nn. (1998), "Editorial: Transgenic crops gain weight."
Biotechnology and Development Monitor, No. 35, p. 2-3.
The development of technology is always related to the socio-economic
context in which it takes place. One important aspect of the development
of modern biotechnology, and especially genetic engineering, is its interrelation
with the adaptation of intellectual property rights. Inventors demand legal
protection to achieve remuneration for the use of their creations. Inventors
in the biological field, however, have specific demands based on characteristics
of the matter they are dealing with: living organisms are able to self-replicate
and therefore contain the "software" to copy the patented invention. In
the case of seeds, a seed saved from the harvest of a patented crop makes
the unwanted distribution of protected technologies possible and probable.
Patents and plant breeders’ rights are legalistic approaches which try
to channel the use in order to raise remuneration for the invention. Now,
a biotechnological invention to control seed sterility makes it possible
to enforce intellectual ownership of newly developed crops. The article
on page 6 of this Monitor describes how the control of biological inventions
included in the seed are likely to affect agricultural developments. What
looks like a technological approach has far reaching consequences which
must be assessed cautiously: positive effects arising from the stimulation
of private investment in crop breeding could be overridden by the detrimental
impact on the practice of seed saving for most farmers in developing countries.
This counterbalancing of impacts is not exclusively valid for crop
development and seeds. The contribution by Bert Visser gives an
overview of the many facets biotechnology has with regards to agricultural
biodiversity. In his view, biotechnology, like all preceding technologies,
has influenced and will further influence agro-biodiversity. In the past,
higher food production based on high-external-input varieties caused the
loss of traditional varieties and their genetic diversity. Modern biotechnology
has the potential to strengthen this effect. On the other hand, placed
in a context which acknowledges the value of in-situ conservation,
its could very well play a role beneficial to preserving agro-biodiversity.
One of the most controversial issues in agricultural biotechnology
is the development and application of transgenic crops. Critics such as
Vanaja Ramprasad, state that the advocates of modern biotechnology
perpetuate the myth that genetic engineering will feed the world. However,
the contribution by Clive James clearly proves that the application
of transgenic crops has left the experimental stage and becomes a realistic
scenario. Is it conceivable or desirable that the future of world agriculture
will be based on transgenic crops? It is likely that modern biotechnology
will contribute to increased productivity. However, the Green Revolution
showed that the issue of food security cannot be narrowed down to higher
yields alone, but that the introduction of new technologies also transports
To date, private sector investment is the moving force behind the progress
that is made in agricultural R&D. How do these activities of the supply-side
take into account the needs of farmers, especially from developing countries?
And if they do, will the advancements be accessible and affordable? Obviously,
the large scale introduction of transgenic crops does not bring an end
to the discussion around their needs and benefits. Instead, it is likely
that with their distribution the need for impact analyses and biotechnology
policies will increase too.
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with acknowledgement of source.