M-RCBG Faculty Working Paper No. 2012-03

Technological Abundance for Global Agriculture: The Role of Biotechnology

Calestous Juma

March 2012


Science and innovation have always been the key forces behind agricultural growth in particular and economic transformation in general. More specifically, the ability to add value to agricultural production via the application of scientific knowledge to entrepreneurial activities stands out as one of the most important lessons of economic history. The Green Revolution played a critical role in helping to overcome chronic food shortages in Latin America and Asia. The Green Revolution was a result of both the creation of new institutional arrangements aimed at using existing technology to improve agricultural productivity, as well as new scientific breakthroughs leading to superior agricultural inputs, particularly improved strains of wheat and rice.

In the wake of the recent global economic crisis and continually high food prices, the international community is reviewing its outlook on human welfare and prosperity. Much of the current concern on how to foster development and prosperity in developing countries reflects the consequences of recent neglect of sustainable agriculture and infrastructure as drivers of development. But all is not lost. Instead, those developing countries that have not yet fully embraced agricultural technology now have the chance to benefit from preexisting scientific advances in agriculture, particularly in biotechnology. Areas of the developing world lagging in the utilization and accumulation of technology have the ability not only to catch up to industrial leaders in biotechnology, but also to attain their own level of research growth

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