From the Green Revolution to the Gene Revolution: How will the Poor Fare?
The past four decades have seen two waves of agricultural technology development and diffusion to developing countries. The first wave was initiated by the Green Revolution in which an explicit strategy for technology development and diffusion targeting poor farmers in poor countries made improved germplasm freely available as a public good. The second wave was generated by the Gene Revolution in which a global and largely private agricultural research system is creating improved agricultural technologies that flow to developing countries primarily through market transactions. The Green Revolution strategy for food crop productivity growth was based on the premise that, given appropriate institutional mechanisms, technology spillovers across political and agro-climatic boundaries can be captured. A number of significant asymmetries exist between developed and developing, e.g.: agricultural systems, market institutions and research and regulatory capacity. These asymmetries raise doubts as to whether the Gene Revolution has the same capacity to generate spillover benefits for the poor. A strong public sector – working cooperatively with the private sector – is essential to ensure that the poor benefit from the Gene Revolution.