Writing Team: Jack Heinemann (New Zealand), Tsedeke Abate (Ethiopia), Angelika Hilbeck (Switzerland), Doug Murray (USA)

Biotechnology8is defined as "any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for a spe­cific use." In this inclusive sense, biotechnology can include anything from fermentation technologies  (e.g.,  for  beer making) to gene splicing. It includes traditional and local knowledge (TLK) and the contributions to cropping prac­tices, selection and breeding of plants and animals made by individuals and societies for millennia [CWANA Chapter 1; Global Chapter 6]. It would also include the application of tissue culture and genomic techniques [Global Chapter 6] and marker assisted breeding or selection (MAB or MAS) [Global Chapter 5, 6; NAE Chapter 2] to augment natural breeding.9
     Modern biotechnology is a term adopted by interna­tional convention to refer to biotechnological techniques for the manipulation of genetic material and the fusion of cells beyond normal breeding barriers9 [Global Chapter 6]. The most obvious example is genetic engineering to create genetically modified/engineered organisms (GMOs/GEOs) through "transgenic technology" involving the insertion or deletion of genes. The word "modern" does not mean that these techniques are replacing other, or less sophisticated, biotechnologies.
     Conventional biotechnologies, such as breeding tech­niques, tissue culture, cultivation practices and fermenta­tion are readily accepted and used. Between 1950 and 1980, prior to the development GMOs, modern varieties of wheat may have increased yields up to 33% even in the absence of fertilizer. Even modern biotechnologies used in contain­ment have been widely adopted. For example, the industrial enzyme market reached US$1.5 billion in 2000.
     Biotechnologies in general have made profound con­tributions that continue to be relevant to both big and small farmers and are fundamental to capturing any ad­vances derived from modern biotechnologies and related nanotechnologies10 [Global Chapter 3, 5, 6]. For example, plant breeding is fundamental to developing locally adapted plants whether or not they are GMOs. These biotechnolo-

9 See definition in Executive Summary.
10 These are provided as examples and not comprehensive de­scriptions of all types of modern biotechnology (see Fig. SR-BT1).
11  Specifically those nanotechnologies that involve the use of liv­ing organisms or parts derived thereof.


gies continue to be widely practiced by farmers because they were developed at the local level of understanding and are supported by local research.
     Much more controversial is the application of modern biotechnology outside containment, such as the use of GM crops. The controversy over modern biotechnology outside of containment includes technical, social, legal, cultural and economic arguments. The three most discussed issues on biotechnology in the IAASTD conceredt:

•   Lingering doubts about the adequacy of efficacy and safety testing,  or regulatory frameworks for testing GMOs [e.g., CWANA Chapter 5; ESAP Chapter 5; Global Chapter 3, 6; SSA 3];
•   Suitability of GMOs for addressing the needs of most farmers while not harming others, at least within some existing IPR  and  liability  frameworks   [e.g.,  Global Chapter 3,6];
•   Ability of modern biotechnology to make significant contributions to the resilience of small and subsistence agricultural systems [e.g., Global Chapter 2, 6].

Some controversy may in part be due to the relatively short time modern biotechnology, particularly GMOs, has existed compared to biotechnology in general. While many regions are actively experimenting with GMOs at a small scale [e.g., ESAP Chapter 5; SSA Chapter 3], the highly concentrated cultivation of GM crops in a few countries (nearly three-fourths in only the US and Argentina, with 90% in the four countries including Brazil and Canada) is also interpreted as an indication of a modest uptake rate [Global Chapter 5, 6]. GM crop cultivation may have increased by double digit rates for the past 10 years, but over 93% of cultivated land still supports conventional cropping.
     The pool of evidence of the sustainability and produc­tivity of GMOs in different settings is relatively anecdotal, and the findings from different contexts are variable [Global Chapter 3, 6], allowing proponents and critics to hold en­trenched positions about their present and potential value. Some regions report increases in some crops [ESAP Chapter 5] and positive financial returns have been reported for GM cotton in studies including South Africa, Argentina, China, India and Mexico [Global Chapter 3; SSA Chapter 3]. In contrast, the US and Argentina may have slight yield de­clines in soybeans, and also for maize in the US [references in Global Chapter 3]. Studies on GMOs have also shown the potential for decreased insecticide use, while others show increasing herbicide use. It is unclear whether detected benefits will extend to most agroecosystems or be sustained