A Social Audit Model for Agro-biotechnology Initiatives in Developing Countries: Accounting for Ethical, Social, Cultural, and Commercialization Issues


  • Obidimma Ezezika McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health
  • Fiona Thomas McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health
  • Abdallah Daar University of Toronto
  • Peter Singer McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health




Social auditing, public-private partnerships, agro-biotechnology, environmental accounting.


There is skepticism and resistance to innovations associated with agro-biotechnology projects, leading to the possibility of failure. The source of the skepticism is complex, but partly traceable to how local communities view genetically engineered crops, public perception on the technology’s implications, and views on the role of the private sector in public health and agriculture, especially in the developing world. We posit that a governance and management model in which ethical, social, cultural, and commercialization issues are accounted for and addressed is important in mitigating risk of project failure and improving the appropriate adoption of agro-biotechnology in sub-Saharan Africa. We introduce a social audit model, which we term Ethical, Social, Cultural and Commercialization (ESC2) auditing and which we developed based on feedback from a number of stakeholders. We lay the foundation for its importance in agro-biotechnology development projects and show how the model can be applied to projects run by Public Private Partnerships. We argue that the implementation of the audit model can help to build public trust through facilitating project accountability and transparency. The model also provides evidence on how ESC2 issues are perceived by various stakeholders, which enables project managers to effectively monitor and improve project performance. Although this model was specifically designed for agro-biotechnology initiatives, we show how it can also be applied to other development projects.


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Author Biographies

Obidimma Ezezika, McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health

Obidimma Ezezika is a Senior Research Fellow at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global health at the University of Toronto and University Health Network. He has a PhD in Microbiology from the University of Georgia and a masters degree in environmental management from Yale University. He worked for one year with the United Nations Development Program in New York City, where he reviewed environmental projects worth $14.2 million awarded by the Small Grants Program of the Global Environmental Facility, working with 45 UNDP coordinators in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America and Europe. His dedication to project management and scientific research earned the distinguished excellence award at the University of Georgia for outstanding accomplishment during his doctoral program in 2005. He was also awarded three additional fellowships on leadership and academic excellence at Yale, including an award by the Air and Waste Management Association, in recognition of excellence in environmental management, policy research and study in 2007. He has worked in various capacities for a variety of national and international organizations including a chartered construction cost and consulting firm in Nigeria, the University of Georgia River Basin Center, the Yale Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental biology and the Grenada permanent mission to the United Nations.

Fiona Thomas, McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health

Fiona Thomas graduated with an Honors Double Major in International Studies (co-op) and Psychology from the University of Toronto. She is currently working as a Research Assistant on the Water Efficient Maize for Africa Ethical, Social, Cultural and Commercialization project. Her initial work with the MRC was as the Coordinator of four Working Groups, which were focused on identifying the barriers and strategies of delivering innovative health technologies in the developing world. Prior to that, she assisted Dr. Peter Singer and Dr. Abdallah Daar on a book they were writing. In the past, Fiona worked with the federal development agency of Canada (Canadian International Development Agency) and a non-profit organization.

Abdallah Daar, University of Toronto

Professor Abdallah S Daar is Professor of Public Health Sciences and of Surgery at the University of Toronto. He is also Senior Scientist and Director of the Program on Ethics and Commercialization, McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, University Health Network and University of Toronto. His major research focus is on the use of life sciences to ameliorate global health inequities, with a particular focus on building scientific capacity and increasing innovation in developing countries, in addition to studying how technologies can be rapidly taken from “lab to village”. His award-winning work has spanned biomedical sciences, surgery, organ transplantation, bioethics and global health. His major international awards include the Hunterian Professorship of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics of Science. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and of the Academy of Sciences of the Developing World (TWAS). He has published 5 books, and over 300 research articles and chapters in books. He has trained hundreds of graduate students. Daar is a member of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee and the Ethics Committee of the Human Genome Organization. He was a member of the Africa Union High Level Panel on Modern Biotechnology, which published its seminal report, “Freedom to Innovate”, in 2007. His recent accomplishments include work on the Grand Challenges in Global Health, and he led a global study of Grand Challenges in Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases.He has advised the UN Secretary General's Office, UNESCO, WHO, and the Government of Canada. He studied medicine at Makerere University, Uganda and University of London, before going to Oxford for residency and fellowship training and a doctorate in immunology. He was on the faculty of Oxford University before moving to the Middle East to help start two new medical schools. He moved to the University of Toronto in 2001. Professor Daar is Chair of the Board of Advisers of the United Nations University International Institute of Global Health, and Chair of the Board of the recently created Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases.

Peter Singer, McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health

Professor Peter A. Singer is Professor of Medicine, Sun Life Financial Chair in Bioethics and Director at the McLaughlin- Rotman Centre for Global Health, University Health Network and University of Toronto. Singer's research is on life sciences and the developing world – how technologies make the transition from “lab to village”. In 2007, Singer received the Michael Smith Prize as Canada’s Health Research of the Year in Population Health and Health Services. He is the Foreign Secretary of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and the US Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. He has published over 240 research articles, received over $50 million in research grants, and trained over 70 students. Singer is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges for Global Health Initiative, and has advised the UN Secretary General's Office, the Government of Canada, and Pepsico Inc. on issues related to global health. He studied internal medicine at University of Toronto, medical ethics at University of Chicago, public health at Yale University, and management at Harvard Business School. He is a former chairman of Branksome Hall School.


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How to Cite

Ezezika, O., Thomas, F., Daar, A., & Singer, P. (2009). A Social Audit Model for Agro-biotechnology Initiatives in Developing Countries: Accounting for Ethical, Social, Cultural, and Commercialization Issues. Journal of Technology Management & Innovation, 4(3), 24–33. https://doi.org/10.4067/S0718-27242009000300003



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