of the appropriate agricultural biotechnology for small producers:
crops, appropriate biotechnology, biotechnology administration,
The Bolivia study is part of an ongoing multiple case study organized by the FAO’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean as part of the activities of the Technical Cooperation Network on Agricultural Biotechnology (REDBIO/FAO). The basic information was obtained through a survey and/or direct interview to a significant number of experts from Bolivian institutions involving management, regulation, research, innovation, application and education of agricultural biotechnology. At national level, the most relevant applied agri-biotechnologies are presently in vitro plant culture, genomics, molecular genetics, assisted reproduction techniques in animals, and techniques supporting plant and animal disease diagnosis. They have been developed and appropriated to support the agricultural sector including genetically modified crops. Over the past ten years, the public research and academic institutions have allocated resources to implement laboratories and others have widened and updated their facilities. Nonetheless, a different situation is observed in the private sector where some laboratories have been forced to close down and to reduce production due to the economic crisis of the country. In view of the country’s specific needs and opportunities regarding conservation and utilization of genetic resources, biotechnology can constitute a valuable tool for the sustainable development of the country.
The great challenge of science nowadays, particularly for agriculture and its role in food security, is to have an impact on the sectors with fewer resources. One of the ways to ensure successful research planning is to prove an overview of the technological demand in the different steps of the production chains. In order for biotechnology to contribute to development, multiple aspects should be taken into account; including its rational harmonious use with environment and natural resources. It should be oriented in a responsible and viable manner towards the real needs of the country, emphasized within an appropriate biotechnological concept (Wendt and Izquierdo, 2003).
most used biotechnological techniques which support the agricultural
sector at a global level have been; in vitro plant culture,
the use of molecular markers, and more recently, genetic engineering.
These techniques have proven to be powerful tools to support crop
genetic improvement, obtain and rapidly multiply new varieties, diagnose
diseases and characterize genetic resources. In 2005, the REDBIO/FAO
biotechnological industry’s best sold products in Latin America are
the transgenic seeds that have been commercialized since
The biotechnology management, at a macro-level, falls within a number of international agreements that are transformed into laws and domestic policies.
use was first discussed and taken to a worldwide level at the United
Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in
Intellectual property rights (IPR) are acquiring more importance in biotechnology management. Member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) consider the agreement on IPR related to commerce as the basis for their domestic legislation on this issue. The CBD has played an important role in the acknowledgement of ownership rights related to genetic resources, since it was legally recognized that the “States have sovereign rights over their own biological resources”. The countries of the region consider the 391st Decision of the Andean Community on the Common Access to the Genetic Resources, approved in July 1996, as the legal basis for matters on this issue.
Within this context, the appropriate development of biotechnology as a complementary tool to genetic improvement of crops and crop production, can constitute a valuable tool for the sustainable development of the country, since it has the potential to help improve productivity, food security and the conservation of genetic resources. In spite of this, plant biotechnology applications must respond to increasing demands in terms of: food security, socioeconomic development, promotion of conservation, diversification and sustainable use of plant genetic resources as basic inputs for future agriculture. Advanced biotechnologies, such as cell and tissue culture, molecular genome analysis, plant genetic transformation, molecular plant disease diagnosis and germplasm cryo-conservation, can be successfully used to cope with; genetic erosion, to reinforce ex situ collections and in situ conservation, to upgrade the supply of improved and healthy seeds and planting materials to farmers, and to integrate a new approach into the development programs for food production and feeding security in mountain lands.
The objective of this case study was to identify the biotechnological techniques that are being used in Bolivia within the agricultural sector, describe the institutional scenario in which these activities are conducted, analyze the legal and institutional framework for the management of biotechnology, situate the analysis within a regional and international context, and propose activities promoting the use and application of biotechnology.
Ministry of Farmer and Agricultural Affairs – Technological Development
applied biotechnological techniques that are being developed and adopted,
at a national level, to support the development of the agricultural
sector are: in vitro plant culture, molecular markers, assisted
reproduction techniques in animals, and techniques supporting land
and animal diagnosis. In addition, there are some new activities regarding
the production of bioregulators and biopesticides as well, some laboratories
are starting to apply the recombinant DNA technology mainly in microorganism
research. In this practice over the past 10 years, the research and
academic institutions have implemented molecular biology laboratories
and others have widened and updated their facilities (REDBIO,
The fields where biotechnological techniques are applied include the following.
Genetic resources. The PROINPA Foundation and the Pairumani Phytogenetic Research Center (CIFP) are using molecular markers to evaluate the diversity in the collections of both institutions. PROINPA is responsible for the Tuber, Andean Root Bank and High Andean Grain Bank. The Cereal and Legume Bank belongs to CIFP. PROINPA and CIFP are using in vitro techniques as part of the strategy for germplasm conservation. PROINPA also houses a security copy of the Bolivian collection of potatoes, other tubers and Andean roots. In addition, virus free indexing is being conducted on top priority varieties to be reintroduced on farmer lands and CIFP has an in vitro collection of Andean pasifloras.
In addition to these two institutions which form part of the National System of Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (SINARGEAA), the country has other laboratories which at present are carrying out in vitro conservation of genetic resources collections of sweet potato and cassava (El Vallecito Research Center, Gabriel Rene Moreno Autonomous University), orchids (Friends of Nature Foundation), native aromatics (Agro-industrial Technology Center, Mayor de San Simon University), high Andean grains (Biotechnology Laboratory of the Oruro Technical University), and other native plants (Molecular Biology and Biotechnological Institute -IBMB-, Mayor de San Andres University).
The IBMB is the largest molecular biology laboratory in the country and has the most experience. Various studies are being conducted on the genetic diversity of fish, plants and microorganisms.
Genetic improvement. Genetic improvement programs being conducted in the country are starting to implement biotechnological techniques to support the traditional ones. Thus, molecular markers, anther and protoplast culture, in vitro mutagenesis, among other techniques are being implemented in laboratories belonging to private research foundations and in universities. CIFP has implemented a Biotechnological Program with laboratories working on tissue cultivation and molecular biology to support genetic improvement programs of corn, beans, broad beans and peas. PROINPA is implementing a quinoa improvement program, using molecular biology.
Production and marketing. Likewise, there are examples of biotechnological techniques such as micro-propagation and embryo transplantation in bovines, which support productive processes that are economically and strategically important for the county. The Potato Seed Production Unit (SEPA) is the main institution producing certified seeds that have exported in vitro plants and elite seeds to neighbouring countries.
University laboratories support academic activities and mainly carry out research. Nevertheless, many of these laboratories are involved in commercial transactions to help cover their annual operational expenses.
are no biotechnological enterprises making important investments in
With regard to the production of bio-controllers, PROBIOMA and PROINPA are developing commercial products to control disease and plagues.
in biotechnology. In
There are many limitations for an adequate development of biotechnology. Probably the most relevant are the lack of funds and the strong dependence on international cooperation for the operation of the laboratories and for the salaries of the scientists. This fact represents a challenge for researchers to strengthen coordination between the productive sector and research. Other limitations are the insufficient support favouring local production, high taxes on imports and acquisition of equipment and reagents and the lack of training on specific issues.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
following tests with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been
Frost resistant potatoes. (Initial request made in 1992). Tests were conducted in greenhouses and in the field over several consecutive years. Transgenic clones did not result as expected and trials were definitely suspended.
Bt Transformation event MON 531. (Initial request made in 1997).
Two small–scale tests were conducted. A third compulsory test was
suspended due to regulatory revisions and afterwards due to the fact
that the Monsanto
RR transformation event 40-3-2. (Initial request made in 1997).
Three compulsory tests were conducted in the
The soybean RR transformation event 40-3-2 has been approved (Multi Ministerial resolution Nº01, April 7, 2005) for commercial production and use in human food.
The introduction of this soybean is a challenge for the country, specially for the national biosafety system and the seed production system. The public expectation towards the safety of this product is higher than for any other produced food and it also worries the consumers.
Regional Seed Office in Santa Cruz has periodically taken samples
and carried out inspections in the production areas searching for
transgenic soybean, which was supposedly, introduced in the country
illegally. Samples were analyzed and no transgenic soybean was found
until October, 2004 when approximately
biotechnology management in
391 of the Andean Community member countries determines access to
Bolivian genetic resource. A Supreme Decree regulates genetic resources
a country forming part of the Convention on Biological Diversity,
it is not possible to obtain ownership rights in
In view of the requests to carry out transgenic plant tests and the strong discussion this has provoked, there is a perception in the country that does not distinguish between the recombinant DNA technology and the rest of the biotechnological techniques (Carrullo and Dellacha, 2003). This is due to the fact that the Bolivian society has not treated the issue of transgenic cultivation with the necessary balance. Scientists did not know how to clearly demonstrate potential benefits, there was no discussions generated in the media and these latter were more geared towards sensationalism. Some NGOs and ecological groups conducted alert campaigns towards the total rejection of transgenic use, exaggerating and distorting the true effects on people, domestic animals and the environment. In addition, information on regulations was not disseminated and authorities did not support the process with information on the issue.
The complexity of the subject and the trends that nowadays exist, require the perception and education campaigns for the public to be systematic and frequent. They must involve various sectors of society. Information must be reliable and scientifically based, transparent, and explain the risks and benefits of these technologies. Educational material elaborated by the REDBIO International Foundation and projects such as InfoREDBIO and PerciREDBIO can be instrumental to reach massive populations. In addition, initiatives like the “Biotechnology for policy managers course” organized by FAO/FODEPAL and REDBIO which is implemented yearly through the internet and the “Course on Biotechnological Communication” organized by REDBIO Bolivia in April 2004 are important in educating the public.
improve the development of biotechnology in
order to develop biotechnology in the country, it is important that
the technology be transparently promoted through the policies of the
respective Ministries in charge of the biotechnology management “issue”.
This management, which has been deficient for a long time in
In view of the country’s specific needs and opportunities, biotechnology could, in the medium term, have a significant impact on improving the efficiency of production chains, particularly by providing assistance to input providers, improving seed production processes, production of biocontrollers, attainment of improved varieties, molecular characterization of germplasm, gene prospects, etc. Most of the institutions implementing agricultural biotechnology are focused on generating technology for small producers.
In addition, biotechnological techniques can be geared towards supporting diagnosis making the control of imported products more efficient and creating export reliability and credibility.
Finally, it is recommendable to analyze the special aspects that the present study has identified as important needs and targets for the development of biotechnology in the country. These are the following:
This study has indicated that it is fundamental to have clear regulations and appropriate conditions to attract private investment so that innovation and investment in biotechnology can prosper in the country. Nevertheless, it is also important to promote research and the products that are elaborated in public laboratories.
In the IV National Meeting on Biotechnology and Biosafety (November 2004), it was suggested to have a REDBIO meeting during the year 2005 to analyze these important aspects.
R. SINARGEAA, Nuestra estrategia para conservar la riqueza genética
boliviana. In: Congreso Internacional de Cultivos Andinos.
(11º, 3th-6th February, 2004,
CARRULLO, J.C. and DELLACHA, J. La percepción pública de la ciencia: El caso de la biotecnología. UNU/BIOLAC, RNBio, Instituto de Estudios Sociales de Ciencia y Tecnología, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Argentina, 2003. 62 p. ISBN 987-20494-2-4.
INTERNATIONAL SERVICE FOR THE ADQUISITION OF AGRI-BIOTECH APPLICATIONS. Yearly Report 2004. Available from Internet: http://www.isaaa.org.
DE DESARROLLO SOSTENIBLE Y MEDIO AMBIENTE, SECRETARIA NACIONAL DE
RECURSOS NATURALES Y MEDIO AMBIENTE. (MDSMA) Reglamento de
J. and IZQUIERDO, J. Management of appropriate agricultural biotechnology
for small producers: case study –
Note: Electronic Journal of Biotechnology is not responsible if on-line references cited on manuscripts are not available any more after the date of publication.
Manejo y gestión de la biotecnología agrícola
apropiada para pequeños productores: Estudio de caso: ARGENTINA
Home | Mail to Editor | Search | Archive