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Mar 4, 2010

FAO Conference in Mexico Concludes Biotechnology Needs to Focus More on Small Farmers

In March 2010, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held a technical conference on agricultural biotechnology in developing countries (ABDC).  Held in Gualadajara, Mexico, the central theme of the conference was to review biosafety issues related to gene-modified (GM) crops in the developing world. 

The conference issued a press release on 4 March 2010 that concluded that the decision to adopt GM crops must include participation from small farmers, producers, and other public groups. 

According to FAO Assistant Director-General Modibo Traore, "[a]gricultural biotechnologies are not being widely used in developing countries, and research and development in agricultural biotechnologies have not generally been targeted towards the needs and problems of smallholders ... This is something that has to change."

Conference conclusions also recommended that every nation "develop a clear national vision for the role of biotechnologies, and examine the options and opportunities within the context of national economic, social and sustainable rural development and environmental strategies and objectives."  In order to do this, there was a need for: 1) increased investments (for biosafety oversight, development of regulations); 2) international cooperation (especially in the development of South-South relations); 3) the implementation of effective and enabling national policies and regulatory frameworks.

The conference was attended by 300 people from 68 countries, including experts, policy makers and representatives of civil society and international organizations.

The conference emphasized that the "science" of agricultural biotechnology relates to more than just GM crops.  There are a wide range of new technologies applicable in the fields of livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, and agro-industries.  Biotechnology is a possible tool for alleviating hunger, poverty, climate change, and the maintenance of natural resources.

Conference attendees were educated on a variety of biotechnology case studies.  According to Shivaji Pandey, Director of FAO's Plant Production and Protection Division these ranged how to improve microbial cultures for fermented drinks popular to how DNA markers and artificial insemination can to how DNA markers can improve the Deccani sheep in India.

This conference was e FAO international technical conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) is hosted by the Government of Mexico and co-sponsored by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and the World Bank are major partners in this initiative

For more see:

United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, "Conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies Stresses Role of Smallholders," Guadalajara, Mexico, 5 March 2010.

Food and Agriculture Organization, ABDC conference website

Food and Agriculture Organization, ABDC conference schedule and webcast of the entire conference

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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