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Agricultural Biotechnology

Working papers

Written by John Farrington

The term ‘biotechnology’ covers a wide range of techniques and processes. Some are uncontroversial  and are used widely in both North and South. Molecular biology enhances conventional plant
breeding by increasing our understanding of the genetic basis of crop performance, developing molecular markers, and allowing more rapid detection of plant pathogens. Cell biology and tissue
culture speed the multiplication of disease-free planting material. Genetic modification – introducing specific genes to a crop plant from virtually any species, producing ‘transgenic’ or ‘genetically
modified’ varieties – is more controversial. This is the main focus of this key sheet.

Four main issues relate to the potential role of agricultural biotechnology in the South:
• relevance to poverty reduction;
• environmental and food safety;
• control of the technology; and
• the role of the public sector.

Edited by John Farrington