Edited by Stuart J. Smyth, Peter W.B. Phillips and David Castle
Biotechnology has profoundly impacted agricultural research. Molecular science has vastly increased the scope of what is understood and what can be understood about crop and pest genetics. This explosive growth of knowledge changes the possible, both in terms of the speed of genetic development and the scope of outcomes. Importantly, biotechnology has also enabled better protection of genetically related intellectual property, changing the incentives for private crop breeding. Beginning in the mid-1980s, these new incentives attracted significant new private investment followed by a period of industry mergers and acquisitions as several firms acquired the pools of intellectual property required to become leaders in agricultural biotechnology (Fulton and Giannakas, 2001; Graff et al., 2003). In the mid-1990s there was a widespread acquisition of seed firms as the firms heavily invested in biotechnology realized they needed access to locally-adapted germplasm and seed marketing channels (Howard, 2009). Private firms tend to dominate breeding in those few genetically modified (GM) crops (for example maize, soybeans, cotton and canola) in those jurisdictions where GM cultivars can be commercialized - mainly USA, Brazil, Argentina, India and Canada (James, 2011). Private investment is also largely a developed country phenomenon: the private sector is responsible for over one half of total research expenditures in developed countries while private investment makes up less than 10 per cent of total agricultural investment in developing countries (Pardey et al., 2006).
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