Lessons for Global Science and Development
By Sally Brooks
Unknown – 2010 – 192 pages
Series: Pathways to Sustainability
Biofortification – the enrichment of staple food crops with essential micronutrients – has been heralded as a uniquely sustainable solution to the problem of micronutrient deficiency or 'hidden hunger'. Considerable attention and resources are being directed towards the biofortification of rice – the world's most important food crop. Through an in-depth analysis of international rice biofortification efforts across the US, Philippines and China, this book provides an important critique of such goal-oriented, top-down approaches.
These approaches, the author argues, exemplify a model of global, 'public goods' science that is emerging within complex, international research networks. It provides vital lessons for those researching and making decisions about science and research policy, showing that if this model becomes entrenched, it is likely to channel resources towards the search for 'silver bullet' solutions at the expense of more incremental approaches that respond to locality, diversity and the complex and uncertain interactions between people and their environments. The author proposes a series of key changes to institutions and practices that might allow more context-responsive alternatives to emerge. These issues are particularly important now as increasing concerns over food security are leading donors and policy makers to commit to ambitious visions of 'impact at scale' – visions which may never become a reality and may preclude more effective pathways from being pursued. Published in association with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
'A deeply thought-provoking book, this study of biofortification in rice explores how and why public science so often irons out complex needs into a demand for pre-packaged solutions. Biofortification could yet become an exemplar of a different, boundary-crossing, socially-informed science for poverty alleviation. [This] book is essential reading for both critics and proponents of biotechnology in international development.' – Paul Richards, Professor of Technology and Agrarian Development, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
'A lucid analysis of the decision making in international agricultural research which emphasizes a technical, commercial approach. Malnutrition is far better tackled with a biodiversity approach that makes available local foods that can be eaten fresh and are free.' – Suman Sahai, Convenor, Gene Campaign, New Delhi
'A deeply thought-provoking book, this study of biofortification in rice explores how and why public science so often irons out complex needs into a demand for pre-packaged solutions. Are the great private philanthropic foundations and the brilliant scientists they fund simply incapable of understanding the lives of the rural poor? The author prefers instead to make a case for deep institutional reform, offering space for new types of partnership. Biofortification could yet become an exemplar of a different, boundary-crossing, socially-informed science for poverty alleviation. Her book is essential reading for both critics and proponents of biotechnology in international development.' – Paul Richards, Professor of Technology and Agrarian Development, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
'Rice Biofortification convincingly illustrates the tenacity of the top down linear research paradigm which unfortunately still dominates the international agricultural research agenda. How researchers can effectively work with local contexts is an important issue, which the author handles admirably.' – Joachim Voss, independent research professional, and formerly Director General of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Cali, Colombia
'Rice Biofortification would be useful for both critics and proponents of biotechnology.' – Greenteacher.org, CEE (Centre for Environment Education)
'A book for those formulating and appraising scientific research and its impact on social development.' New Agriculturalist 'The issues related to the organisation of public science and research highlighted in the book are very relevant in the context of the recent debates in India related to the commerical release of Bt Brinjal.' – GreenTeacher.org
'Through a well-documented revision, the author explains the evolution of ideas that brought together nutrition, health and agriculture over the twentieth century.' – Raul Acosta, Journal of Biological Science
'Focusing on the case of rice biofortification this elegantly written book argues that increasing concerns over food security are pushing policy makers towards taking top- down approaches to science and research policy.' – Peter Gregory, Experimental Agriculture
"I will admit that upon receiving the book, I anticipated a science-focused discussion that could be used in a genetic engineering course. Instead, the policy coverage was an eye-opening viewpoint different than that told in the public press or the news and views sections of scientific journals. With careful documentation by Brooks, Rice Biofortification reads as a history book connecting personalities whose decisions led to formation of a central scientific process removed from the agricultural development issues initially identified." – Wilson Crone, Economic Botany
Introduction: Why Biofortification? 1. 'Old Lessons and New Paradigms': Locating Biofortification 2. Building the Argument: The Case of Iron Rice 3. An Institutional Model? The Case of Golden Rice 4. An Alliance around an Idea: The Shifting Boundaries of Harvestplus 5. Global Science, Public Goods? A Synthesis. Conclusion. References. Notes
Sally Brooks has held various roles in international development as a researcher and practitioner. She has a PhD from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and is a research officer with the STEPS Centre, Sussex. Her research focuses on the social and institutional dynamics of science policy processes in food and agriculture.