Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (Global Issues)
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Abstract There is an urgent need for the advancement of agricultural technology e. Keywords GM technology. Recommended articles Citing articles 0.
If the same technologies were available for local use, they would be treated differently. The focus on specific technologies, however, is guided by the view that multinational corporations not only use innovation as an instrument for international competitiveness but also aggressively promote their protection through intellectual property rights. Reform in intellectual property laws to allow the patenting of biological inventions is one of the most important institutional innovations associated with the rise of biotechnology Dutfield Chakrabarty U.
Chakrabarty dramatically altered intellectual property law as it relates to living matters. The broad interpretation of patentable subject matter under Chakrabarty provided US companies with the promise of patents to protect their investments in new technologies. As a result, US industry greatly expanded its commitment to biotechnology, establishing an early position of world dominance. The Bayh-Dole Act 35 U. The law has been blamed for distorting university research by making it serve corporate interests. On the other hand, Innovation and Its Discontents Jaffe and Lerner suggests that the existing patent system has become a barrier to innovation, and needs to be fixed.
The agreement seeks to ensure international intellectual property protection by prescribing minimum substantive standards for domestic intellectual property legislation, mandating national enforcement mechanisms, and providing mechanisms for the settlement of international disputes. It specifies the obligation of all members of the WTO to provide patents for both product and process inventions in all fields of technology, if they are new, include an inventive step, and are capable of industrial application.
The emergence of biotechnology has raised awareness that biological diversity constitutes an important source of chemical and genetic material of commercial value. This realization has stimulated bioprospecting activities around the world. But the growth in these activities has also resulted in concern about how developing countries can benefit from the commercial use of biological material in their territories, and about equity in the use of the world's biological heritage.
Benefit sharing and access to genetic resources are now the subject of considerable international debate and legislative reform at the national level in many developing countries as part of the implementation of the CBD Laird Guided by this philosophy of competition for resources, the governments of developing countries have aimed to extend sovereign control over biological diversity, which is a key source of input for the biotechnology industry Rosendal The CBD confirmed the basic principle of the sovereign rights of states over their natural resources, which includes the authority to determine access to genetic resources through the enactment of national legislation, as carefully documented in Governing Global Biodiversity Le Prestre The CBD treaty has spurred interest in finding ways to protect traditional knowledge as part of the intellectual heritage of local communities Dutfield Much of the work under the treaty, however, has focused on biosafety at the expense of the conservation objectives that inspired the CBD in the first place Bail et al.
The entry of biotechnology into international trade has been greeted with much concern, including the imposition of restrictions on the importation of transgenic products into Europe that have not been approved for commercial use in the region. Environmental concerns have partly inspired these restrictions Brouwer and Ervin The associated controversies have focused on the extent to which existing trading rules can effectively balance free trade in agriculture and food safety.
On the other hand, some view the global trading system as a mechanism that globalizes hunger Tokar The scope of regulation has come under fire, but the relevance of many of the existing regulatory institutions is now in doubt as well. Regulatory barriers against transgenic crops are emerging because of these concerns. This is true at the national as well as at the global level, as outlined in Agricultural Biotechnology and International Trade Grant Institutional flux has also created considerable uncertainty about the regulation of biotechnology.
Sustained institutional reforms, especially those associated with market liberalization, have created perceptions of laxity in governance systems.
Biotechnology | Center for Science in the Public Interest
International standards-setting bodies such as the WTO have played an important role in prompting safety in international trade Grant But their ability to find a balance between international rules and local environmental interests is being questioned Jasanoff and Martello Much of the concern arises from the need to acknowledge the importance of ecological interrelations at the local and global levels Vertovec and Posey The process of institutional reform to accommodate emerging technologies does not necessarily require the creation of new structures.
The first step would be to adjust existing institutions.
It is equally important to ensure that institutions have competencies that match their regulatory tasks. For example, environmental conventions may not be well suited to the task of overseeing human safety aspects of biotechnology. Such institutional misalignment could only increase the prospects of trade disputes over food safety that could undermine the global trading system Josling et al. Technological innovation is a key driving force in economic transformation. Its application in the economy often goes hand in hand with institutional innovation, as shown in Technology, Growth, and Development Ruttan But transgenic crops are currently limited to soybean, corn, canola, and cotton and are grown mostly in the temperate regions the United States, Canada, and Argentina.
China, Brazil, Uruguay, and South Africa have recently joined the league of producers of transgenic crops James The bulk of the crops contain traits for herbicide tolerance and disease resistance. These trends show that the early diffusion of transgenic crops has been largely in the temperate regions, but other regions of the world, such as Asia, are emerging as major actors Chaturvedi and Rao Developments in biotechnology have been associated with significant discontinuities in production methods and institutional structure.
International Conference on Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (usg) S
The first major discontinuity is the transition from public funding for research to new arrangements that involve greater participation of the private sector Byerlee and Echeverria This is affecting international cooperation and making it difficult for foreign firms that hold key technologies to work effectively with local public institutions that have not developed routines such as the management of intellectual property protection Erbisch and Maredia International agricultural research institutes have adjusted only slowly to this new culture of innovation and continue to seek ways that guarantee their freedom to operate through flexible systems of intellectual property rights; they view the protection of intellectual property rights as a barrier to the diffusion of essential technologies Drahos and Mayne In other words, they argue for a broadening of the public domain NRC Even more fundamental is the past inability of leading international development agencies, such as the World Bank, to establish clear agricultural biotechnology policies.
This is mainly because the governance of such institutions is dominated by members of the United States and European Union who do not share a common view on the role of biotechnology in international development. Such uncertainty about policy also affects international development agencies working on agricultural issues. This makes the challenge of building the requisite capacity to take advantage of emerging technologies more difficult Sagasti Despite the existence of genetic options, we have yet to realize the promise of biotechnology to meet the needs of low-income families in the developing world Thomson There are two main reasons why we have not realized this promise.
First, the public sector has traditionally carried out crop development for low-income families, and the private sector lacks the incentives to invest those biotechnologies that have emerged in crops for low-income families. Second, agricultural research in the public sector has been declining over the years; thus, little investment has gone into developing crops for low-income families Runge et al. It is unlikely that the situation will change without a redirection of existing research priorities in private enterprises through the provision of appropriate incentives as well as a significant increase in public-sector funding for agricultural research.
In addition, the facilitation of closer cooperation between private and public institutions requires the creation of institutional arrangements. Efforts to redirect biotechnology to address the needs of low-income families in developing countries should be part of a larger policy framework that addresses other social issues.
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More important, such strategies should be components of policies designed to use science and technology to achieve sustainable development goals, as proposed in Ecoagriculture McNeely and Scherr In addition, biotechnology is one of the tools in a larger portfolio of technological options. In this regard, biotechnology is simply a set of tools and the embodied knowledge needed to solve specific problems and create supportive institutions.
This view does not imply that technology is neutral. The choice of technological trajectories often reflects the economic, social, and cultural context from which it emerges. This does not mean that its use always reproduces the same conditions that characterized its origins.
Indeed, the techniques of biotechnology embody the flexibility that makes it possible for them to be applied under different farming systems. It is true that biotechnology is currently used mainly in large-scale agriculture in the United States, but the same technology is also being used in small-scale agriculture in China, South Africa, and Kenya.
What matters, therefore, is the choice of farming systems. Redirecting global research efforts to focus on development challenges will entail considerable international cooperation, increases in public funding, and incentives for private enterprise. It will also require the creation of an atmosphere that is tolerant to the use of emerging technologies in implementing sustainable development goals. Nevertheless, where international cooperation is not possible, bilateral responses that might include realignments in international trade relations will become the only option open to countries that view biotechnology as strategic to their mutual interests.
Such a scenario is already emerging as countries with strong biotechnology-based industries sign bilateral cooperation arrangements. Many developing countries are reluctant to engage in biotechnology development because they fear that some industrialized countries would erect barriers against their products. These are real concerns that have created an atmosphere of distrust likely to undermine the global trading system as well as the ability of developing countries to meet their human needs.
Emerging trends suggest that, in the early phases of biotechnology, developing countries are likely to focus their attention toward transgenic crops for local consumption rather than for international markets. This is partly because of the prevailing uncertainty over export markets and because of the preference of biotechnology enterprises for limiting the use of their technology to nonexport uses.
Such a trajectory is helping to bring biotechnology in line with the initial expectations of using these techniques to meet human needs. But the extent to which such a trajectory will make a significant difference will depend on other factors, such as the availability of capabilities for technology management. So far, only a small number of developing countries have such capabilities.
The literature outlines the contours of a new world in which advances in the biological sciences influence the design of technological systems and the shaping of social relations. Not only will society benefit from biological technologies, it will increasingly apply biological metaphors in designing new technologies and shaping social institutions.
The movement from the mechanistic worldview toward a systemic outlook is not an ephemeral occurrence, but a fundamental transition that, in retrospect, will take on the proportions of a major shift in our worldview. The emerging literature shows more complex socioeconomic settings that are dominated by the coevolution of technological innovation and institutional adjustment. The studies weave a clear tapestry whose patterns will help guide future research on the emergence of the interactions between technology and institutions in the global economy.
Lessons from these experiences will be relevant in addressing policy concerns regarding emerging fields such as nanotechnology and new materials UN Millennium Project This article is based in part on sections of my forthcoming book, Taming the Gene: Biotechnology in the Global Economy. I am grateful to the Rockefeller Foundation for supporting its background research. I am also indebted to Catherine Verdier for securing many of the books cited in this article, and to Christe S.
Bruderlin, Andrea Haffter, and Brian Torpy for additional research assistance. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Sign In or Create an Account.
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