| Assessing the Impacts of Agricultural Biotechnologies |
The project that is the focus of this meeting is one that has a particular meaning for the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) at this point in its evolution:
· It addresses an area of technology and economic development that is at or near the top of the priority list for almost every country in Latin America (and in many other parts of the world).
· It brings together an array of partners and interested parties from the public and private sectors in both Canada and Latin America that has not been usual for IDRC to date (but that we hope to replicate increasingly).
· It cuts across a range of activities that are rarely approached in an integrated manner in these types of research projects, and in so doing offers an organization like ours an opportunity to learn new things in new ways.
· It is the first project to be planned, funded, and undertaken by the Centre on a corporate basis as an expression of one of its six thematic priorities: Technology and the Environment.
Much of the reading that I have been doing around this project has referred to biotechnology as the gateway to the next Green Revolution. This association raises as many cautions as it does hopes.
Although it is fashionable to deride the last Green Revolution in some quarters, it certainly accomplished many great things:
· It saved some countries from bankruptcy over their food imports.
· It saved billions of people from malnutrition and starvation.
· It brought millions of farmers across the threshold from poverty to the rural middle class.
· It laid the basis for agricultural research systems in the South that enabled many countries to challenge the scientific and technological hegemony of the North.
· It came, however, with costs that have yet to be calculated fully:
· A dependency on agrochemicals that has polluted the soil and water resources of huge areas in many countries and led to new strains of resistant pests.
· A uniformization of the genetic base of many major crops and a neglect of the traditional biodiversity of many environments.
· The marginalization in many countries of large segments of the rural poor.
One of the things that I hope for this project is that the Green Revolution that it foreshadows will be more successful than the last one in taking into account social and environmental needs, in promoting genuinely sustainable agricultural and economic development, and in promoting more balanced partnerships between farmers, industry and scientists, and between North and South. Certainly, if that is to happen, there could not be assembled a better combination of government agencies, industry associations, private enterprises, and research centres than the participants at this workshop represent.
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This file was created 8 April 1996