In many of the more developed countries, genetically engineered crops already contribute greatly to agricultural productivity and sustainability. Over the last few years, the largest growth in the adoption of genetically engineered crops has been in developing countries and this trend is expected to continue. The multi-national life sciences companies have been leading the way, but they are focusing primarily on a few crop/trait combinations that have high commercial value and occupy large international markets. The greatest success has been with insect resistant and herbicide tolerant maize, soybean, canola and cotton. Because of the costs and complexity of the issues related to crop biotechnology, many crops and traits of importance to subsistence and resource-poor farmers around the developing world have been overlooked. For example, there are few crops possessing disease resistance traits mitigated by genetic modification. Those that do exist, papaya ringspot resistant papaya and virus resistant squash, are resistant via viral coat mediated resistance. The development of fungal and bacterial disease resistant crops hasn’t been met with nearly the success compared to other traits, especially crops important to people in developing countries. More recently, crops genetically modified for fungi and bacteria resistance important to resource poor farmers in developing countries are in the pipeline for commercial release. I will present examples of several of these projects including Banana Xanthomonas wilt resistance in Uganda using the pflp and hrap genes, potato late blight resistance in Indonesia and Bangladesh using an R gene, RB, from a wild-type potato and attempts to generate fungal disease resistant banana using RNAi technology. I will also touch on the success ABSPII had in the commercial release of Bt eggplant in Bangladesh and describe the struggles and hurtles associated with the product development and commercialization of such crops.
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