Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries
This paper reviews the tools applied in plant biotechnology and explores the prospects for biotechnology to generate benefits for developing countries. Possible near-term applications are identified. Needed capability in biological research, intellectual property management and biosafety are outlined. The experience of the Rockefeller Foundation in helping to build capacity to use the tools in developing countries is described. Plant biotechnology includes four primary sets of techniques that enhance the capacity of scientists to modify the genetic composition of plants - plant tissue culture, marker assisted breeding, genomics and genetic engineering. These complement other techniques that have long been used by plant breeders and before them farmers to develop crop varieties. Genetic engineering has attracted critical attention because it enables the transfer and functioning of DNA from one species to another, even from bacteria or animals to plants; and although most biological scientists hold there is no significance to the origin of DNA, this possibility has embroiled biotechnology in controversy. The concentration of variety development, seed production and seed sales in less than half a dozen multinational companies, another development that critics find troubling, is an important consequence of extending patenting to plants.
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