USAID Promotion of Agricultural Biotechnology

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USAID Promotion of Agricultural Biotechnology describes the ways in which the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) promotes agricultural biotechnology, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

USAID Strategic Plan

The FY 2007-2012 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan states its support of biotechnology as follows:[1]

"Agriculture: The United States has strong political, economic, and humanitarian interests in supporting agricultural growth in poorer countries. We will support: agricultural trade and market systems that link producers to markets, add value to products, and increase rural incomes and opportunities; scientific and technological applications, including biotechnology, that harness new technology to raise agricultural productivity and provide a more stable, nutritious, and affordable food supply; local organizations that provide services and give political voice to producers; integration of vulnerable groups into development processes; development of human capital and institutions in and for agriculture; reduced negative environmental impacts; and natural resource management that contributes to rural sector growth. As women are the major food producers in many regions, we will work to ensure that women benefit from investments in technology and strengthening of markets."

A previous document, 2004-2009 joint U.S. State Department and USAID strategic plan, spells out this support in more detail:[2]

"The United States needs a stable, resilient, and growing world economy to secure prosperity at home and abroad. As the world’s largest economy and trading nation, total U.S. trade is equivalent to about one-quarter of our nation’s income. Over the past decade, exports accounted for one-quarter of our economic growth. One out of every three acres of our farmland is devoted to exports, as is one out of five jobs in manufacturing. U.S. firms and households have more than $6 trillion invested abroad.
"The rules-based trading system has been a principal driver of growth since the end of the Second World War. More than 50 years of post-war history demonstrates that countries that remove barriers to trade succeed in raising growth and reducing poverty, while countries that remain closed are left behind. Open markets, and the prosperity that ensues, generate resources to support public services, such as health and education, and promote accountable governments.
"Our diplomacy and development assistance will advance economic security, growth, and open markets, and will help developing countries participate more fully in the rising tide of prosperity. As we apply financial, technological, and human resources to achieve our goals, we must ensure that those resources are used wisely and effectively, and that they produce measurable outcomes. We will work to ensure that our efforts effectively target women, the majority of the world’s poor.
"Growth and Open Markets: We must advance global prosperity by increasing economic growth through expanded trade and investment. The Department and USAID will work with other federal agencies and foreign governments to secure ambitious reductions to barriers to trade in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and through bilateral initiatives. Building on existing U.S. free trade agreements in the Middle East, we will intensify our efforts to increase trade and investment ties with Middle Eastern countries and promote economic reform to implement the President's Middle East Free Trade Area proposal. We will strengthen the capacity of developing and transitional countries to participate in, and benefit from, trade by enhancing their ability to respond positively to global trade opportunities while observing internationally recognized labor standards. We will work to achieve Chinese fulfillment of its WTO commitments and Russian accession to the WTO. Working with foreign governments and civil society organizations, we will seek to gain broad acceptance of biotechnology as a means to improve nutrition, increase agricultural productivity, and advance environmental protection. We will support the critical role of technological innovation and entrepreneurship in sustainable economic development and will advocate information and communications technologies (ICTs) policies that promote expanded access and fair competition for U.S. companies. We will support U.S. firms as they trade and invest abroad by pressing governments to open markets, promote responsible business practices, and help resolve individual disputes. Through the G-8 and bilateral exchanges, we will urge Europe to remove structural impediments to growth and Japan to restore its banking system to health. [emphasis added]
"Economic Development: In 2002, at the UN Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, the United States helped forge a new international consensus on development that ties increased assistance to performance and accountability. We will promote sound governance and market-oriented economic growth that will enable other countries to become increasingly prosperous and interconnected with the United States, and will focus on the following strategies:...
"Promote agricultural development. A productive agricultural sector is a critical engine for economic growth in many developing countries, particularly in Africa. It also is critical for food security, improved nutrition and health, and environmental sustainability and security both in developing and transition countries. We will promote the adoption in low-income countries of new technologies deriving from agricultural research and development by mobilizing science and technology from developed as well as developing countries. We will seek new techniques for producing food without eroding the natural resource base. As women are the major food producers in many regions, we will work to ensure that women benefit from investments in technology and strengthening of markets. We will work with partner countries to strengthen the operation of local, regional, and global markets in agricultural products, employing public diplomacy as well as development assistance approaches to gain broad acceptance of biotech products in these markets while assuring the maintenance of acceptable food safety standards." [emphasis added]

Amount Spent on Biotechnology

Funding of biotechnology at USAID began as early as 1991. According to a 1995 article, agricultural biotechnology was funded at $12.7 million per year in 1993 and 1994.[3] Of that amount, 60 percent was allocated to public institutions, and 40 percent to private companies. "Private companies are funded by USAID to prioritize research projects of importance to developing countries, but not of top significance to private companies. The majority of USAID's agricultural biotechnology programmes are implemented through their global bureau in Washington D.C. and their regional missions."

However, according to a July 2000 Congressional testimony, "USAID spends roughly $7 million a year on agricultural biotechnology in developing countries."[4]

Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP) I "began in 1991 as a six­year programme with a total funding of US$ 6 million."[3] A 2005 article in GRAIN says that USAID spent $13 million on during the 12 years of the ABSP I project (1991-2003).[5]

The GRAIN article adds that the first five years of the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) was funded at a level of $15 million.[5]

A more complete analysis of the USAID budget is available for fiscal years 2004 and 2005. During 2004, USAID's Office of Environment and Science Policy (EGAT/ESP) was allocated $7,079,000 to its biotechnology program and an additional $24,853,000 for international research, which may include biotechnology as well.[6]

The use of the funding is described as follows:[6]


"EGAT/ESP will provide oversight and management for USAID’s biotechnology programs, including the Collaborative Agricultural Biotechnology Initiative (CABIO), which helps developing countries safely access and manage the tools of modern biotechnology to improve agricultural productivity, environmental sustainability and nutrition. EGAT/ESP will support HarvestPlus to increase the nutritional quality of crops; cereal genomics research; and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), a public-private partnership that helps smallholder farmers gain access to agricultural technology. Partners: Cornell University, Michigan State University, the International Service for National Agricultural Research, the CGIAR, and Kansas State University."

International Research:

"Funds provided to the international agriculture and natural resource research centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) will support: increased agricultural productivity; reduced hunger and food costs; increased smallholder incomes; and a conserved natural resource base. This will result in the dissemination of new, higher-yielding, more pest-resistant and stress-tolerant food crop varieties; improved agricultural and natural resource management policies; and increased incomes from sustainable management of resources. Partners: the international research centers of the CGIAR and the World Bank."

In 2005, the budgets for these programs were $6,930,000 for biotechnology and $25,000,000 for international research. The programs were described as follows:[6]


"EGAT/ESP will to continue to fund biotechnology research and policy activities. This will include a shift from biotechnology research to field trials in Africa and Asia, implementation of the first round of public-private sector collaborations under the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, and further development of nutritionally-enhanced mustard, maize, and rice varieties. In collaboration with the National Science Foundation and USDA, EGAT/ESP also plans to launch a jointly-funded competitive grants initiative in the area of cereal genomics. Partners are the same as above."

International Research:

"Support to the CGIAR will continue for long-term research that improves the livelihoods of poor producers and consumers while protecting and conserving the natural resource base. Drought-tolerant, disease-resistant and improved varieties of crops will be released and disseminated. Efforts to increase water productivity will be expanded. Conservation of in-situ agro-biodiversity will continue, and ex-situ conservation will begin through the Global Crop Diversity Trust, a public-private alliance to ensure that genetic diversity is conserved and characterized. Partners are the same as above.

1991-2003: Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP) I

Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP) I ran from 1991 to 2003. The program was run out of Michigan State University. The goals of the program were developing GMOs for introduction in various countries in the Global South and helping those countries write and pass regulations for GMOs that would allow their introduction and would permit them to trade with the United States, which grows and exports GM crops. For more information, see the article on Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP) I.

2002-Present: Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP) II

For more information, see the article on Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP) II.

Outcomes of USAID Work

A 2004-2005 budget document describes USAID's achievements as follows:

"Through the CABIO Initiative, a memorandum of agreement on biotechnology cooperation was signed with the Government of India. Activities also helped to develop the AATF partnership, which will leverage private sector engagement in providing agricultural technology and know-how to smallholder farmers in Africa. USAID partnerships with African organizations such as the Forum on Agricultural Research in Africa and the governments of Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria were strengthened to build a common vision of integrating biotechnology into African development."[6]

Biotech Crop Projects

USAID is developing genetically modified crops (GMOs) for use in various African and Asian countries.[7] In each case, they work with national agricultural research systems in the host country along with "other in-country partners" to develop the GMOs and to provide "training and material support." As of June 2012, none of their projects have yielded commercially viable GMOs. Specific GMO projects they are currently working on as of 2012 include:[8]

However, as of 2012, funding has been discontinued for:[8]

  • Multiple Virus Resistant Tomato in Indonesia, Philippines
  • Tomato Virus Resistance for West Africa in Mali
  • Tobacco Streak Virus Resistant Groundnut in India

A previous (2011) report on ABSP II's projects also listed:[7]

  • Virus resistant cassava in Kenya and Uganda. The cassava will resist cassava mosaic virus and brown streak virus.
  • Insect resistant cowpeas in Nigeria.
  • Bt potato in South Africa.
  • Nitrogen use efficient, salt tolerant, and drought tolerant rice in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Stress tolerant wheat in South Asia.
  • "Biofortified crops" - USAID works with the Harvest Plus consortium to develop staple crops like cassava, maize, rice, and millet that are fortified with zinc, iron, and vitamin A. The best known example of this is Golden Rice.

USAID Biotechnology Team

As of 2011:[9]

Previous biotechnology staff:

As of 2005:[13]

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles


  1. [FY 2007-2012 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan], Strategic Goal 4: Promoting Economic Growth and Prosperity, May 2007, Accessed October 20, 2011.
  2. EXCERPTS Relevant to RCSA from State-USAID Joint Strategic Plan, Appendix A: Strategic Planning Framework, FY 2004-2009 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan, Accessed October 20, 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Gigi Manicad, "Agricultural Biotechnology Projects within USAID," Biotechnology and Development Monitor, September 1995.
  4. Full Hearing Transcript for "The Role of Biotechnology in Combating Hunger", Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, Export, and Trade Promotion, Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, July 12, 2000.
  5. 5.0 5.1 USAID: Making the World Hungry for GM Crops, GRAIN, April 25, 2005, Accessed October 16, 2011.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 EGAT - Environment and Science Policy, Accessed October 21, 2011.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Biotechnology Programs, USAID, 2011.
  8. 8.0 8.1 The Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSPII) Product Summaries, June 2012.
  9. USAID Staff Directory, Accessed October 21, 2011.
  10. The Role of USAID in Enhancing Agricultural Growth in the Developing World, Symposium--Global Footprints: Adding Value to Agriculture in the Developing World, ASA-CSSA-SSSA, November 3, 2009, Accessed October 21, 2011.
  11. AAAS Fellows, Accessed October 21, 2011.
  12. [ 2008—2009 AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships Annual Review], Accessed October 21, 2011.
  13. USAID Biotech Update, April 27, 2005, Accessed October 21, 2011.

External Resources

USAID Fact Sheets

External Articles