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    Biotechnology and the Third World: caveat emptor.

    Dembo D; Dias C; Morehouse W

    Development: Seeds of Change. 1987; (4):11-8.

    3 basic categories of institutions in research and development (R&D) of biotechnology include universities, small biotechnology R&D venture capital financed firms, and transnational corporations in the US and other more developed countries (MDCs). Almost 24 transnationals, which predominantly manufacture pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals, lead the biotechnology industry by contracting research arrangements with universities or venture capital financed firms or by establishing their own R&D, manufacturing, and marketing activities in biotechnology. On the other hand, in less developed countries (LDCs), the private sector plays no role or a relatively small role in biotechnology. National level government programs are developing biotechnology capabilities in some LDCs, however. In MDCs, the move towards privatization of biotechnology, especially with the ability to patent technologies, restricts the free flow of research information, thereby inhibiting the diversity and pace of technological innovation, widening the technological gap between MDCs and LDCs, and thus maintaining LDCs' dependence on MDCs. The leading role of transnational corporations in biotechnology R&D causes skewed research priorities that the corporations determine based on their own global strategies. These research priorities are determined by potential profit, and not by the needs of the LDCs. Even though products of biotechnology have the capability to improve the lives of many in the world, they displace more traditional products of LDCs. For example, sugar will soon be displaced by immobilized enzyme technology produced high fructose, therefore affecting the economies and poor of sugar exporting nations. LDCs must act now so as not to fall behind in the biotechnology revolution, such as establishing their relevance at the grass roots level.
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