Note: Figures are based on information gathered from 22 international research programs that include activities in crop research. For this table, we used those research activities with a specific applied objective, excluding research activities aimed toward general technology development. From IBS BioServe Database, 1997.

1994). This percentage of available resources increases their ability to solve technical problems, as defined in this chapter, and as shown in the examples below. However, this also means that a much smaller amount of resources is available to address questions of a more adaptive nature arising as their products move from research into agricultural production, and then enter the broader agroecosystem, confronting human health or valuation considerations (Antle, 1994).

Anticipating Adaptive Challenges for Developing Countries

Over the past 4 years, IBS has organized a series of Agricultural Biotechnology Policy Seminars, held regionally for collaborating countries. In these seminars, attention is given to examples of biotechnology providing solutions to technical problems faced by farmers in developing countries. These same examples are

Table 3 Cloned Genes of Interest for Crop Plant Improvement and Related Applications of the International Biotechnology Programs

General Category9

Specific Examples8

International Biotechnology Program Applicationsb

Disease resistance: viruses

Fungal diseases

Insect resistance

Storage protein genes Carbohydrate products


Breeding systems

Flower color Herbicide resistance

Virus coat protein subunits (TMV, cucumber mosaic, potato virus X) Potato leaf roll virus Potato virus S

Soilborne wheat mosaic virus Plum pox virus Tomato spotted wilt virus Viral replicase gene (PVX)

Chitinase gene, H1 gene for resistance to H carbonum from maize, systemin gene — a peptide signal molecule which controls wound response in plants, infectious viral CDNA B.t. genes, cowpea trypsin inhibitor, wheat agglutinin gene for resistance to European corn borer

Wheat low-molecular-weight glutenin gene, maize storage protein Polyhydroxybutyrate as an alternative to starch for the production of biodegradable plastics Antisense polygalaturonase in tomato, regulation of ACC synthase gene Self-incompatibility genes from Brassica, anther specific genes used for male sterility with a ribonuclease gene

Petunia, Antirrhinum Glyphosate, bialaphos, and imidazolinone resistance

African cassava mosaic virus, common cassava mosaic virus

Bean gemini viruses Rice stripe virus, yellow mottle virus, tungo virus, ragged stunt Potato virus X and Y Tomato yellow leaf curl virus Sweet potato feathery mottle virus

Groundnut stripe virus, Rosette virus, and clump virus

Potato late blight Rice blast

B.t. toxin genes applied to borers in maize, rice, sugarcane, potato, coffee Potato glandular trichomes Sweet potato weevil Pigonpea: Heiicoverpa and podfly

No applications reported

No applications reported

No applications reported

Male sterility in rice

No applications reported No applications reported a General categories and specific examples from Day, 1993.

b Examples from IBS (1994) BBioServe database of international agricultural biotechnology programs.

explored with regard to the adaptive challenges posed when new technologies enter agricultural systems. As in many complex social situations, agricultural managers and policy makers can face substantially more complex adaptive challenges from situations originally perceived as technical in nature. Often, the problem itself is unclear because of divergent opinions regarding the nature of the problem and its possible solutions (Heifetz, 1996). One stakeholder's technical solution is another stakeholder's adaptive challenge. In these cases, there is also often disagreement among scientific experts, particularly at early stages of problem definition, hence the time needed for learning.

In the seminars, technical examples are explored from the perspective of multi-disciplinary and diverse national delegations. In facilitating these delegations, IBS ensures involvement of individuals with responsibility for, or vested interest in, the design, implementation, and use of agricultural biotechnology. This range of stakeholder interests enriches the debates which occur within each delegation as the delegates identify needs for services to help with the learning phase of adaptive work, often taking the form of policy dialogues, management recommendations, or responses needed for various international agreements. As such, IBS builds on scientific data and available understanding to expand discussions to address the broader needs of stakeholders, including policy makers, managers, and researchers, and farmers, end users or non-governmental organizations (Komen et al., 1996).

Seminar Findings

Participant action planning methodology, carried out by the 17 attending countries, identified needs and/or constraints. In total, 227 needs were identified from the delegations. These needs were systematically analyzed, identifying nine general policy issues, their relative degree of emphasis, and whether or not there was a convergence of these needs (Table 4). In addition, seven implementation issues and three issues related to priority setting have been summarized. Most relevant to a discussion on new technologies and agroecosystem diversity are the needs identified for biosafety, socioeconomics, and priority setting. Here, the specific needs related very clearly to the adaptive policy challenges facing developing countries, particularly those located in centers of diversity. These issues will be presented later, in the section on Quality Indicators and New Technologies.


In the most recent policy seminar for selected countries of Latin America, three case studies were presented on issues related to biotechnology, productivity, and the environment. These case examples are most relevant to the discussion above. They illustrate solutions to agricultural problems having, to a greater or lesser extent, an adaptive and technical component (Roca et al., 1998; Serratos, 1998; Whalon and Norris, 1998).

Table 4 Number of Policy Needs Identified by Members of 17 National Delegations Attending Policy Seminars for Africa, Asia, and Latin America

No. of Countries No. of Needs Convergent

General Policy Issues Responding Identified Needs

1 Biosafety 14 19 4

2 Socioeconomic assessment 12 19 3

3 Integration 9 11 2

4 Policy development/coordination 9 9 2

5 End user/beneficiary linkages 9 10 2

6 Technology transfer system 8 8 2

7 Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) 7 8 3

8 Biodiversity 6 7 3

9 Public awareness 5 5 1

The first example uses the introduction of improved rice varieties with the potential to curtail use of toxic and expensive fungicides. This case is primarily technical, as the products and techniques used have not posed adaptive challenges. In this case, the new varieties are not products of transgenic technologies. Rather, biotechnology tools have been used after varietal development to understand sources of resistance and to type resistance against lineages of the pathogen. For the second case, the introduction of maize containing novel sources of resistance to insect pests is considered. In the case of maize, insect resistance is derived from transgenic technologies allowing for the insertion of genes encoding a pesticide from bacteria. In the third case, broader implications of managing and deploying transgenic crops using Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.) technologies are considered. As can be seen from the maize and the B.t. examples, complex situations can be anticipated when introducing new inputs into traditional agroecosystems.

The Case of Durable Resistance to Rice Blast Fungus

Blast is the most widespread and damaging disease of rice. When control is needed, and is not present in the form of cultivar resistance, then fungicide treatments are applied which may not be effective, economically sound, or desirable from an environmental perspective. Conventional resistance has been made available genetically, but it has traditionally been weakened or lost after 3 years. However, durable resistance has been achieved in rice cultivars using conventional breeding, resulting in Oryzica Llanos 5, developed as a resistant variety by Centro International de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), the National Federation of Rice Growers, and the National Research Institute of Colombia (F. Correa-Victoria, personal communication).

The variety was introduced to tropical agroecosystems in Colombia and represented a technical solution to the problem of blast, as well as the potential to improve system quality by reducing the unwise or ineffective use of fungicides. The cultivar was adopted across Colombia in the season following its release, and has been planted in at least 50,000 ha/year until 1996. Since then, newer high-yielding cul-tivars were released and widely adopted by farmers (F. Correa-Victoria, personal communication).

More recently, techniques derived from biotechnology have been coupled to these applied breeding strategies (Tohme et al., 1992; Roca et al., 1998). These molecular tools are helping to understand the mechanisms controlling durable resistance in Oryzica Llanos 5 by typing resistance genes to different genetic families of blast, identifying molecular markers associated with resistance genes in other highly resistant cultivars, and guiding rice breeders in selection of potential parents leading to lines with durable blast resistance. Genes are being identified that express resistance to six pathotype lineages of the blast pathogen. This analysis depended on the use of DNA probes containing cloned fragments of the blast fungus genome which could then be used to construct DNA fingerprints of the fungus. Molecular markers were then used by breeders to confirm the manipulation and selection of various sources of resistance to these six lineages of the blast fungus. This resistance will bring a reduction in the use of fungicides by farmers as in the case of the cultivar Oryzica Llanos 5 (Tohme et al., 1992).

Decreases in the use of fungicides as a result of farmers growing these new varieties have been reported. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to review these data at this time. Measures of declining use of fungicides in agroecosystems of Colombia can be estimated, in that farmers' expenditures on these chemicals range from 6 to 50% of total crop protection costs. Actual estimates of how much farmers have saved over this period of time and how much the use of fungicides has been reduced as a result of resistance will be obtained later (F. Correa-Victoria, personal communication).

The Case of Bacillus thuringiensis and Transgenic Crops

By using genetic engineering, it is possible to introduce novel sources of insect resistance to crop plants. In this case, resistance comes from genes encoding the production of various endotoxins, which is being done by some of the international programs as shown in Tables 2 and 3, including work on maize. Engineered varieties would eventually be suitably adapted for growth in areas of Latin America, some areas of which are associated with centers of diversity for maize. It is essential to prepare Latin American countries for the advent of transgenic maize containing genes for insect resistance, for which it is claimed that dependence on pesticides would be eliminated, thereby enhancing the quality of the agroecosystem.

Studies on the introduction of transgenic maize in Mexico were one of the cases selected by IBS for the Latin American seminar. Serratos (1998) stated that research criteria for transgenic corn to be introduced in Mexico should be based on characterization of agroecological, social, and economic aspects of the area where it is to be grown. The introduction of transgenic cultivars seems inevitable to developing countries. Thus, it is important to consider the impact of transgenic cultivars on the agroecosystems of countries with extensive diversity of native germplasm.

Research on the use of endotoxins in maize is also being done on tropical maize at CIMMYT's (Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo) Applied Biotechnology Center. These activities include screening of cloned B.t. genes for toxicity against Heliothis zea and other tropical maize pests. They are also working on the transformation of tropical maize inbreds containing cry gene constructs and greenhouse evaluations of acquired transgenic germplasm containing cry gene(s) and introgression of cry gene(s) into tropical germplasm (IBS, 1994).

Research at CIMMYT and by commercial companies on hybrid maize suitable for growth in tropical climates suggests the need for further study of their potential effects on these complex agroecosystems. Thus, it is important to study, as a multi-institutional task, gene flow and biological risks which may be associated with transgenic maize in Mexico (Serratos, 1998). This could include genetic flux, hybridization, and introgression among the transgenic cultivators, native cultivators, and wild parents. Addressing factors such as these would contribute to an analysis of benefits from the transgenic maize in relation to potential environmental concerns.

In the final case (Whalon and Norris, 1998), the role of resistance management when deploying transgenic B.t. plants is discussed within a resistance management framework. Here, it was noted first that transgenic technology will help reduce reliance on chemicals, reduce environmental contamination, and reduce human health impacts by conventional pesticides. Second, this technology appeals to developing countries lacking effective pesticide safety regulations because transgenic plants do not carry the human and environmental risks that conventional pesticides do.

However, it was argued that some type of management is needed to sustain the effectiveness of these pest control tactics by managing the factors that may contribute to resistance development. This may require commitment and participation by farmers, pesticide or seed suppliers, and regulators to help prevent insect resistance through detection and proactive management. The preservation and management of genetic resources, i.e., susceptible genes, is the key goal of resistance management (Whalon and Norris, 1998).

The authors recommend that, as regards a specific group of technologies, the decision to deploy transgenic crop plants should be based on an assessment of indigenous ecological, environmental, socioeconomic, and agricultural conditions. Criteria to consider include the risk of gene transfer from transgenic plants to related species, availability of refugia to counteract resistance development, economic importance of the target pests, and the level of cooperation among growers and industry in the management of transgenic resources. The assessment should include input from scientists, policy makers, agricultural specialists, public and private institutions, and local farmers.


Concerns regarding the use of crops modified by new technologies vary, as shown by the case of rice and for B.t. technologies. Clearly, more issues are expected for the use of products containing B.t.-derived genes. These differences point to the need for some of the international crop biotechnology programs (see Table 2) to consider their research, testing, and use of products in the context of integrated pest or resistance management can be anticipated. It may also require more-detailed consideration of the two indicators of agroecosystem quality presented in the section on Quality Indicators — Linking Biodiversity with New Technologies, above.

The need for such approaches is often discussed in reports and workshops enumerating biosafety considerations for the introduction of transgenes into tropical agroecosystems. By summarizing these reports (see World Bank, 1993; Frederick et al., 1995; Frederiksen et al., 1995; Beachy et al., 1997; Hruska and Pavon, 1997; Serratos 1998; Whalon and Norris, 1998), the more specific considerations regarding biosafety can be covered by the following categories:

• Transgene flow in centers of diversity: crops becoming weeds, transgenes moving to wild plants, or erosion of genetic diversity

• Development of new viruses

• Resistance developed rapidly to the transgenes

• Affects on unintended targets

• Other ecosystem damage

Addressing these concerns begins with technical solutions, including data collection and experimentation. However, there is also a more adaptive component found in biosafety considerations, indicating agroecosystem complexities, the stakeholders involved, and the need for information addressing the two quality indicators selected. Generally, the more adaptive components of these concerns are voiced in terms of educating policy makers and public regarding consequences of use and deregulation, developing educational materials, and providing cost/benefit analysis reflecting the needs or priorities of each country. These points are often raised by participating countries during IBS policy seminars, and at biosafety meetings where this topic is stretched to accommodate other debates. These more adaptive challenges relate directly to the policy and management challenges facing leaders in developing countries seeking to employ the products of new agricultural technologies.

Initiating programs to address some of the above considerations often exceeds the funding base provided for the international programs. However, some of the international programs have begun this experimentation and data collection, as is being done for rice (Gould, 1997). There is an equally great need to build such understanding among those responsible for agricultural research in the developing countries. Unfortunately, developing countries cannot derive much information from analysis by regulatory agencies in developed countries for permits or notification for small-scale field testing of transgenic products, because the trial is conducted within parameters taking into account isolation, pollen flow, and avoiding persistence of crops at field sites.

These criteria and parameters enable those conducting tests to demonstrate that transgenic plants are as safe as other plant varieties. However, such isolation practices established for the needs of trials in the U.S. and Europe do little to satisfy the concerns (as listed above) anticipated for tropical ecosystems or centers of diversity. Of course, this is not the purpose of trials carried out in developed countries. The questions are: who will determine and how, whether the new plants are of no greater danger to tropical ecosystems than plants produced traditionally, and how will technical estimates for the two quality indicators be prepared in this regard?


The various points to be covered in this chapter are now complete, as summarized in Table 1. While it is not common to pose agricultural questions in the context of technical and adaptive problems, this distinction has much to offer discussions concerning biotechnology, especially when considering the range of questions that may be asked by various stakeholders regarding agronomic inputs and biodiversity. For biotechnology-derived improvements to have acceptability, clear demonstrations of utility with regard to stakeholder concerns for environmental and productivity considerations are needed.

As mentioned above, agroecosystem quality may be improved by eliminating or minimizing dependence on chemical inputs (quality indicator 2), although clear data on this is lacking at the present time. They may also affect perceptions regarding biodiversity (quality indicator 1) leading to widespread use of a variety or, in the case of transgenic maize, have implications for gene transfer in a center of diversity, or on horizontal gene transfer (Harding, 1996). The examples used (durable blast resistance and B.t. technologies) indicate potential suitability for farmers lacking access or money for chemical inputs, where it is desired to reduce chemical inputs in traditional systems or where minimal disruption of biological populations is desired. In the case of tropical maize with insect resistance, since the technologies have not yet been used or tested in the field, it was not possible to obtain estimates on expected decreases in the use of pesticides, as related to the second quality indicator.

As seen in the policy seminars, new products often focus attention on acceptance issues, which can be related to indications of agroecosystem quality. Consequently, in each seminar, socioeconomic methodologies are explored in regard to how stakeholders benefit from investments in biotechnology, and how such analysis can contribute to the learning required to address environmental and productivity questions. Follow-up to the seminars gives attention to identified needs, providing the opportunity to approach them as adaptive problems, often requiring changes in stakeholder values, attitudes, or behavior.

This supports points emphasized by Whalon and Norris (1998), as much remains to be learned regarding the wise management and deployment of genes introduced through biotechnology. Thus, findings point to where future work can be anticipated that it is hoped will diminish the learning required for adaptive situations. In many cases, these situations will weigh productivity issues of profitability, market acceptability, and overall agronomic performance with effects on agroecosystem quality. Neither dimension (environment or productivity) can be ignored. At the present time, adaptive problems arising from international biotechnology efforts are encountered not in the context of agroecosystem quality, but under the heading of biosafety considerations. The relation among biosafety, solutions offered by biotechnology, and more complex considerations of ecosystem effects is seen at many workshops.

New biotechnologies used by farmers will raise adaptive problems, of which biosafety deliberations may be one part. Stakeholder involvement will be essential in considering these cases, especially given that local land-use knowledge continues to be essential to food production in the tropics and in traditional agroecosystems (Gliessman, 1993). Such knowledge reflects experience gained over many generations, and can contribute much toward sound management practices. Using local knowledge when determining quality indicators could be done in conjunction with efforts to determine natural resource or ecologically sound management practices. However, as already stated, such measurements have human biases or judgments attached to them and reflect the stakeholders involved.

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