[ASC-media] Poorest Countries Abandoned as 'Technology Orphans'

Cathy Reade creade at squirrel.com.au
Sun Aug 20 07:47:15 CEST 2006


Embargoed to 21 August 2006


In the changing global investment environment for agricultural research, the
world’s least-developed countries are in danger of becoming technological
orphans, abandoned by their former public and private sector benefactors,
according to Professor Phil Pardey, an internationally renowned Australian
agricultural economist from the University of Minnesota.

“The world’s poorest countries rely heavily for agricultural technology on
‘spillovers’ from the research conducted by rich countries and from the
efforts of the international agricultural research centres” said Professor

“But investment by rich country governments is declining and what’s left is
driven by research priorities that no longer give the emphasis to developing
new technologies that will increase agricultural productivity.”

“Farmers in wealthy countries want their research dollars to go towards
precision technologies and capital intensive systems, and the consumers in
those same countries want value added so-called ‘functional foods,’ organics
and the like,” he said.

“And the rapidly-increasing private investment in agricultural research is
generating technologies that may be more difficult for poor people to access
because of intellectual property rights.”

“While developing countries now provide more than half the global investment
in publicly-funded agricultural research, half of this is undertaken by just
four developing countries: China, Brazil, India and South Africa.”

“The world’s poorest countries are in danger of missing out, and the gains
made over the past 30 years towards improved food security worldwide are at
risk at a time of growing awareness that food insecurity leads to general
political instability.”

Professor Pardey was speaking at the international launch of his new book
Agricultural R&D in the Developing World: Too Little, Too Late? co-edited
with two other eminent Australian economists, Professor Julian Alston
(University of California) and Professor Roley Piggott (University of New

The book is dedicated to the memory of Australian agricultural researcher
Emeritus Professor Derek Tribe, the inaugural executive director of the
Crawford Fund. The Crawford Fund was established to raise awareness of the
benefits to developing countries and to Australia from international
agricultural research.

The three professors – all Australian by birth – are pessimistic about the
capacity of the poorest developing countries to make up the research
investment shortfall.

The Crawford Fund's mission is to increase Australians' engagement in
international agricultural research, development and education for the
benefit of developing countries and Australia.

- 2 -

“Under-funding of agricultural research is chronic and widespread, even
though investment yields high economic returns that would shock investors in
other sectors” said Professor Pardey.

“The poorest countries will continue to rely on spillovers from other
countries and from international efforts.”

“The benefits from agricultural technology spillovers are worth many times
more than the investments that give rise to them.”

Professor Pardey called for a re-think on investment on international
agricultural research.

“The poorest countries can do some things to help themselves, but the action
they can take will not alone be sufficient to fix the problem”, he said.

“These trends raise the spectre of a return to an era of a large and growing
scientific and productivity gap, with attendant human problems. In the
current international climate, with related concerns over terrorism, a
rethinking of some national and multinational policies is required,” he

“Perhaps the most important thing that poor-country governments can do is
remind rich people in developed countries that even from the perspective of
self-interest and national security, they can and should do more to help
poor people in developing countries feed themselves.”

For an interview with any of the authors of Agricultural R&D in the
Developing World: Too Little, Too Late? or a flyer on the book, contact
Cathy Reade, Crawford Fund, 0413 575 934.
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