National Node of the BCH
Capacity Building Activities, Projects and Opportunities
Record information and status
Record ID
Date of creation
2004-09-13 14:08 UTC (erie.tamale@biodiv.org)
Date of last update
2010-02-01 13:57 UTC (intern.ross.carroll@cbd.int)
Date of publication
2010-02-01 13:57 UTC (intern.ross.carroll@cbd.int)

General information
Title of the initiative
Research Project on Participatory Assessment of Social and Economic Impact of Biotechnology
Contact person
Dr. Jonathan Nevitt
Project Coordinator
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA
USA, 24061-0401
Phone:+1 (540) 231-7730
Fax:+1 (540) 231-3318
Url:Participatory Assessment of Social & Economic Impacts of Biotechnology
Beneficiary country(ies)
  • Bangladesh
  • Philippines
  • United States of America
  • CBD Regional Groups - Asia and the Pacific
  • CBD Regional Groups - Western Europe and Others
Type of initiative
Main target group(s) / beneficiaries
  • Target group: Public and private decision-makers, researchers, students and other stakeholders.
Start Date
Ending date
Donor(s) information
Government(s) sponsoring the initiative
  • No country specified
Agency(ies) or Organization(s) implementing or sponsoring the initiative
International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR)
P.O. Box 5689
Addis Ababa
Phone:+251 11-617-2500
Fax:+251 11-646-2927
Agency(ies) or Organization(s) implementing or sponsoring the initiative (Additional Information)
  • Organization: Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech)
  • Type of Organization: Research / Academic
Budget information
USDA - Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS) Grant - $$1,117,425.00
Availability of funds for participants
Activity details
Description of the initiative
Biotechnology holds the potential to dramatically increase the productivity of the agricultural sector and in some cases invent new uses for traditional crops which might help maintain the economic viability of farms producing those crops. However, the potential productivity and other economic gains genetically modified crops are accompanied by a set of risks and a myriad of concerns regarding their potential negative impact on human health, environmental safety, and preservation of local cultures.

Informed decisions on public investments in agricultural biotechnology research and policies to support the use of resulting products can only be made when stakeholder concerns are identified and benefits and costs associated with using the technologies are clearly delineated.

This project was designed to provide policy makers and the public with information on the benefits, costs, risks, and tradeoffs associated with the use of products arising from biotechnology research, focusing on pharmaceutical use of transgenic tobacco and genetically engineered rice. Tobacco was considered because of the significant biotechnology research program underway to discover alternative uses. Rice was considered because of its major implications for U.S. producers and for low-income consumers in developing countries. Tobacco and rice are major foci for biotechnology research, but have been subject to very little social and economic analysis.

By investigating and clarifying the benefits, costs, risks, and tradeoffs associated with transgenic tobacco and rice products for various stakeholders, this project contributes to forming better-informed public opinion and policies.

National level activities
Information exchange & data management
Public awareness, education and participation
Objective and main expected outcomes or lesson learned
Elicit and document stakeholder (producers, consumers, input suppliers, rural communities, and others) expectations and concerns with respect to biotechnology research on tobacco and rice.
Develop and apply a framework to assess the positive and negative economic and social impacts of agricultural biotechnologies on tobacco and rice, including their distribution among different interest groups both in the United States and abroad.
Develop and test educational materials to extend information on the benefits, costs, and concerns associated with biotechnologies to students (primary, secondary, and college) and the public at large, while at the same time creating a mechanism for continual feedback to scientists and public activists.

The goal of this project is to provide policy makers and the general public with information on the benefits, costs, risks, and tradeoffs associated with the use of products arising from biotechnology research.

The project aims to:
· Identify the issues and concerns held by various stakeholders regarding agricultural biotechnology.
· Document the potential benefits, costs, and risks of these new technologies.
· Increase public understanding of biotech benefits, costs, risks, and tradeoffs.

Main outcomes
The project will contribute to better-informed public opinion and more informed public policies and regulations governing biotechnologies in the United States and Asia, thus shaping regulatory oversight for agricultural biotechnologies by investigating and clarifying the benefits, costs, risks, and tradeoffs associated with transgenic tobacco and rice products for various stakeholders.

Ultimately, the project is expected to lead to more informed decisions by public and private decision-makers with respect to appropriate biosafety rules and the role of agricultural biotechnology in general. It will lead to greater clarity on the appropriate roles of the public versus the private sector in biotechnology research and development. Most importantly, it will help the public to better understand the benefits and risks associated with agricultural biotechnologies and allow policymakers to make improved resource allocation decisions.

So far, the following specific results have been achieved:

· Participatory appraisals and focus group meetings were completed in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee to elicit stakeholder views or concerns about the potential benefits and costs of pharmaceutical products from tobacco, and in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, the Philippines; and Bangladesh to obtain views about benefits and costs of GMO rice.

· A telephone survey of the general public in the United States was completed to assess the depth of concerns over potential health, environmental, and moral/ethical issues with respect to GMO rice and tobacco, and the willingness to support GMOs under varying levels of benefits. A total of 684 completed surveys were obtained for rice and 672 for tobacco.

· A reference database of relevant agricultural biotechnology literature has been constructed and is being updated continually

· Outreach activities have been undertaken with other biotech projects.


Mamaril, Cezar Brian, 2002, Transgenic Pest Resistant Rice: An Ex Ante Economic Evaluation of an Adoption Impact Pathway in the Philippines and Vietnam for Bt Rice, M.S. thesis, Virginia Tech
General thematic area(s)
  • Public awareness, participation and education in biosafety
  • Socio-economic considerations
Additional Information
Additional Information
Other collaborating organizations
Virginia State University, University of Tennessee, North Carolina State University, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR).
Other relevant website address or attached documents