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Module IV: Biotechnology and Biosafety
International Collaboration in Biotechnology
International collaboration is one way for African institutions to increase their biotechnology research and evaluation capacities. Collaboration can create opportunities to monitor and access new developments and opportunities in agricultural research; provide support for local capacity-building, including training, information, and infrastructure development; and enable access to advice and expertise on research and research management. There are international research programs for both plants and livestock, global and regional networks dedicated to particular crops or geographical areas, specific programs organized by donor agencies, and organizations that specialize in providing advisory services on policy and research issues.
International technology transfer can be divided into four basic categories:
Crop research is currently the biggest area for international programs, with cereals (especially rice) as the top investment area, followed by root crops and perennials. Livestock research has been conducted less extensively, with a focus on tropical animal diseases, particularly with regard to cattle. The second most important component of international biotechnology programs after research is training, with many opportunities to be found in the international agricultural research centers, and in Europe and the US at public institutes and universities. However, the training activities are concentrated mostly at the doctoral and post-doctoral levels, leaving a significant gap at the university and masters level. A third focus of international biotechnology programs is advice on policy and management, with many research programs including a minor focus on these issues.
The primary expected products of international collaboration in biotechnology are disease-free planting material; biocontrol agents (pest and herbicide resistance); transgenic plant varieties; and new diagnostics and vaccines for livestock diseases.
Faculty emphasized several cautions with regard to management considerations at collaborating African institutions:
Participants broke into small working groups to examine case studies, identify constraints and indicators of success, and make recommendations. Group findings are summarized as follows: