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Project

Agricultural Biotechnology & Policy Processes in Developing Countries

Modern agricultural biotechnology has profound implications for global and local agricultural and food systems, and for the livelihoods of farmers in the developed and developing worlds. The actual consequences will depend on the pathways along which the technology is developed and applied in practice.

The implications may be positive or negative; but the outcomes are not predetermined and are not inherent in biotechnology itself. On the contrary: the outcomes will depend on issues of governance – the policy and regulatory choices of governments, scientists, companies and others.

The policy processes surrounding new agricultural biotechnologies involve a wide range of actors holding diverse interests, including scientists, government officials, international organisations, local and transnational companies, farmers’ organisations, consumers, environmentalists and development campaigners, among others.

These policy processes occur at different scales, ranging from local negotiations about priorities for agricultural technology, to global debates concerning trade, property rights, biosafety regulation and the protection of biodiversity.

Globalisation and technology

Given the rapid pace of technological change, the pace of economic globalisation and the changing international context for regulation, the development of effective national and local policy processes is a major challenge for all countries, and especially for countries of the South. And yet, it is a vitally important goal, if we are to ensure that appropriate, coherent, effective and legitimate policies and regulations are adopted and implemented.

Unless we can take steps to make policy processes better informed, more inclusive and responsive, there is a serious risk that agricultural biotechnology could, not only fail to deliver the promised benefits for agriculture and poor farmers, but even expose such farmers to heightened risks and undermine their livelihoods.

However, relatively little work has been undertaken to examine how these local, national and international policy processes work in practice, and especially the linkages between the three levels. Most importantly, there has been a lack of critical attention to the ways in which the policy processes connecting local, national and international levels can be made more inclusive and responsive to the needs of normally less powerful groups, so that the emerging policies and regulations support the livelihood needs of poor people in developing countries.

The work described in these pages makes up a three year programme of interlinked research projects examining these issues, from various perspectives and including case studies of the situation in four developing countries: China, India, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Collaborators

The projects involved researchers from IDS in collaboration with partners from the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD, London, UK); the Chinese Centre for Agricultural Policy at the Chinese Academy of Science (CCAP-CAS, Beijing); the Biotechnology Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (BRI-CAAS); the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS, Delhi); Research and Information Systems for the Non-aligned and Other Developing Countries (RIS, Delhi, India); the National Law School, University of India (Bangalore); the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS, Nairobi, Kenya); the Institute of Social Studies (ISS, the Hague, Netherlands); and the University of the Western Cape (Cape Town, South Africa), together with independent researchers based in Zimbabwe.

Key contacts

Project details

start date
31 March 2000
end date
1 April 2003
value
£0

About this project

Research themes
Sustainability

Recent work

Publication

Transgenic cotton: A ‘pro-poor’ success?

Many policy makers, journalists and politicians are keen to celebrate the 'pro-poor success' of genetically modified (GM, transgenic) crops in developing countries.

10 June 2009

Working Paper

Rights and Risk: Challenging Biotechnology Policy in Zimbabwe

IDS Working Paper 2014

Human rights have become a key focus of law and development, yet they remain conspicuously absent from the regulatory and policy regimes for the use and development of modern agricultural biotechnology. In contrast to rights approaches biotechnology law and policy is concerned with individual...

Jennifer Clare

1 January 2003

Book

Can agricultural biotechnology be pro-poor?

A recent well-publicised book, by the director- general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and World Food Prize winner, Per Pinstrup-Andersen, opens with a story. The story is one of a ‘skinny three-year-old girl’ who ‘lay dying on a mat, surrounded by crying...

1 January 2003

Working Paper

Domesticating Global Policy on GMOs: Comparing India and China

This paper compares the way in which two leading developing countries in the global debate on biotechnology have sought to translate policy commitments contained in international agreements on trade and biosafety into workable national policy.

1 January 2003