Case Study Sector
In the early 1980s, advances in plant molecular biology offered the promise of achieving genetic improvements in crops that could not be accomplished with conventional plant breeding. For the most part, however, such advances in crop biotechnology were not being applied to rice or other food crops of primary importance in developing countries. To help make sure the benefits of this powerful new technology would be available to poor farmers and consumers, the Rockefeller Foundation, beginning in 1985, committed roughly half of its agricultural funding to an international program on rice biotechnology. The primary objective of this program was to build rice biotechnology capacity in Asia, and an important part of it was funding the training of Asian scientists at advanced Western laboratories, where they invented techniques and worked on traits important for genetic improvement of rice—skills and knowledge which they then brought back home. About two dozen high-priority traits were targeted by the program, selected because they 1) would benefit poor farmers and consumers, and 2) were not readily achievable through conventional breeding. Beta-carotene production in rice endosperm was one of these targeted traits.
- Northern America