9-Misc: U.S. biotech proponent: Grow "GMOs before regulations are put into place"
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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------
TITLE: Strengthening the transfer of biotechnology
SOURCE: Checkbiotech/Syngenta, Switzerland, by Robert Derham
DATE: Nov 1, 2002
------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------
Strengthening the transfer of biotechnology
BASEL, Switz. – Plant biotechnology has the potential to provide crops in
areas of drought, vaccination in areas of epidemics and vitamin supplements
in areas of malnutrition - the real question the world faces is how to
effectively transfer this vital technology to the areas in demand need.
"Let food be your medicine, and medicine your food." Of course Hippocrates
never could have guessed just how literally his words one day would be
taken by scientists.
Imagine Africa gaining immunity to AIDS as they eat an ear of corn, or
malnurished children in South East Asia receiving much needed vitamins in
their rice. After some 2000 years, the science world is finally realizing
Hipporcrates’ vision. Although immunity to AIDS is still a dream, vitamin A
enriched rice is a reality, as well as many other life saving benefits from
agricultural biotechnology. Now if Hippocrates could only conjure up some
words of wisdom regarding how to bring medicinal foods to the whole world.
Although Hippocrates is no longer around to advise us on the next step,
fortunately Dr. Antole Krattiger is. As adjunct professor and director of
SWIFFT at Cornell Univeristy, Dr. Krattiger leads a series of lectures and
seminars that are designed to provide an opportunity for plant scientists
to discover more about international policy issues as they affect their
university laboratories, greenhouses, and test fields.
As chairman of bioDevelopments, Dr. Krattiger has set up an organisation
that consults agribusinesses and other organisations on how they can more
effectively transfer their technology - as he recently did for a group of
prominent members of the agricultural community in Basel, Switzerland.
How bad does technology transfer plague the world?
To start his talk, Dr. Krattiger noted, "Seventy-five percent of the world
still remains technologically excluded. While the US holds 87.2 percent of
the world's patents."
To overcome this imbalance of technology, Dr. Krattiger suggested 5 ways
agribusinesses can align themselves to better facilitate the transfer of
their new technological developments:
Strategic Long-Term Investment
As existing markets are pushed to maximum capacity, especially by the
growth in numbers of smaller companies offering inexpensive generic
alternatives, large agribusinesses will need to develop new markets. These
new markets are waiting in developing countries, if the time and money is
willing to be invested.
"The key to opening markets is public relations," Dr. Krattiger argues.
"Traditionally, when something new or slightly controversial is developed,
the tendency is to quietly let it grow to avoid possible negative
attention." Dr. Krattiger suggests turning the playing field around.
Advertise the technology proudly and positively, and leave no room for
doubt or question. Products could be labeled "Proudly made with GMOs"
(genetically modified organisms). The idea is not to use public relations
to hide your product, but rather to open the eyes of new markets to the
potential new technologies contain.
Influence Institutions and Policy
"We need to wait until proper regulations are put into place before we can
go forward," has been the current approach to GMOs. What needs to occur is
the growth of GMOs before regulations are put into place. The key is to
work with existing institutions within the market to develop responsible
transfer and use of new technologies. In turn, these institutions will be
able to intercede on behalf of agribusinesses to help influence positive
policy making when the time comes.
Additionally, by using local institutes within the market area for research
and development, agribusinesses can help minimize their production costs,
thus increasing profitability of new technologies in developing markets.
Develop Internal Corporate Capacity
The main goal of every agribusiness should be a clear policy. This creates
unity and solidarity in the work place, and facilitates the dissemination
of a clear concept through corporate communications to investors.
Humanitarian actions are very motivating and uniting - and an unified and a
motivated work force is a recipe for success. Dr. Kattiger argues for
example, "Using studies that show that vitamin A enriched rice would help
increase the Philippines’ economy alone by 30-152 million dollars a year by
eliminating blindness, death, Bitot's spot, and death are important reports
that help motivate a work force to achieve its goals." Achieving quarterly
goals and quotas are important, but as Dr. Kattiger argued, "Humanitarian
acts have always inspired society" - surely more than a number.
These five pillars help explain how agribusiness can strengthen its
internal position, while also increasing its market potential through
technology transfer to developing nations. However there still lies a
bridge to gap - "the power struggle of the scientific community," as Dr.
Krattiger put it. Too often Hollywood portrays a scientist as someone who
speaks above his audience, with an aura of superiority. In return, society
depends less on the scientific community for explanations of new
technologies and thus turns to non-profit organisations (NGO), who often
misrepresent the technology.
Dr. Kattiger agued, "Scientists need to open up to society and share their
power. It is time that society learns to trust the source that best
understands the technology." In order for this to happen, scientists will
need to break the unwritten rules of academia that look down on "selling
out" by "popularizing" research.
However, learning how to communicate the benefits of one's research in
common terms, helps familiarize society with the technology and the
possilble benefits that accompany it. As a result of communication, the
fear of the unknown is displaced through the education of the non-
scientific community. This can redirect the focus away from NGOs and back
to scientist for answers.
Dr. Kattiger used Syngenta's marketing of Cool Bier to 14,000 people as an
effective example of science reaching out to the community. Instead of
calling the beer, GM beer, Syngenta used "cool." Cool invokes a positive
connotation, while also demostrating pride in their product - exactly
following the marketing suggestions of Dr. Kattiger.
Once effective communication between scientists and society establishes
trust, monitary benefits are likely to follow. With trust, people will have
a greater propensity to invest in the development of new agritechnologies.
Subsequently, trust through communications will inevitably facilitate
technology transfer as people become interested in realizing the
humanitarian benefits that many of the new agricultural technologies have.
Yet, ideas and concepts are just that until they are put into practice. So
to finish his lecture, Dr. Kattiger quoted Syngenta's CEO, Heinz Imhoff,
"No amount of discussion and policy will substitute for practical, concrete
Time to get to work.
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