|dc.description||With the growing need for increased agricultural productivity in ACP States, many believe that biotechnology has a key role to play in improving the quantity and quality of crop yields. Provided they are properly integrated into production systems, biotechnological innovations offer new opportunities to increase productivity. Often, too, they allow users to switch to more sustainable and ecologically friendly production systems, for example, by reducing dependence on chemicals to control pests and diseases.
Yet biotechnology applications are owned primarily by private corporations, and the benefits of these technologies are generally not accessible to most developing countries. To overcome this, a new institutional mechanism, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), was created in 1991. It is sponsored by public and private sector institutions, including many donor agencies, and aims to transfer agri-biotech applications from the North, particularly proprietary technology from the private sector, to developing countries.
In its 'altruistic dissemination of biotechnology', ISAAA has a five-pronged approach. It assists countries in identifying biotechnological needs and priorities, and in assessing potential socio-economic impacts. It monitors available applications, and provides honest broker services, matching needs and appropriate proprietary technologies. It mobilises funds from donor agencies. Finally, it provides advice on the safe and responsible testing of biotech products, on biosafety and food safety regulatory procedures, and socio-economic analysis.
So far, ISAAA has developed programmes with institutions in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Caribbean: in total twelve countries, including Kenya and Zimbabwe. Among the projects it is involved with in private-public partnerships are: transfer of a selectable gene marker in cassava (Novartis Seeds/Africa & Latin America); South-South transfer of virus resistant potatoes (Mexico and Kenya); tissue culture to revive banana production in Kenya (South Africa/Kenya); virus resistance in maize (John Innes Centre, UK/Kenya/PanAfrican); micropropagation and distribution of multipurpose trees (South Africa/Kenya); and virus resistance in sweet potatoes (Monsanto/Kenya/East Africa).
In addition to a scholarship programme, ISAAA publishes a series of 'briefs' on such topics as biotechnology transfer and partnerships in international agricultural research. It works with other organisations in disseminating biosafety information and publishes biosafety documents for wide distribution. For example, they were involved in the production of two special volumes of the African Crop Sciences Journal devoted to biosafety. A scholarship programme helps to develop the body of biotechnology researchers in developing countries.
ISAAA AfriCenter CIP
P O Box 25171,
ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya.
Fax: +254 2 631 599/005
260 Emerson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-1902, USA.
Fax: +1 607 255 1215