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As of 2004, this project is no longer run or housed at CID

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Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI)

Research Topics


Globalization of research and development

One of the key features influencing the use of new technologies in developing countries is the changing character of research and development (R&D) and the associated processes of globalization. Many of the policies being pursued by the developing countries and promoted by international organizations are based on outdated assumptions about global patterns of R&D. A better understanding of emerging R&D patterns, especially those arising from the impact of globalization, assists developing countries and international institutions to identify realistic policy approaches towards biotechnology development. This activity explores the relationships between globalization and the changing patterns of R&D and proposes possible policy responses for developing countries.

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Science and the precautionary principle

The adoption of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity has helped to highlight the application of the precautionary principle in international environmental regulation. Views on the role of this concept differ considerably. It is considered a way of dealing with the uncertainties associated with new technologies. But its application is seen by others as a potential threat to international rules promulgated by the World Trade Organization. This activity clarifies a number of key issues related to the precautionary principle. These include: its origin and interpretation under different political cultures; application in international environmental law; challenges and opportunities for national application; and considerations for international harmonization with other risk management rules and practices.

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Biotechnology in developing countries

Much of the debate on biotechnology in developing countries is focusing on the import of genetically modified foods from the industrialized countries. However, issues related to the capacity of the developing countries to develop their own products and the factors that influence the adoption of new technologies deserve equal attention. Whether biotechnology will contribute significantly to ensure food security, improve the environment and increase life expectancy depends on the existing social, political and economic conditions in developing countries. Solving the wider structural problems facing agriculture and health will also influence the adoption of biotechnology. This activity emphasizes the design of global systems of innovation that accommodate the imperatives of biotechnology.

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Public attitudes toward biotechnology

In recent years, public opposition to genetic engineering in agriculture has become a critical issue in industrialized, and, to some extent, in developing countries.

During the last three years, this project has investigated public response towards agricultural biotechnology in Asian developing countries. In this context, a survey was conducted on public acceptance of transgenic Bt-rice in the Philippines. The data obtained in the survey was analyzed through cluster analysis and a policy network analysis. This methodology made it possible to identify perception patterns among the main stakeholders involved in the debate on genetic engineering in agriculture and to define their political weight.

The principal objective of this research project is to provide a comprehensive picture on the public attitude towards agricultural biotechnology in developing countries.

Analogous to the Philippines, two other surveys on public acceptance towards genetic engineering in agriculture are being conducted in Mexico and South Africa.

The results of the three surveys will each be compared and interpreted in their historical, political and socio-economic context. Finally, the findings will be embedded into a larger framework that compares the different biotechnology debates in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

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Intellectual property rights

The rise of the biotechnology industry is closely associated with the strengthening of intellectual property rights protection worldwide as symbolized by the work of the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization. Indeed, it is argued that intellectual property rights are essential to stimulate research and development and to attract investment capital. Others, however, argue that intellectual property rights in biotechnology have created monopolistic tendencies among biotechnology corporations and widened the gap between developed and developing countries. These tendencies could form a major barrier to the ability of developing countries to use biotechnology. This project explores these issues and outlines policy options for developing countries.

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Biodiversity and traditional knowledge

The emergence of biotechnology has raised awareness that biological diversity constitutes an important source of chemical and genetic material of commercial value. This realization has stimulated bioprospecting activities around the world. But the growth in these activities has also resulted in concern about how developing countries can benefit from the commercial use of biological material in their territories, and about equity in the use of the world’s biological heritage. These issues are now the subject of considerable international debate and legislative reform at the national level on access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing in many developing countries as part of the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity. This project activity examines the implications of these debates for international cooperation in biotechnology.

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Ethical considerations

Ethical issues have been extensively invoked in discussions regarding biotechnology. These issues are closely tied to fundamental differences in world views among major regions of the world. Ethical issues are considered as a key source of epistemological guidance in public discourse and policy. This consideration gives ethics conceptual and practical roles in controversial fields such as biotechnology. This activity presents existing ethical approaches and shows how they are used in public policy debates surrounding biotechnology. Emphasis is placed on variations between different regions of the world and how ethics can be used to guide discussions on the role of biotechnology.

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Institutional innovation

Understanding the co-evolutionary process between social institutional and technological advancement is a critical aspect in determining how society responds to new technologies. Regulations dealing with field testing, labeling and transboundary movement of biotechnology products represent a sample of institutional innovations being introduced worldwide. The project brings together evidence of the key institutional innovations and the introduction at the national, regional and international levels in response to biotechnology. It examines the processes used in different political cultures to promote institutional innovation.

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Genetic divide

The growing technology gap between the industrialized countries and the developing world is emerging as one of the most pressing international policy issues. Critics of globalization use this gap to argue that market integration will not necessarily help developing countries to improve the performance of developing economies. Others have argued that globalization will marginalize the developing countries. So far, much of the concern over the widening technological gap has focused on what is popularly known as the "digital divide". This phrase has become a cliché and is used to capture a wide variety of limitations inherent in the current structure of the global economy. But behind the rhetoric lies the more fundamental issue of how to mobilize the world’s scientific and technological knowledge to contribute to the welfare of the developing world.

This project explores examines the widening biotechnological between developed and developing countries. This "genetic divide" is likely to have far-reaching consequences for the developing countries because of the radical nature of biotechnology and its implications for agriculture, human health and environmental management. Unlike the information revolution, advances in biotechnology have the potential to alter the patterns of food production and distribution in fundamental ways. Competence in the life sciences will become a prerequisite for meeting basic human needs.

Visit this page for more detailed information on STI's genetic divide project.

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Aquaculture

Overfishing and unsustainable fish-catching practices pose a serious threat to the natural aquatic ecosystem and future access to aquatic resources. Global efforts to promote sustainable fishing have been difficult to fulfill because of the lack of monitoring facilities and implementation of sanctions. For three decades an increasing number of decision makers have seen the future of the fishing industry in aquaculture. Aquaculture is also seen as a way to reduce pressure on the global fish stocks. While the yields of fish-catching have reached a ceiling at around 100 million tons per year in the last decade, yields from aquaculture are still growing rapidly. But capital-intensive aquaculture is being criticized by environmentalists for destroying valuable fish habitats and using too much fishmeal to feed their stocks.

In this context, the emergence of genetically modified fish raises new hopes and fears. On the one hand, growth-enhanced transgenic salmon, the first product expected to be approved the United States, might shift fish farming away from coasts to land-based water recycled systems, thereby helping to decrease the environmental impact of aquaculture, and lowering the demand for fish-meal because of its better food conversion rate. Moreover, the resulting increase in fish productivity in aquaculture would relieve the pressure on the aquatic environment. It would also enhance global fish supply and consequently lead to lower prices for consumers. On the other hand, there is considerable concern among the players in the fish industry about consumer acceptance of transgenic fish, and among environmentalists about potential environmental hazards resulting from the possibility of transgenic fish escaping into the aquatic environment. Moreover, there are socioeconomic risks for developing countries that must be taken into account.

The future of transgenic fish will depend on how the public perceives the risks and benefits of this new product in the future. The creation of institutions that are considered able to ensure a safe and equitable use of transgenic fish in developed and developing countries may help to facilitate a constructive public dialogue on the future of aquaculture and biotechnology.

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