Lawrence Kent
Director of International Programs, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, Missouri

Agricultural biotechnology offers great potential benefits to farmers in developing countries, but so far only a small handful of genetically modified (GM) crop products have been planted in only a few developing countries. This paper discusses the reasons why more GM crops have not reached farmers in more developing countries. It argues that publicly funded research efforts have largely failed, so far, in developing GM crops adapted to developing country needs, because of inadequate funding and insufficient focus on producing products. It argues that privately created GM technologies—such as Bt maize— have a better chance of reaching farmers in developing countries, but the transfer of such technologies is hampered by high biosafety regulatory costs, high seed regulatory costs, inadequate intellectual property protection, and local concerns about losing export markets. Overcoming these obstacles will require more money and product focus in public sector institutions, expanded efforts to improve regulatory environments, and the nurturing of local farmer constituencies for GM technologies.

Key words: Biosafety regulations, biotechnology, crops, developing countries, policy environment, technology transfer, transgenic, USAID.