Published in Cancer Detection and Prevention 1993; 17(2):329-332.

Biotechnology and Developing Countries

A. Albertini, MB and C Iacobello

Institute of Chemistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy

The revolution in science, accompanied by extraordinary technical developments in the biological field commonly known as "biotechnology," promises to bring enormous advantages to the health and general well being of mankind. For example, a complete understanding of the role and origins of all human genes would clarify the complex causes of human disease while providing the basis for future approaches with the aim of disease prevention and treatment. Biotechnology will help provide greater insight into our evolution and a better understanding of genetic diversity in nature, thus greatly influencing developments in the fields of both agriculture and energy. Several socioeconomic implications face biotechnological progress, for example, those concerning employment, which could be analogous, although in different proportions, in both countries described as industrialized as well as in those that are not. However, there are other consequences that particularly affect the developing countries: the availability of pharmaceutical substitutes, aromas, spices and flavorings, fragrances, and sweeteners in place of traditional products imported from the developing countries. If advances in biotechnology affect exported products and commercial cultivation and not local use or the principle harvest, a large part of the population will run the risk of not benefiting from these advantages. It should be remembered that those countries technologically less advanced lack an environment adapted to biotechnological progress. Bioindustries, putting their trust in recombinant DNA techniques, request quality standards and rigorous safety tests for their products, strong capital investments, and highly qualified personnel, besides a large commitment to basic research. Therefore, the impact of biotechnology on the society of developing countries must take into consideration the limitations due to the development of these technologies: the technological dependence that may arise in many countries, and the intense competition that their products must face, especially in the sector of food transformation.

KEY WORDS: biotechnology, developing countries .