Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Jul 06, 2002
Agri-Biz & Commodities
IRRI calls for public-private partnership
MUMBAI, July 5
THANKS to recent advances in genetics, rice production and agricultural research is entering a new era of enormous promise. However, declining support for publicly funded research a long-term and accelerating trend threatens to curtail the benefits that will accrue to the world's poor.
How important is rice? Rice is the staple food of most of the world's poor, especially in Asia, which produces and consumes 92 per cent of the world's rice. Cultivating rice is the mainstay of hundreds of millions of poor farm households, who on average eat half of the rice they grow and often not much else.
Only six per cent of the harvest is traded internationally. While rice production is the foundation of food security, economic growth, and social and political stability in rural communities across Asia, it hardly registers in commerce.
However, the sequencing of the rice genome and the next step, assigning functions to individual genes and combining them to accelerate crop improvement, is revolutionising rice science. How this genomics will revolution plays out will determine whether poor rice farmers and consumers win or lose.
But there is a dilemma. While on the one hand there is recognition that private ownership of portions of rice genome will commercialise the crop in a way that can potentially affect the livelihood of rice farmers, on the other, public research institutions are cash-strapped and funding for public ownership of the fruits of research is declining.
So, who owns the food of the poor? According to Dr Roland P. Cantrell, Director-General of Manila-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and Mrs Angeline Saziso Kamba, Chairperson of IRRI's Board of Trustees, the best response from IRRI and its public sector partners is to augment their own research by bending private-sector achievements to the advantage of poor rice farmers and consumers. This requires partnership with corporations.
One precedent for public-private partnership is Golden Rice.
IRRI's right to develop tropical versions of the beta carotene-rich grain which promises to help alleviate vitamin A deficiency and the widespread suffering it causes, hinges on the decision of 32 holders of 70 patents to donate their intellectual property rights to make golden rice freely available to people making less than $10,000 per year.
According to IRRI, forging mutually beneficial partnerships between public institutions and private corporates will not only take a careful dedication to principles, but also some parity in what public and private sector partners bring to the table.
Meeting this challenge, ideally with the help of more funding for public research, will protect intellectual property rights and deliver to poor rice consumers improved livelihood and nutrition, Dr Cantrell and Mrs Kamba emphasise.
Send this article to Friends by E-Mail
Stories in this Section
The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | Home |
Copyright © 2002, The
Hindu Business Line. Republication or redissemination of the contents of
this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of
The Hindu Business Line