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What Next?
- Biotechnology and Food Systems in Developing Countries

VI. What Next? 

The only way out of this political stalemate seems to be to create partnerships that cut across interests in a mutually productive way. Three are offered for consideration here:

A.

Partnerships between universities and the private sector, especially in basic genetic research. A good example in San Diego, where this speech was given, is the Center for Molecular Agriculture at the University of California, San Diego, directed by Professor Maarten Chrispeels.

B.

Partnerships between agricultural companies and development foundations. The best example is the recently announced African Agricultural Technology Foundation, set up by the Rockefeller Foundation in Nairobi, Kenya, with financial support from USAID and DFID (the British aid agency). Four big companies have joined: Monsanto (St. Louis, MO), DuPont (Wilmington, DE), Dow AgroSciences (Indianapolis, IN) and Syngenta (Basel, Switzerland). These companies have agreed to share their biotechnology freely with African scientists. They will donate patent rights, seed varieties, laboratory know-how and other aid.17

What is the benefit for these companies (and their shareholders)? For a start, they are receiving some good press and lots of good will. No doubt, these corporate partners are hoping the action will also help resolve some other issues on the policy table. From the Foundation’s perspective, the hope is that biotechnology will help Africa develop and start making progress against its rising levels of poverty. For all the partners, the hope has to be that Africa will become a market for other products. For the time being, hopes are high (the most important word in each sentence is "hope"), but progress is likely to be very slow in view of European opposition.

C. A third partnership must be created between the nutrition community and the biotechnology opinion makers, i.e., NGOs and policy analysts. The nutrition community must become engaged in these debates. It has the scientific expertise and public credibility to be an effective voice for reason and to counter the misinformation and fear that are so widely disseminated by many activist groups. It is time to use this expertise and credibility on behalf of improved nutrition for the poor.



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