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Biotechnologies at work for smallholders

Biotechnologies at work for smallholders

Edited by J Ruane, JD Dargie, CMba, P Boettcher et al.
Published by FAO
Website: www.fao.org
2013, 209 pp, ISBN 978-9-25107-877-8, free to download

The challenges in tackling and eliminating food insecurity and malnutrition are substantial but not insurmountable, say the authors of this new publication from FAO. The key, they believe, lies in empowering the millions of smallholder producers and landless workers to raise agricultural productivity and engage in markets, and in attempting to achieve this, agricultural biotechnologies have considerable potential.

Using 19 case studies, the authors describe the practical realities and experiences of taking biotechnology research and applying it to smallholder production of banana, cassava, rice, livestock and shrimp in different parts of the world. A wide range of technologies are included, from artificial insemination to cutting-edge techniques involving DNA-based methodologies, but not genetic modification.

In India, for example, researchers used DNA markers to develop flood-tolerant rice with the potential to yield 1-3 tonnes per hectare more than existing varieties. The use of DNA-based diagnostic tools in Cameroon allowed veterinary authorities to quickly diagnose outbreaks of Peste des Petits Ruminants, a highly contagious viral disease affecting goats and sheep.

The book concludes by calling for greater national and international efforts to bring agricultural biotechnologies to smallholder producers in developing countries, as well as increased sharing of genetic resources, techniques and know-how across national and international borders, and for the involvement of smallholders at all stages of the process.

Date published: November 2013


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