M-RCBG Faculty Working Paper No. 2012-03

Technological Abundance for Global Agriculture: The Role of Biotechnology

Calestous Juma

March 2012

Abstract

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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