Agricultural Biotechnology in Argentina

Agricultural biotechnology has the potential to improve productivity and some aspects of the sustainability of the current agricultural production model. It can also promote linkages between agriculture and knowledge-intensive activities that may generate spillovers in other sectors, thus contributing to the diversification of the production structure. In addition to this potential, biotechnology is increasingly required to meet traceability and environmental sustainability standards, both internationally (through environmental regulations and changes in demand) and locally (through pressure from civil society). We believe that meeting these objectives requires an intensive process of institution-building and public policy design. This was the motivating factor and starting point for this document.

As a general-purpose technology, biotechnology has the potential to generate technological spillovers and lateral linkages, through which companies, products, technologies, and knowledge that are directly associated with agriculture migrate into other activities, such as food, health, energy, and textiles. We also need to draw attention to the matter of timing: as experts in the dynamics of technological change have pointed out, just as digital technologies dominate the current technological paradigm, other technologies, such as biotechnology, will be the main players in the next such paradigm. This opens up a window of opportunity to make the most of the advantages of adopting a new technology in its early stages.

The document is organized as follows: section 2 defines agricultural biotechnology and classifies the various biotechnological techniques that are applied to produce different agricultural inputs. Section 3 provides an overview of existing capacities in Argentina using the data collected by the National Survey of Biotechnology Companies conducted by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MinCyT, 2021). Specifically, it analyzes the number of biotechnology companies in the country, their size and sources of capital, and their contribution to the economy in terms of employment, sales, and investment in R&D. Section 4 examines a specific input, seed production, which is extremely important in the agricultural biotechnology sector. Specifically, it analyzes the size of the global seed and biotechnology market, how labor is divided between local and multinational companies, and the impact of biotechnology on agricultural productivity and sustainability in Argentina. Section 5 contains some final reflections on the current state of agricultural biotechnology and its potential.

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