The Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) is an IFPRI-managed program that facilitates the responsible use of agricultural biotechnology in Africa and Asia. PBS has influenced the design of biosafety regulatory frameworks and the implementation of biosafety systems in several countries, including Ethiopia (by addressing regulatory constraints for technology development), Kenya (through implementation guidelines for the biosafety bill), Nigeria (through the National Biosafety Bill), Uganda (through field trials and facilitation of pending biosafety legislation), and Vietnam (through the country’s first confined field trial). The project has also pioneered the use of the IFPRI net-mapping methodology (an interview-based mapping tool that outlines the different actors and areas of influence in a given location) to better inform outreach to biotechnology stakeholders in key countries.
This program seeks to assess the actual or potential economic impact of new seed-based technologies, the constraints to their delivery and adoption, and the conditions under which they are most likely to succeed. In a project in India that led to much international discussion, IFPRI conducted research on the interaction of seed-based technologies and social issues, particularly farmer suicides. Suicides, including farmer suicides, are complex, and their underlying causes need to be addressed within an equally complex societal framework. Although officially recognized for having increased production and farmers’ income, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton—a genetically modified, insect-resistant variety of cotton—remains highly controversial in India. It is accused of, among other things, being the main cause of a resurgence of farmer suicides. Based on a comprehensive review of primary sources during the five-year period in question (2002–07), IFPRI researchers concluded that there is no evidence in the available data of a rise in farmer suicides in India or of a linkage between farmer suicides and Bt cotton.
The Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) initiative is an IFPRI-facilitated program that compiles, analyzes, and publicizes data on agricultural research and development (R&D). ASTI released new internationally comparable data on investments, human resources, and institutional developments in public and private agricultural R&D for Sub-Saharan Africa. The main findings show that the overall level of investment and number of researchers in agricultural R&D in the region rose from 2000 to 2008, although there were significant differences between countries. Many countries reported sharp declines in investment, extremely fragile agricultural R&D funding systems, and high levels of donor dependency. Other concerns in a number of countries include the deterioration of average qualification levels of research staff, the non-replacement of retiring research staff, and the aging of well-qualified researchers.
Other focal areas under the Science and Technology theme include: