend in turn on Indian germplasm, there is no issue of compensation.9 Thus, in the next section, these flows of advanced lines and modern varieties are considered implicitly to represent flows of landrace materials.

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