University-Industry Relationships in Agricultural Biotechnology

Agricultural biotechnology has the potential to improve production and human health and reduce agricultural pollution. Many universities are involved in close working relationships with agricultural biotechnology firms, yet the motivations shaping the arrangements and the effects on types of products developed are not well understood. This could result in some university-industry partnerships neglecting products that deliver public goods, such as crops with lower water needs, thus restricting the long-term potential to address important social problems. It could also lead to policy decisions placing inappropriate restrictions on beneficial alliances.

USDA has awarded $2 million for a national study of university-industry relationships in agricultural biotechnology. Farm Foundation is participating with Portland State University, Oregon State University, University of California-Davis, Clarkson University, and Winrock International’s Henry A. Wallace Center for Agricultural and Environmental Policy. The purpose of the three-year project, Public Goods and University-Industry Relationships in Agricultural Biotechnology, is to assess university-industry research, licensing, and other partnerships, with special emphasis on the mix of public and private goods provided through agricultural biotechnology.

The project investigators will interview university and industry personnel; conduct a survey of university scientists, technology officers, and administrators; and undertake socioeconomic analysis to identify problems and potential policies to foster the development of products with traits that promote widespread public benefits. Project findings will inform key stakeholders about the manner in which agricultural biotechnology research is planned, coordinated and rewarded; and stimulate constructive dialog among academics, commercial firms and policymakers. Click here to read a press release from Farm Foundation.

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