Tech Transfer Group Talks Food Production

14 October 2009

Delegates participating in the WTO's Working Group on Technology Transfer focused on agricultural productivity at a morning meeting on Tuesday.

The session featured a presentation from Andrea Sonnino of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization on the links between technology transfer and agricultural productivity. The ‘Green Revolution' of the late twentieth century improved the livelihoods of several million farmers and significantly increase per-capita food availability, Sonnino said, but added that agriculture sectors will need more investments in research and development if farm productivity is to keep pace with growing global demand.

An Indian official intervened in response to the FAO presentation to point out that new technologies played a critical role in helping India boost its domestic food production dramatically since the 1940s, when the country was hit hard by the Bengal famine.

India intervened a second time to urge major developed nations to share their technologies, echoing calls that it and other developing nations have made several times in the Technology Transfer Working Group.

But such statements have borne no fruit, sources report. "No [rich] country has come forward with a substantive response," one delegate said.

Participants in the working group do not negotiate; their sessions are instead meant to serve as a forum for discussion about the relationship between trade and technology transfer, one delegate explained.

The Technology Transfer group is not known for producing big results, and the group's discussions usually attract little attention outside the WTO. The notion of sharing of technological breakthroughs between developed and developing nations has been the topic of intense discussions during recent climate change negotiations, but global warming is unlikely to come up in the WTO working group's agenda anytime soon. "They will not allow us to raise climate, because it's outside the mandate," one delegate said.

ICTSD reporting.

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