Global Roots of Innovation in Plant Biotechnology: Economic Research Working Paper No. 59

Innovation in agricultural biotechnology has the potential to increase agricultural productivity and quality, ultimately raising incomes for farmers across the world. Advances in the field have produced crops that are resistant to certain diseases, that result in higher yield than before, that can grow in extreme soil conditions, such as in arid and salty environments and even those that are infused with nutrients. Moreover, the technology has been hailed as a potential solution to addressing global issues of hunger and poverty. It therefore follows that innovation in this field finds strong support from the public sector as well as the private sector. This paper traces the evolution of the global innovation landscape of plant biotechnology over the past couple of decades. Drawing on information contained in patent documents and scientific publications, it identifies the sources of innovation in the field, where they are located and demonstrates how these innovative centers connect to one another. There are three important findings. First, the global innovation network of agricultural biotechnology showcases a prime example of how innovation activities spread to many parts of the world. Second, while there are more countries participating in the innovation network, most of these innovation centers are concentrated in the urban areas and away from the rural where most of the transgenic crops are harvested. Third, the increasing need for collaboration between the private and public sectors to bring the invention to the market may have effect on how the returns to innovation are appropriated.

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