Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

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Starch meets biotechnology : in planta modification of starch composition and functionalities
Xu, Xuan - \ 2016
Wageningen University. Promotor(en): Richard Visser, co-promotor(en): Luisa Trindade. - Wageningen : Wageningen University - ISBN 9789462579200 - 169
starch - potato starch - potatoes - solanum tuberosum - plant biotechnology - biotechnology - genetic engineering - transgenic plants - modified starches - phosphate - arabidopsis thaliana - plant breeding - zetmeel - aardappelzetmeel - aardappelen - plantenbiotechnologie - biotechnologie - genetische modificatie - transgene planten - gemodificeerd zetmeel - fosfaat - plantenveredeling

Storage starch is an energy reservoir for plants and the major source of calories in the human diet. Starch is used in a broad range of industrial applications, as a cheap, abundant, renewable and biodegradable biopolymer. However, starch needs to be modified before it can fulfill the required properties for specific industrial applications. Genetic modification of starch, as a green technology with environmental and economic advantages, has attracted increasingly attention. Many achievements obtained from earlier studies have demonstrated the feasibility and potential of using this approach to produce starches with novel properties (Chapter 2).

The main objective of this research was to produce novel starches with enhanced functionalities through genetic modification, while gaining a better understanding of storage starch biosynthesis. A focus on potato was warranted as it represents a superior model system for storage starch biosynthesis studies and for the production of starches with novel properties. To this end, a number of enzymes from various sources have been expressed in potato tubers to modify starch phosphate content and polysaccharide structure, since these two characteristics have long been recognized as key features in starch properties.

To modify starch phosphate content and explore starch (de)phosphorylation, a human phosphatase enzyme named laforin, and modifications of it, were introduced into potato (Chapter 3). Interestingly, modified starches exhibited a significantly higher phosphate content rather than the expected lower phosphate content. Transcriptome analysis showed that the increase in phosphate content was a result of upregulation of starch phosphorylating genes, which revealed a compensatory response to the loss of phosphate content in potato starch. Furthermore, the increase of phosphate content in potato starch was reached to a threshold level. This was in line with the observations in the modified starches from overexpressed- Glucan water dikinase (GWD1) transgenic plants (Chapter 4). Furthermore, overexpression of two starch dikinases from Arabidopsis thaliana, glucan water dikinase 2 and 3 (AtGWD2 and AtGWD3), did not result in a significant increase in phosphate content of potato starch (Chapter 5). Taken together, these results indicated that phosphate content of potato starch is under strict control.

Morphological analysis of starch granules containing different levels of phosphate content confirmed the indispensible role of phosphate content in the normal formation of starch granules, since cracked granules were observed in the starches containing low phosphate content, while irregular bumpy shaped granules were observed in the tubers from plants containing high phosphate content. Interestingly, further analyses on the expression level of genes involved in starch metabolism and sugar-starch conversion suggested that starch phosphorylation might affect starch synthesis by controlling the carbon flux into starch while simultaneously modulating starch-synthesizing genes. Further studies are needed to confirm this finding (Chapter 4).

To produce starches with novel structures, an (engineered) 4, 6-α-glucanotransferase (GTFB) from Lactobacillus reuteri 121 was introduced into potato tubers (Chapter 6). The resulting starches showed severe changes in granule morphology, but not in starch fine structure. Transcriptome analysis revealed the existence of a self-repair mechanism to restore the regular packing of double helices in starch granules, which possibly resulted in the removal of novel glucose chains potentially introduced by the (engineered) GTFB.

This research successfully generated starches with various functionalities, including altered gelatinization characteristics (Chapter 3 and 4), improved freeze-thaw stability (Chapter 4) and higher digestibility (Chapter 6). The exploitation of relationships between starch characteristics and starch properties revealed that starch properties represent the outcome of the combined effect of many factors and are highly dependent on the genetic background in which the modification has been performed.

In conclusion, the research described in this thesis demonstrates the great potential of genetic modification in producing starches with novel properties. Meanwhile, these results revealed the presence of complex and exquisite molecular regulation mechanisms for starch biosynthesis in potato. In future research, these regulations need to be taken into account for the relational design of starch in planta. Certainly, a better understanding of the process of starch metabolism in storage organs would be a great step forward towards tailoring starch in an economically important crop such as potato.

Plant Biotechnology meets Immunology : plant-based expression of immunologically relevant proteins
Wilbers, R.H.P. - \ 2015
Wageningen University. Promotor(en): Jaap Bakker, co-promotor(en): Arjen Schots; Geert Smant. - Wageningen : Wageningen University - ISBN 9789462574335 - 229
plantenbiotechnologie - immunologie - planten - eiwitten - farmaceutische eiwitten - interleukine 10 - ontstekingsremmers - biologische activiteit - cytokinen - genexpressie - transforming growth factor - wormen - recombinant eiwitten - glycoproteïnen - plant biotechnology - immunology - plants - proteins - pharmaceutical proteins - interleukin 10 - antiinflammatory agents - biological activity - cytokines - gene expression - helminths - recombinant proteins - glycoproteins

The incidence of inflammatory disorders in industrialized countries has dramatically increased over the last decennia, which is believed to result from a change in life-style. Treatment of these inflammatory disorders relies on the intervention in immune responses thereby restoring homeostasis. For now, many inflammatory disorders are treated with broad-acting immunosuppressive drugs or monoclonal antibodies that specifically target pro-inflammatory molecules of the immune system. An alternative therapeutic approach would be to use immunomodulatory proteins that are naturally involved in re-establishing immune homeostasis. This thesis describes the plant-based expression of a variety of immunomodulatory cytokines that may be used as biopharmaceutical proteins in the future. Furthermore, this thesis contains a pioneering chapter on the plant-based expression of immunomodulatory helminth-secreted glycoproteins.

In Chapter 2 we describe the plant-based expression of the immune-regulatory cytokine human transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1). By co-expressing human furin with latent TGF-β1 we were able to engineer the post-translational proteolytic processing of TGF-β1, which enabled the production of biologically active TGF-β1. In Chapter 3 we reveal that aggregation is a major production bottleneck for the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10). By protein engineering we were able to prevent aggregation and created a biologically active fusion protein of IL-10. In Chapter 4 we express biologically active IL-22 in plants. We reveal that, in contrast to current literature, its activity is independent of the presence of N-glycans or their composition. This chapter further reveals that plants offer a powerful tool to allow investigation into the role of N-glycans in protein folding and biological activity of glycoproteins. In Chapter 5 we further explore the potential of glyco-engineering in plants by engineering helminth-like N-glycans. We produce large quantities of two major egg antigens from Schistosoma mansoni and successfully engineer Lewis X, LDN and LDNF N-glycan structures. These plant biotechnological research lines are a showcase for the potential of engineering proteins as well as post-translational modifications in plants with special emphasis on N-glycan engineering. Altogether, the results presented in the first four chapters reveal the remarkable flexibility of plants as a production platform for recombinant proteins. It showcases the potential of engineering proteins as well as post-translational modifications in plants, but it especially highlights the engineering of tailor made N-glycans in plants. This, combined with the speed of transient expression by means of agroinfiltration, makes transient expression in Nicotiana benthamiana a powerful tool to study the role of N-glycans on glycoprotein function.

In parallel to these plant biotechnological research lines, we also developed an in vitro model system based on mouse bone marrow-derived cells to study immunological responses. We used this model to obtain clues on why IL-10 therapy has not been as successful as previously anticipated. In Chapter 6 we have set-up biological activity assays based on bone marrow-derived cells and reveal that IL-10 activity is dependent on both IL-10R1 and IL-10R2, but not IL-10R2-associated signalling via Tyk2. We also show that interactions between IL-10R1 and IL-10R2 (both intracellular and extracellular) reduce cellular binding of IL-10, but are crucial to initiate IL-10 mediated signalling. Furthermore, we observed that macrophages and dendritic cells respond differently to IL-10. This was further investigated in Chapter 7 where we reveal that GM-CSF (the cytokine used to differentiate dendritic cells) is responsible for negatively regulating early IL-10-mediated responses. Strikingly, GM-CSF does not strongly affect the IL-10-induced activation of the transcription factor STAT3. Instead, GM-CSF induces strong constitutive phosphorylation of GSK-3β, a signalling component downstream of the PI3K/Akt pathway. These immunological chapters give novel insights on the mechanism of initiating IL-10-induced signalling and on the possible integration of signal transduction pathways elicited by different cytokines. Ultimately this knowledge could provide us with new therapeutic strategies to treat inflammatory disorders.

Application of omics technologies for environmental risk assessment of genetically modified plants : arabidopsis and modified defence mechanisms as a model study
Houshyani Hassanzadeh, B. - \ 2012
Wageningen University. Promotor(en): Harro Bouwmeester; Raoul Bino, co-promotor(en): Iris Kappers. - [S.l. : s.n. - ISBN 9789461731036 - 230
transgene planten - genetische modificatie - metabolomica - arabidopsis thaliana - verdedigingsmechanismen - risicoschatting - plantenbiotechnologie - milieu - niet-doelorganismen - transgenic plants - genetic engineering - metabolomics - defence mechanisms - risk assessment - plant biotechnology - environment - nontarget organisms

As a result of rapid biotechnological developments in the past century, genetically modified (GM) crops were developed and introduced for field application. Despite the advantages of these crops and the professional marketing policies, people also started questioning the safety of GM products for humans and the environment. In response to that, scientific advisory bodies (such as COGEM, The Netherlands Commission on Genetic Modification) suggested that, among other measurements, an environmental risk assessment (ERA) of a GM crop should be done before introduction into the field. Ecological knowledge about the possible effects was considered a vital component of that assessment. In 2007, the Dutch Government initiated the ERGO (Ecology Regarding Gene-modified Organisms) research programme to generate a scientific basis for a sound ecological risk analysis. The main objective of the ERGO-programme was to develop ecology-based guidelines for how to best assess the possible ecological side-effects of new GM crops. Also the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recognised the interaction of a GM crop with non-target organisms as a potential environmental risk and therefore they provided guidelines for selection of a range of non-target organisms and phenotypes to be studied under laboratory conditions as part of a GM crop risk assessment study. These guidelines formed the basis for the ERGO research themes.

Parallel to the new biotechnological developments leading to the introduction of GM plants into the environment, new analytical techniques were also introduced that revolutionized the field of analytical biology. High throughput analytical platforms, collectively called omics technologies, created opportunities for untargeted analysis of cellular components with biological and ecological functions including mRNAs (transcriptomics), proteins (proteomics) and metabolites (metabolomics). These analytical platforms were recommended by several researchers in the field of GM food/feed safety for the analysis and comparison of a GM product with its safe counterpart. However, EFSA failed to formulate concrete rules about the application of the omics platforms in GM risk assessment perhaps due to a lack of consensus about where and how to employ these technologies in the whole ERA of GM plants. In the ERGO programme, exploration of the potential to apply omics platforms for ERA of GM crops was therefore one of the objectives.

This PhD thesis originates from one of the ERGO themes, assessment of the effect of genetic modification on non-target organisms. Under this theme with three PhD students a multidisciplinary approach was pursued to provide guidelines for how to evaluate non-target effects of GM crops altered in insect resistance using ecological methods as well as omics platforms. In this PhD thesis, I set out to find solutions for some of the limitations in the application of omics platforms such as the lack of a statistical method to evaluate the differences between GM vs. wild type plants at the omics level and the question what would be a fair reference for the judgement about the effect of genetic modification. As a model for the evaluation of the impact of genetic modification on the omics phenotype we used three insect defence traits that we introduced using genetic modification into several different Arabidopsis thaliana accessions. The first trait, indirect defence, was the production of the volatile (E)-nerolidol which has been shown to attract predatory mites that can control spider mites. The other two traits were direct defence traits and consisted of overexpression of the transcription factor (MYB28) to boost aliphatic glucosinolate biosynthesis and the introduction of Cry1from Bacillus thuringiensis encoding the Bt toxin that is effective against lepidopteran insects (caterpillars). As a reference for comparison of the effects of the genetic modification, we used a panel of wild type A. thaliana accessions that were selected in this study and publically available data of different accessions and individuals of a RIL population that together constitute the baseline, the variation present in the non-GM background germplasm. To allow for comparison of large datasets with this baseline, in Chapter 2 a statistical measure was developed, which we coined hyper-plane distance and which was used to assess the non-target effects of our genetic modification in transcriptomics as well as metabolomics analyses. In omics untargeted analyses, multivariate, hyper-dimensional data are generated, making global comparison of samples or groups of samples very difficult. In chapter 2 a method was developed to calculate a distance between the metabolome - analysed on three different metabolomics platforms - of genotypes or environments. Hereto, we employed principal component analysis (PCA) to reduce the number of analysed metabolites to a series of principal components (PCs) or dimensions of a PCA plot. The scores of the samples on a number of PCs, representing the relative position of samples to each other on those PCs, were subsequently used in an analysis of similarity (ANOSIM). In this manner, we used the variation in the samples’ PC scores to derive a distance between groups of samples on a multi-dimensional plot, the hyper-plane distance, in the case of metabolites called the metabolic distance. This distance represents between-group differences as well as within-group differences and therefore is a measure of the overlap between groups in a multi-dimensional context. Furthermore, it was also possible to statistically test the calculated distance in ANOSIM by permuting the samples’ scores to produce a P-value for the calculated distance. Hyper-plane distance gives a single measure for the difference between groups of samples in a PCA hyper-plane, something that is impossible visually with many samples of many groups in a multi-dimensional context. The metabolic distance was used to select metabolically diverged accessions of A. thaliana and to determine the impact of the environment on the metabolome of A. thaliana. The accessions thus selected (An-1, Col-0, Cvi and Eri) are representative for the metabolome diversity across the set of analysed accessions, and hence represent the baseline metabolome.

Engineering A. thaliana to produce the volatile (E)-nerolidol was used to alter indirect defence in A. thaliana. In Chapter 3 several genetic engineering strategies were used to generate transgenic lines that uniformly emit sufficient amount of the volatile. Combination of the gene responsible for (E)-nerolidol biosynthesis (FaNES1) with the gene responsible for biosynthesis of its precursor, farnesyl diphosphate synthase (FPS1L), both equipped with mitochondrial targeting signal, resulted in higher production of (E)-nerolidol than with FaNES1 alone. The transgenic production of (E)-nerolidol in Arabidopsis also resulted in the formation of non-volatile conjugates. Adding also 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl CoA reductase 1 (HMGR1), a rate limiting enzyme of the mevalonate pathway, resulted in a further increase in the production of (E)-nerolidol as well as its non-volatile conjugates. Transgenic A. thaliana plants emitting (E)-nerolidol were more attractive to the insect Diadegma semiclausum, which is an important endoparasitoid of the larvae of Plutella xylostella (cabbage moth).

In Chapters 4 and 5 the chemical changes in and effects of transgenic A. thaliana accessions altered in indirect or direct defence on insect behaviour were characterised. In Chapter 4 the mitochondrial-targeted nerolidol synthase (COX-FaNES1) and the gene encoding the enzyme for the substrate (FPP) biosynthesis in mitochondria (COX-FPS2) were introduced into three A. thaliana accessions. Transgenic plants also emitted (E)-DMNT and linalool in addition to (E)-nerolidol. The aphid, Brevicoryne brassicae, was repelled by the transgenic lines of two of the accessions, although its performance on the transgenic lines was not affected. The aphid parasitoid, Diaeretiella rapae, preferred aphid-infested transgenic plants over aphid-infested wild-type for two of the accessions. Although another aphid predator, Episyrphus balteatus, did not differentiate between aphid-infested transgenic or wild-type plants, the results suggest that genetically engineering plants to modify their emission of VOCs holds promise for improving control of herbivores.

In Chapter 5, MYB28 was overexpressed in three A. thaliana accessions. MYB28 overexpression had different effects (positive as well as negative) on the total aliphatic glucosinolate level in different transformation events of the same genetic background, possibly as a result of tight post-transcriptional regulation of MYB28. Furthermore, enhancement of the aliphatic glucosinolate pathway seems to be genetic background specific. Leaf damage by Brassicaceae generalist Mamestra brassicae and specialist Plutella xylostella were negatively affected by MYB28 overexpression, giving promises for improvement of chewing pest damage control. Higher glucosinolate levels as a result of MYB28 overexpression affected insect performance positively in the specialist and negatively in the generalist. Statistical analysis revealed the differential influence of certain structural groups of aliphatic glucosinolates on the two different insects.

Chapter 6 demonstrates the application of the hyper-plane distance for the assessment of GM-mediated effects on the transcriptome. In this case, publicly available meta data containing the natural transcriptome variation in A. thaliana were proposed as a reference. Using this approach we showed that GM Arabidopsis lines with a novel indirect defence trait display changes in the transcriptome due to introduction of pleiotropic transgenes. However, the observed changes were well within the range of variation and plasticity in gene expression occurring naturally in A. thaliana. We also showed that unintended changes in the transcriptome are the result of other factors than the novel trait itself. This is an important observation because it implies that untargeted effects could be avoided or changed by using other strategies for transformation.

In Chapter 7 all the transgenic lines generated in my thesis work were included in a metabolomics approach to study the effect of genetic modification on the metabolome level. The primary selected accessions of A. thaliana (Chapter 2) formed the baseline metabolome and the hyper-plane distance measurement was employed for analysis of differences. Untargeted metabolomics analyses using GC-TOF-MS and LC-TOF-MS of shoot and root material showed that the metabolome of most of the transgenic lines was substantially equal to the baseline even though the baseline did not yet include environment-induced metabolome variation. We suggest that substantial equivalence of a GM line’s metabolome with the baseline can be used to infer a low or even no risk of the particular genetic modification for non-target organisms and can be used as a first-pass criterion in the assessment of non-target ecological effects.

Chapter 8 was written in collaboration with the two other PhD students from the same ERGO project. It summarizes and discusses the most important conclusions of the research done by the three PhD students and integrates the results in the form of guidelines for assessing the non-target ecological effects of a new GM crop. These guidelines suggest rules that must be taken into consideration when a request for permission for field trials or commercialisation of a new GM crop is submitted to COGEM.

Modern biotechnology Panacea or new Pandora's box?
Tramper, J. ; Yang Zhu, Yang - \ 2011
The Netherlands : Wageningen Academic Publishers - ISBN 9789086861699 - 284
biotechnologie - voedselbiotechnologie - genetische modificatie - plantenbiotechnologie - biotechnology - food biotechnology - genetic engineering - plant biotechnology
According to Greek mythology Pandora was sent down to earth upon the orders of Zeus. She was given a mysterious box which she was not allowed to open. However, Pandora was very curious and when she arrived on earth she couldn?t help taking a peek inside the box. She saw that it was filled with gifts and calamities and to her astonishment they all escaped and spread throughout humanity, with all the dire consequences thereof. Only hope was left at the bottom. Figuratively speaking, Pandora's box today represents a source of much suffering. Is modern biotechnology just such a Pandora's box, as the anti-biotechnology lobby would have us believe? Or can we selectively release the gifts and turn this new Pandora's box into a Panacea? Modern biotechnology makes use of the recombinant DNA technology to genetically modify microorganisms, plants and animals in order to make them more suitable for all kinds of applications, such as cultivating food crops, baking bread, making wine, antibiotics and hormones, xenotransplantation, and gene- and stem cell therapy. The book also particularly addresses the controversial aspects of these applications.
Ethics of Plant Breeding: The IFOAM Basic Principles as a Guide for the Evolution of Organic Plant Breeding
Lammerts Van Bueren, E. - \ 2010
Ecology and Farming 2010 (2010)feb. - ISSN 1016-5061 - p. 7 - 10.
genetische modificatie - biologische landbouw - waarden - biotechnologie - biologische plantenveredeling - plantenbiotechnologie - genetic engineering - organic farming - values - biotechnology - organic plant breeding - plant biotechnology
The basic values of organic agriculture is laid down in the IFOAM four basic principles: the principle of health, the principle of ecology, the principle of fairness and the principle of care. These principles and the consequences and challenges for the further development of organic plant breeding is discussed. It is also explained why genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are banned
Workshop report on: Collaboration on plant biotechnology between Chile INIA/Univ of Chile and The Netherlands WUR : 'reaching out, reaching up to join forces to solve world food limitations'
Wageningen International, - \ 2009
[S.l. : S.n. - 27
plantenbiotechnologie - plant biotechnology
Plants, genes and justice : an inquiry into fair and equitable benefit-sharing
Jonge, B. de - \ 2009
Wageningen University. Promotor(en): Michiel Korthals, co-promotor(en): Niels Louwaars. - [S.l. : S.n. - ISBN 9789085854722 - 251
biotechnologie - voedselbiotechnologie - genetische bronnen van plantensoorten - intellectuele eigendomsrechten - nuttig gebruik - efficiëntie - morele waarden - ethiek - plantenbiotechnologie - benefit sharing - justitie - moraal - sociale ethiek - biotechnology - food biotechnology - plant genetic resources - intellectual property rights - utilization - efficiency - moral values - ethics - plant biotechnology - justice - moral - social ethics
Since the advent of biotechnology, plant genetic resources have become more valuable as possible sources for new products and inventions. With knowledge about the genetic make-up and functioning of a plant, biotechnologists can identify and isolate genes with interesting traits which, after long research trajectories, may result in new medicines, improved crops or other products. The initial leads towards such new products are sometimes provided by the traditional knowledge that local and indigenous communities have acquired about their natural environment over centuries. At the other site of the spectrum, Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) play an important role in stimulating the research and development process of new biotechnologies and products, by providing innovators with time-limited exclusive rights to exploit their inventions. Altogether, the biotechnology industry has grown rapidly over the last decades. The question, however, is whether also we have all benefited from it.

Unfortunately, we have to conclude that, as with most other new industries and technologies, biotechnology has not provided many benefits to the poor up to now. Notwithstanding the repeated promises that biotechnology can – and will – improve global health and food security, almost all research to date has focused on the development of medicinal and food products for commercial markets, mostly in the developed world, with very few serious investments having been made in order to tackle the major diseases and improve crops in the poorer parts of the world. This is despite the fact that many of the genetic traits that are used in new products and biotechnologies find their origin in the enormous biodiversity of developing countries, and/or the rich knowledge of this diversity of local communities in these countries. For this reason, developing countries and indigenous communities have become increasingly vocal in demanding compensation for the use of their plant resources in the new biotechnology industry.

This demand became backed by international law in 1992, as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) declared that access to genetic resources is subject to “sharing in a fair and equitable way the results of research and development and the benefits arising from the commercial and other utilization of genetic resources with the Contracting Party providing such resources.” (Article 15.7). With respect to the knowledge, innovations and practices of traditional communities, the CBD also proclaims that each country, subject to its national legislation, shall “encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices” (Article 8j). Since then, a total of 191 countries have become signatories to the Convention and committed themselves to these objectives. Few of these, however, have implemented this legislation effectively in such a way as to actually enable and facilitate the sharing of substantial benefits. Furthermore, the negotiations on an International Regime on Access and Benefit-Sharing, which was called for by the Parties to the CBD in 2002, are progressing very slowly.

What are the reasons for this lack of progress in the national implementation and international negotiations on Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS)? This question has been subject of discussion in a growing number of studies that aim to analyze the legal, practical, or socio-political difficulties involved in current ABS regulations and agreements. Very few studies, however, have focused on the ethical problems and challenges. Even though questions about who decides which benefits are to be shared with whom and in what way are obviously ethical concerns, the current problems with ABS have rarely been approached from an ethical perspective. This research project aims to improve this situation by investigating and initiating debate on some of the ethical dimensions of benefit-sharing in the field of plant genetic resources, related knowledge and IPRs, with special attention given to the agricultural and public research sector.

Taking a pragmatist ethics point of view, this research project focuses primarily on analyzing the normative positions and argumentations within the current debates on benefit-sharing, and reflecting on the meaning of, and possibilities for, fair and equitable benefit-sharing. Direction and guidance for the project are facilitated through research questions focusing attention on: the origination of the concept and purpose of benefit-sharing; the major difficulties complicating the present situation in respect of benefit-sharing policies; the normative positions and objectives incorporated in international legislation, organizational policies and stakeholders’ perceptions of benefit-sharing; the relationship between benefit-sharing and intellectual property rights; and the question of fair and equitable benefit-sharing itself.

The research is based on extensive literature studies, complemented with over 75 semi-structured interviews in Kenya, Peru and the Netherlands, and visits to meetings of the CBD, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and international workshops on ABS in Germany and India. Furthermore, an international conference was organized in the Netherlands to examine and discuss with relevant stakeholders the impact of IPRs on the possibilities for public research institutes sited in developed countries to share their knowledge and technologies with partners in poorer countries. Altogether, this has resulted in five articles that have been either published in or submitted to peer-reviewed journals, and two conference documents, which together with an introductory and concluding chapter are presented in this thesis.

Vicissitudes of benefit-sharing of crop genetic resources: Downstream and upstream
Following an introductory first chapter, Chapter 2 sets out with a historic overview of the origin and development of the concept of benefit-sharing in international law. We see that benefit-sharing was initially included in international treaties on the moon (1979) and the sea (1982), in which it was linked to the notion of a common heritage of humankind and referred to equitable distribution – i.e. distributive justice. Because the resources of the moon and deep seabed were considered not to be the property of any State or individual, it was decided that the benefits that are derived from those resources should be shared with humankind as a whole. With its introduction in the CBD, however, benefit-sharing has mainly become an instrument of compensation and refers to the idea of commutative justice – i.e. justice in exchange. Based on the principle that countries have sovereign rights over their own biological resources, States can regulate access to their resources and negotiate the accompanying benefit-sharing conditions. It is shown, however, that this model does not suit most plant genetic resources – and certainly not crop genetic resources. On the contrary, it has had harmful effects on the agricultural sector insofar as it has functioned to obstruct the international transfer of genetic resources on which the agricultural sector historically depends.

In order to better meet the needs of the agricultural sector, the FAO developed a Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-Sharing, which was introduced in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR) in 2001. In line with the general objectives of the ITPGR, but also of the CBD, we argue that benefit-sharing should not be based merely on the idea of justice in exchange, but rather on a broader model, one that is grounded also in the concept of distributive justice. This has repercussions for the application of benefit-sharing. By distinguishing between ‘downstream’ models of benefit-sharing, in which benefits are shared at the end of the research and development pipeline, and models where ‘upstream’ in the research process stakeholders try to balance their interests with respect to the benefits that will be shared later on, we show that benefit-sharing may well be a tool to contribute to world food security and global justice.

A diversity of approaches to benefit-sharing
Chapter 3 provides an overview of, in total, seven fundamentally different approaches to the issue of benefit-sharing in the field of plant genetic resources. The approaches portray the different ideas that exist about benefit-sharing, about its underlying principles, its goals and the preferred mechanisms to reach these goals. These different approaches are based on the following perceptions, or motivations:
- The South-North imbalance in resource allocation and exploitation
- The need to conserve biodiversity
- Biopiracy and the imbalance in intellectual property rights
- A shared interest in food security
- An imbalance between IP protection and the public interest
- Protecting the cultural identity of traditional communities
- Protecting the interests of the biotechnology industry in ABS negotiations.
By comparing the different approaches in the second part of this chapter, the major stumbling blocks in the current ABS negotiations (at both national and international levels) become apparent. This comparative analysis shows that the variety of motivations leads to widely differing mechanisms for benefit-sharing and significantly different expectations of the nature and value of the benefits to be shared. A further complicating factor in this is that the different approaches cannot be simply translated one-to-one into stakeholder positions. Stakeholders often assume to employ a combination of two or more different approaches. However, by explicating the different approaches, the article aims to increase insight into the different viewpoints that people and institutions adopt, in order to contribute to a better informed and more balanced debate in which policy-makers and other stakeholders have a raised awareness of the various interests involved and issues at stake.

What is fair and equitable benefit-sharing?
Chapter 4 builds upon these different approaches insofar as it aims to investigate what exactly is understood by “fair” and “equitable” benefit-sharing, and how a fair and equitable benefit-sharing mechanism might best be realized. The different approaches to benefit-sharing outlined form the basis of a philosophical reflection and are discussed in parallel with the main principles of justice involved. These include the principle of commutative justice and, under the domain of distributive justice, the principles of entitlement, desert, need and equity. In addition to these criteria that may guide the allocation of benefits, the principles of procedural and cognitive justice also are discussed, as essential to the promotion of fair and equitable benefit-sharing.

An important conclusion resulting from this reflection is that the bilateral exchange model of ABS in the CBD is in need of fundamental change. At present, it is practically impossible for countries and communities to secure a fair exchange for the plant genetic resources found within their territories, or for the traditional knowledge present in their culture. As an alternative, a model is proposed in which benefit-sharing obligations are not based on the specific exchange of these resources, but on their utilization. An advantage of such model is that it emphasizes the responsibilities for benefit-sharing at the user side. This is further supported by the principle of equity, elemental to benefit-sharing, which holds that the strongest parties have the biggest responsibilities to make a fair and equitable benefit-sharing mechanism work.

Between sharing and protecting: Public research on genetic resources in the year of the potato
Chapter 5 analyses the policies and environment of two public research institutes working with potato genetic resources, the International Potato Centre (CIP) in Peru and Wageningen University and Research Centre (Wageningen UR) in the Netherlands. The two institutes are situated in totally different environments, but both are increasingly confronted with an array of (inter)national regulations, interests and perspectives that surround the genetic material, (traditional) knowledge and technologies with which they work. While CIP, as member of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), aims to promote the sharing of potato genetic resources throughout the world for the sake of food security, it is situated in a country that is deeply ambivalent about the sharing goal and where concerns about biopiracy proliferate. Wageningen UR, on the other hand, is concerned with supporting the Dutch potato sector but it has to make sure that its IP and valorization strategies do not impede its research for development goals.

Both institutes are continuously weighing up their own interests and those of the various stakeholders they work with in order to strike a balance between policies geared towards sharing and those aimed at protection. However, in the present context where poor but gene-rich countries and communities, as well as industrialized countries and biotechnology companies are all mainly concerned with protecting their resources in order to reap the benefits and preclude misappropriation, it is incumbent on public research institutes to dare to share. For that purpose, they have to develop new ways of sharing and protecting in order to adhere to their mission and best serve the public interest.

Reconsidering intellectual property policies in public research: A symposium
Chapter 6 contains the start document and report of the international conference on “Reconsidering Intellectual Property Policies in Public Research: Sharing the benefits of biotechnology with developing countries” organized at Wageningen UR in April 2008. The start document describes the increasing role of IPRs in biotechnology research and the difficult process that public research institutes face in seeking to obtain access to IP protected materials while working on biotechnologies destined for the poor. The problems involved range from analyzing complex IPR landscapes to negotiating free or affordable access licenses with parties that have little to gain from such deals. At the same time, however, public researchers are also increasingly stimulated to protect their own knowledge and inventions – so an important question for public research institutes is how they can (and should) go about preventing their IP policy from hampering innovation in poor countries.

These issues were discussed at the international conference, which brought stakeholders together from fields as diverse as plant sciences, social and development studies, intellectual property offices, research funding organizations, the private seed industry, and civil society. The report describes the various discussions, presentations and main findings of the conference, which also focused on possible strategies to help public research institutes to secure their freedom to operate in the field of research for development, such as patent pools, humanitarian licenses and open-source biotechnology.

Valorizing science: Whose values?
Chapter 7 is a viewpoint article that reflects further upon the current trend towards valorization, i.e. the creation of economic value, in public research. It asks, more specifically, whether the focus on economic indicators is the optimal policy for science to contribute to society, or for the advancement of science itself. Hereby, it looks back on the Wageningen conference and its central subject matter, but now with special attention given to the organization process and the difficulties of bringing different stakeholders together to discuss complex problems and their possible solutions.

The issue of valorization in public research involves a wide variety of easily conflicting views and interests, which requires continued input and dialogue between the different stakeholders in order to come to workable solutions. It is shown that this is not always easy to accomplish, for example because stakeholders may already disagree about the problem definition itself: a problem for one group may be a triviality or even benefit for another, and this even within the same institute. But as the current valorization trend influences and impresses upon the role of public research itself, the research institutes as well as individual researchers will have to invest the necessary time and effort to reflect on their impact and (long term) implications.

Towards Justice in Benefit-Sharing
Chapter 8 is the concluding chapter that brings the major findings of this research project together. Without repeating all the conclusions of the separate chapters, it aims to give an overview by reflecting on the research questions set out at the beginning in Chapter 1 and the general conclusions that have come out of this. Given the many practical (and ethical) complexities involved, and the easily diverging interests and perspectives when it comes to the sharing and/or protection of plant genetic resources, (traditional) knowledge and intellectual property rights, we can predict that benefit-sharing will continue to arouse much discussion and debate in the years to come. In this thesis, some fundamental changes to the current exchange model in the CBD are proposed in order to move away from the current deadlock in the international ABS negotiations, and to work towards a fair and equitable outcome. It must be clear that benefit-sharing entails burden-sharing, and that a successful implementation of fair and equitable benefit-sharing requires the continued commitment of all stakeholders involved on the international, national and local levels. But with such commitment, benefit-sharing can set a new standard of justice in how countries, companies, public research institutes and indigenous communities interact with each other.
Reconstructing Biotechnologies: critical social analyses
Ruivenkamp, G.T.P. ; Hisano, S. ; Jongerden, J.P. - \ 2008
Wageningen : Wageningen Academic Publishers - ISBN 9789086860623 - 367
biotechnologie - voedselbiotechnologie - samenleving - sociologie - analyse - technologie - kracht - politiek - plattelandssamenleving - landbouwontwikkeling - landbouw - kwaliteit - rurale sociologie - ontwikkelde landen - ontwikkelingslanden - sociologische analyse - plantenbiotechnologie - transgene organismen - politieke economie - landbouw als bedrijfstak - kennissystemen - kritische theorie - biotechnology - food biotechnology - society - sociology - analysis - technology - power - politics - rural society - agricultural development - agriculture - quality - rural sociology - developed countries - developing countries - sociological analysis - plant biotechnology - transgenic organisms - political economy - agriculture as branch of economy - knowledge systems - critical theory
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