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Classical Biological Control and Social Equity

  • Miguel A. Altieri (a1)


For over a century, scientists from industrialized countries as well as from developing countries have appropriated natural enemies from different regions of the world. These actions have been conducted thus far without compensation to the donor countries for such ‘biological services’. This unrecompensed extraction has been predicated on the basis that biodiversity (including natural enemies) are ‘humankind's common heritage’ (Kloppenburg & Kleinman, 1987). Such a view has been challenged by some social scientists as well as representatives from some developing countries who now question the inequity of global patterns of exchange of and access to plant genetic resources. At issue is the substantial ‘genetic debt’ that the industrialized countries have procured from developing countries and which has remained uncompensated (Fowler & Mooney, 1990). In fact, the agricultures of industrialized countries are characterized by extreme dependence on ‘introduced’ genetic materials from developing countries. Much of this germplasm has been utilized by seed companies from industrialized countries to develop new, high-yielding varieties, often sold back to developing countries at considerable profit. The contradiction in the status of developing countries crop genetic resources as freely available ‘common heritage’ and the status of seed companies’ commercial varieties as ‘private property’ available by purchase has fueled a major geopolitical controversy. This dispute is bound to expand to other activities involving interregional exchange of biological resources. Concern about global environmental changes, the levels of responsibility of industrialized and developing countries in relation to these changes, and the fact that many developing countries are major repositories of biodiversity which play major biospheric roles, are all issues that fuel the controversy.



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Fowler, C. & Mooney, P. (1990) Shattering: food, politics and the loss of genetic diversity. 278 pp. Tucson, University of Arizona Press.
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Kloppenburg, J. & Kleinman, D.C. (1987) The plant germplasm controversy. BioScience 37, 190198.
Laing, J.E. & Hamai, J. (1976) Biological control of insect pests and weeds by imported parasites, predators and pathogens. pp. 686744in Huffaker, C.B. & Messenger, P.S. (Eds) Theory and practice of biological control. New York, Academic Press.
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Repetto, R. (1985) Paying the price: pesticide subsidies in developing countries. 27 pp. Washington, DC, World Resources Institute.
van den Bosch, R., Messenger, P.S. & Gutierrez, A.P. (1982) An introduction to biological control. 247 pp. New York, Plenum Press.
Weir, D. & Shapiro, M. (1981) Circle of poison. 97 pp. San Franciso, Institute for Food and Development Policy.

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Classical Biological Control and Social Equity

  • Miguel A. Altieri (a1)


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