Ecoscript 44

Although it is assumed that there is only one biotechnology,
analysis shows that the targets of the industrialized world
(biotechnology) is totally different from the regional biotech
targets of Latin American countries (pseudobiotech=pBT).

The failure of pBT is the result of a strategy of technologi-
cal development which does not aim at the creation of interna-
tionally competitive high-added-value products, but limits the
regional aspirations and efforts to a narrow range of options
of dubious commercial value. Latin American countries consider
pBT an instrument for solving social and political problems
like malnutrition, most of the endemic diseases of the region,
and improving the poor farmer's fare. This is wrong in two
accounts: technology by itself does not solve social problems;
and the desired products are not likely to be profitable even
in the local marketplace.

The region still refuses to acknowledge the fact that biotech-
nology is very scant in technology and very rich in original,
useful science, and that the stakes are very high. Corporate
aims are the design and development off new drugs and procedu-
res which have immense potential markets and which are needed
to maintain annual revenue figures in the one to ten billion
dollars range. This is only possible through a deep understan-
ding of the molecular biologies of the gene, of the genome and
of the animal and plant cell, as well as the molecular bases
of physiology and physiopathology of animals and plants.

These are the main areas of thrust of modern molecular biolo-
gy, funded by the national science systems of the First World.
These areas are virtually absent from the scientific landscape
of Latin America, and there are no indications about any indi-
genous public or corporate actors interested in subsidizing
their development.

In Latin America, where economists and politicians never had
to consider science, creativity, and autonomous innovation in
technology as meaningful economic variables, there is no sig-
nificant discussion about these issues. Economists, business-
people, industrialists and politicians are blind to the prob-
lems of innovation as seen in the First World. For them, inno-
vation means shopping for the latest state-of-the-art techno-
logy that is available and they van afford. Industries often
become world competitive by buying abroad - off the shelve -
the latest machinery, employing first-rate scientists to des-
ign rational buying strategies and the required adaptations of

Yet most Latin American countries have by now some sort of re-
search establishment - operationally defined as THE SET OF THE
naturally anxious to justify their salaries.

In Latin America, scientific excellency and high standards of
science education are not translated automatically in wealth
and economic growth. The Latin American experience shows that
within the present mode of development, strength in research
is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for economic


Introduction 7
A bad moment for high tech 8
Biotechnology 10
Profits 10
Investments 10
Competitivity 11
Globality 11
The role of the university 12
Biotechnology is not a type of engineering 13
Pseudobiotechnology 14
pBT and industry 15
The other reality of industry-university cooperation 16
Industrial parks: the last pBT fad 16
The educational problem 18
pBT and business 20
The potentialities of transgenic plants 21
Plant genomes projects 23
The human genome project 24
Changing technologies, changing strategies 25
The genome of a worm 27
The cystic fibrosis gene 27
The huntington's disease gene 30
Some remarks on the search for human genes 31
Cattle genome projects 33
Japan and the UK 33
The international politics of the genome 35
The control of the genome data 35
Latin America and the genome projects 36
Biotic diversity and biotechnology 38
An agenda for Latin American biotechnology 40
Acknowledgements 42
Notes and references 43