As the needs and wants of farmers, plant breeders, molecular biologists, and gene-bank managers change, genetic resource policies must also shift. IFPRI research under this theme aims to promote sustainable management of agricultural biodiversity by improving poor farmers’ access to diverse resources. In 2010, researchers completed a pilot case study in Colombia on women cotton farmers and their perceptions of and experiences with transgenic varieties. Overall, women expressed the view that the technology’s greatest advantage was its ability to save them money during critical activities—particularly pesticide and chemical applications—that would otherwise require them to hire and supervise men. The technology’s main advantage, as men explained it, was its capacity to result in higher yields and profits.
Studies in this area analyze agricultural research-and-development investments and policies and evaluate the factors that inhibit or enhance that research and development. In the past year, results from the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia study established a strong and positive association between intellectual property rights, private investment in agricultural research, and agricultural productivity growth in pearl millet and maize in India. The evidence supports the need for policy reforms that might encourage similar investment and productivity growth for rice and wheat.
The Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) project conducted a study on public agricultural research-and-development spending in Sub-Saharan Africa, which culminated in the publication of 32 country notes, a food policy report (African Agricultural R&D in the New Millennium), datasets, and other outputs. The analysis shows that public investments in research and development and related capacities in Sub-Saharan Africa increased by about 20 percent from 2001 to 2008. This increase, however, was largely the result of government efforts to augment incommensurate salary levels and rehabilitate neglected infrastructure after years of underinvestment. Similarly, despite overall capacity growth, average qualification levels for scientists and researchers have deteriorated in a number of countries, in response to prolonged recruitment restrictions and inadequate training opportunities.
The Program for Biosafety Systems empowers developing countries interested in accessing the tools and products of modern agricultural biotechnology by providing expertise and capacity building to establish rational and predictable biosafety frameworks. In 2010, the program assisted the Government of Kenya in implementing its new biosafety law and the Government of Uganda in dealing with biosafety issues surrounding commercialization of biotech crops. It also facilitated the first biotech field trial in Vietnam and worked with Nigerian stakeholders to develop a strategic and coordinated action plan for developing and approving a biosafety law. IFPRI research helped inform the decisionmaking process for all of these actions. Researchers also looked at policy issues related to the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and presented their findings at side events during the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan.