The Gene Hunters

The Gene Hunters: Biotechnology and the Scramble for Seeds

Calestous Juma
Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 302
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  • Book Info
    The Gene Hunters
    Book Description:

    The world is on the verge of receiving new life forms that will profoundly and irrevocably change the global economy: the "gene hunters" who first cloned the gene in 1973 are now not only modifying existing species but also creating new plants and animals. Ready or not for such awesome power, the human race has put itself in a position to govern evolution. What will we do with the abilities we now command? asks this broad and stimulating book on the role of plant material in economic development. Writing in a style that is easily understandable even to those with no background in biotechnology, Calestous Juma begins by showing how the importation of plants strengthened the British Empire and brought the United States to global agricultural superiority. He goes on to explore the current international competition for genetic material and the potential impact of biotechnology on the relationship of the developed and developing world. Juma points out that biotechnology poses real dangers to the third world. Often one of the few exportable resources that a developing country possesses is an unusual or rare crop, but biotechnological techniques make possible the cultivation of many such crops outside their natural habitats, potentially eliminating the need to import the crops from the countries in which they grow indigenously. After discussing the threat of biotechnology, Juma comes full circle and points out that it does not have to be a threat. Actually, tremendous benefits could accrue to the third world from biotechnology--if and only if that new technology is adapted to its needs.

    Originally published in 1989.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6025-8
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    Calestous Juma
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Glossary
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    In his analysis of the impacts of Old World animals and plants in the Americas, Crosby described in detail the major ecological oscillations that resulted from the introduction of new life forms. He concluded: ‘This wild oscillation of the balance of nature happens again whenever an area previously isolated is opened to the rest of the world. But possibly it will never be repeated in as spectacular a fashion as in the Americas in the first post-Columbian century, not unless there is, one day, an exchange of life forms between planets.’¹ These words were written in 1972. A year later,...

  7. 1. Genetic Resources and Socio-economic Evolution
    (pp. 6-36)

    US President Thomas Jefferson once said that the greatest service that could be rendered to any country was to add a useful plant to its culture. This statement underscores the importance of genetic resources in socio-economic and cultural evolution. Economic history has often focused on technological development and ignored the role of genetic material in economic change. This chapter presents a brief overview of the role of genetic resources in socio-economic change and prepares the ground for subsequent analyses of historic botany. The Jeffersonian view of the world was based on a detailed understanding of the prevailing development in the...

  8. 2. Explorations in Historical Botany
    (pp. 37-75)

    The growth of agricultural complexity in Europe became more salient in the 16th and 17th centuries. This period is also marked by dramatic increases in the pace of botanic exploration and the identification of agricultural and industrial plants. This chapter traces historical and economic botany from the earliest known records and covers the early plant hunters, the role of genetic resources in the expansion of the British empire and the rise of the US as an agricultural superpower. Much of what the African countries have adopted as modern agriculture is rooted in the way genetic resources were incorporated in the...

  9. 3. Genetic Resources and World Agriculture
    (pp. 76-107)

    Plant collection formed the early stages of the internationalization of agricultural research. By the end of the 19th century, most innovations arising from the Western countries were already being applied in other continents. Japan, for example, introduced agricultural policies which encouraged the importation of Western technology. By the 1940s the US had developed a monocultural agricultural model that relied on a narrow range of genetic material. It was guided largely by reductionist logic and had at its disposal a large stock of technological innovations. The stage was already set for major global changes arising from these innovations. The process, it...

  10. 4. Branching Points in Biotechnology
    (pp. 108-148)

    The evolution of conventional plant breeding methods in conjunction with advances in chemical technology helped to shape the current picture of world agriculture, but this model is already reaching limits. To move agriculture into alternative patterns of production required major changes in technology. Plant breeding enabled the industry to make relatively minor modifications in plants to achieve desired objectives such as high fertilizer responsiveness. Following the unravelling of the genetic code, scientists have been able to make major advances in their understanding of genetics. Genetic engineering, tissue culture, cell fusion and other techniques have opened up immense opportunities for producing...

  11. 5. Life as Intellectual Property
    (pp. 149-178)

    The private ownership of genetic resources has been a major source of international controversy. Not only have improved plant and animal varieties been subject to patenting and patent-like protection, but their genes are also now being patented. The US was the first country to grant patents for plants. Other countries maintained a demarcation between utility patents and plant breeders’ rights (PBRs). This demarcation was based on a false dichotomy between inanimate and biological innovations. The early plant introduction activities in the US were undertaken by the Patent Office. Today, the patenting of life forms shows that the rise of PBRs...

  12. 6. Germplasm and Kenya’s Agriculture: A Case Study
    (pp. 179-207)

    Kenya is one of the few African countries with an advanced agricultural system. The country has accumulated extensive capability in agricultural research and it is possible to undertake major programmes to conserve the country’s genetic resources while at the same time enhancing their utilization through the diversification of the food base. Kenya has the capacity to embark on an extensive biotechnology programme, but undertaking such programmes is likely to be inhibited by longstanding institutional and legal rigidities inherited from the country’s colonial past. The programmes cannot be effectively introduced without major policy and institutional reforms to reflect the research and...

  13. 7. The Way Ahead: Policy Options for Africa
    (pp. 208-237)

    This exploration has shown that the world has entered a new phase in which innovations in biotechnology are likely to play a major role in socio-economic evolution. This is a period of major agricultural and industrial discontinuities requiring national and regional policy changes as well as the enhancement of technological capability. These changes are likely to affect African countries in various ways. Unlike previous technological revolutions, biotechnology offers a wide range of opportunities for Africa. Not only is biotechnology suitable for diverse and decentralized economic activities, it is also amenable to participatory research and can be controlled at community level....

  14. Conclusions and Conjectures
    (pp. 238-239)

    Africa finds itself at a critical period in world history. While the continent is searching for alternative development options, the industrialized countries are making reforms and introducing innovations that will narrow the development options open to these countries. This study has argued that the future of African economies will depend largely on their capacity to harness some of the advances in biotechnology and apply them in decentralized economic development strategies. The conservation of genetic resources will be crucial for such future development strategies. This issue, as shown in the various chapters, will become increasingly controversial — especially in matters pertaining...

  15. Appendix: Institutions Conserving Genetic Resources
    (pp. 240-248)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-272)
  17. Index
    (pp. 273-288)