Genetically Modified Organisms as Public Goods: Plant Biotechnology Transfer in Colombia



This paper presents an exploration of biotechnology transfer and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as “public goods” for Colombia. Plant biotechnology tenders the promise of providing “public goods” in the form of increased agricultural productivity, economic development, and food security. However, these each have the potential to benefit different groups of people. Colombian scientists recognize this when discussing the uses of genetic modification. We examine the goals for which Colombian scientists suggest plant genetic engineering has promise as well as the barriers they encounter using the technology. Research using genetic engineering is difficult due to a lack of resources, the need to negotiate intellectual property rights, and regulatory hurdles. Nevertheless, Colombian scientists suggested that genetic modification by Colombians is important, as transnational companies would not necessarily develop crops to meet Colombian needs. We argue that interpretive complexity is necessary to understand the desire of Colombian scientists to engage with biotechnology.