| Marine biotechnology and developing countries |
This report focuses on a rapidly emerging science-based technology - marine biotechnology. The term "marine biotechnology" differs in meaning among scientists. We think of marine biotechnology as a collection of research and developmental activities in the biological, chemical and environmental sciences that occur in or are related to the marine environment. Only a few specialized facilities, located mostly in the United States and Japan are dedicated to research exclusively in marine biotechnology. However, many more laboratories have researchers working in marine biotechnology related areas.
"Emerging," for the purpose of this report, means that the technology is at a stage in its developmental cycle when practical applications engendered by the technology are being identified and laboratory processes and techniques are being moved into practice. Looking at the term from another perspective, an emerging technology is one that the public and its representatives begin to recognize as having the potential to generate new scientific knowledge and produce useful new products and processes. Marine biotechnology research has produced a few applications to date, but its potential economic effects are substantial, to be realized in five or ten years.
Many island and riparian developing countries are fortunate in possessing territories of subtropical and tropical marine waters that shelter a large diversity of estuarine and marine life. At the same time, large areas of their marine and coastal environments suffer from the detrimental effects of manmade pollutants. The largest promises of marine biotechnology are thus in two areas. First, some of its techniques may be deployed for the sustainable exploitation of natural resources under environmentally sound conditions; and second, other marine biotechnology techniques can be used to break down pollutants, to alleviate environmental damage.
The intent of this report is to introduce marine biotechnology to nonspecialists, clarify its relevance to developing countries, and outline the role of the World Bank and of other international agencies in helping to advance it. However, marine biotechnology cannot be considered in isolation; after all, it is that intersect where biotechnology meets and overlaps with the marine environment and its living resources. A brief review of relevant aspects of the oceans and the life they support and an introduction to the wider field of biotechnology are useful as a starting point. Thus, Chapter 1 sets the stage for the marine part of marine biotechnology by briefly describing and discussing certain aspects of the marine environment that are pertinent to biotechnology. In Chapter 2 is found a primer on biotechnology, consisting of a review of its history, a presentation of recent developments in this field, and an explanation of its "classic" and "advanced" components. Special attention is given to advanced biotechnology, including its workforce and equipment requirements and the possible risks biotechnology research, testing and products may pose to scientific workers and society. Chapter 3 is the heart of this review; it defines marine biotechnology and provides a description of major sub-areas (suggestions for how marine biotechnology should be defined are found in Appendix C). Our consideration of marine biotechnology continues in Chapter 4, where options for developing countries in this field delineated and analyzed. Specifically, each of the nine subareas of marine biotechnology is assessed in terms of promise for developing countries in the short and medium term and the degree of difficulty inherent in capability building (we
list institutes in developing countries whose work programs encompass marine biotechnology or related areas in Appendix A). Methods for building capability in biotechnology and in marine biotechnology are explained in Chapter ~ (some specific requirements for advanced biotechnology R&D are listed in Appendix B). Examples of projects in marine biotechnology and related areas supported by major intergovernmental agencies, including the World Bank, are presented in Chapter 6. In Chapter 7 we elaborate explicit proposals for how the World Bank can promote marine biotechnology capability building in developing countries, including ensuring that results from research are applied in national problem solving and for economic development. We conclude the substantive part of the report with a short essay on why it is important now for developing countries to commit to capability building in marine biotechnology and why intergovernmental organizations should assist in this endeavor.
This report is intended mainly for World Bank professionals who in the future may formulate and administer projects in marine biotechnology. Thus, the language is largely nontechnical, and when technical terms are used they are defined. In addition, a glossary of technical terms is provided. Those who wish to delve more deeply into the subject matter may consult the references.