An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding Sponsored by FAO and Cornell University Clair H. Hershey, Editor



* Request for News Release Sources

* Holiday wishes


* 9-10 Jan 2003: Biotechnology-derived, Perennial Turf and Forage Grasses: Criteria for Evaluation. Baltimore, MD, USA.

* 18-21 Feb. 2003: El Fitomejoramiento Participativo en Cuba. Logros y Perspectivas. La Habana, Cuba.

* 24-28 March 2003: Advanced Research and Procedures in Biosafety and Risk Assessment for the Environmental Release of GMOs. Florence, Italy.

* 18-22 May 2003: Molecular Breeding of Forage and Turf. Dallas, TX, USA. *22-24 May 2003: The Third Taro Symposium. Nadi, Fiji Islands.

* 26-30 May 2003: Introduction to Biosafety and Risk Assessment for the Environmental Release of GMOs: Theoretical Approach and Scientific Background. Trieste, Italy.

* 29 June 3 July 2003: Public Goods and Public Policy for Agricultural Biotechnology. Ravello, Italy.

* 6-11 July 2003: XIX International Congress of Genetics. Melbourne, Australia.

* 14-25 July 2003: PRA/PLA Workshop. Reading, UK.


*Green Revolution: curse or blessing?

*The Role of Law in Realizing the Potential and Avoiding the Risks of Modern Biotechnology: Selected Issues of Relevance to Food and Agriculture *The Coexistence of Patents and Plant Breeders' Rights in the Promotion of Biotechnological Developments

*Biosafety of Transgenic Rice

*Proceedings of the 5th International Triticale Symposium *Breeding Rainfed Rice for Drought-prone Environments *Diversity in Barley (Hordeum vulgare) *Food, Agriculture and Environment (a new journal) *High Tech Harvest: Understanding Genetically Modified Plants


*First rice variety developed from population improvement *Nutri Rice: a genetic approach to modify the rice seed structure to prevent nutrition loss during milling

*Cassava development for small-scale farmers: approaches to breeding in Malawi *Chile applies genomics to fruit production *Brazil's farm minister supports gene-modified crops *Chinese scientists complete rice gene map *Research center to develop GM crops for commercialization in the Philippines *Brazilian scientist ends first stage of GM coffee quest *Small farmers in developing countries are major beneficiaries of GM crops *More GM crops to be grown in Asia *WHO lists hunger as number one global health risk *Best in biotech: tomato *DuPont establishes commercial seed business in China *CSIRO breeds salt-tolerant wheat


*Slide presentation on "golden rice"

*Database of GM labeling laws

*New gene tools for rice biologists

*Web sources for scientific literature

*Reaching sustainable food security for all by 2020 *Biotechnology risk assessment *Biotechnology and the research agenda *WIPO intellectual property database


*An eighth grader's questions to plant breeders


1. EDITOR'S NOTES Plant Breeding News is an electronic forum for the exchange of information and ideas about applied plant breeding and related fields. It is published every four to six weeks throughout the year.

The newsletter is managed by the editor and an advisory group consisting of Elcio Guimaraes (, Margaret Smith (, and Anne Marie Thro ( The editor will advise subscribers approximately two weeks ahead of each edition, in order to set deadlines for contributions.

Content consists principally of contributions from subscribers, and as such may vary considerably from one edition to another. Contributions may be in such areas as: technical communications on key plant breeding issues; announcements of meetings, courses and electronic conferences; book announcements and reviews; web sites of special relevance to plant breeding; announcements of funding opportunities; requests to other readers for information and collaboration; and feature articles or discussion issues brought by subscribers.

Subscribers are encouraged to take an active part in making the newsletter a useful communications tool. Your contributions are the core of the newsletter and suggestions on format and content are always welcome by the editor, at We would especially like to see a broad participation from developing country programs and from those working on species outside the major food crops.

To subscribe to PBN-L: Send an e-mail message to Leave the subject line blank and write SUBSCRIBE PBN-L. To unsubscribe: Send an e-mail message as above with the message UNSUBSCRIBE PBN-L. Lists of potential new subscribers are welcome. The editor will contact potential subscribers. No one will be subscribed without their explicit permission. .

*** Request for News Release Sources *** Many organizations, private and public, provide news releases for the media. If your organization produces news releases that are of interest to PBN-L subscribers, I would appreciate having this information forwarded to me as additional sources for the newsletter (




CAST and USDA-APHIS Workshop Announcement: Biotechnology-derived, Perennial Turf and Forage Grasses: Criteria for Evaluation. Baltimore, Maryland - January 9 & 10, 2003 (open to the public, but you must register before 12 noon on January 8, 2003). The goals of the workshop are to provide a forum for discussion of the State-of-the-Science of biotechnology-derived perennial turf and forage grasses, and to begin a dialogue on the possible criteria used to determine the environmental safety and potential benefits and risks of these grasses relative to traditional varieties. CAST is cosponsoring this with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. For registration, public input opportunities and other workshop information, see


Primer Anuncio Taller El Fitomejoramiento Participativo en Cuba. Logros y Perspectivas Del 18 al 21 de Febrero del 2003. La Habana. Cuba

Auspicia: Centro Internacional de Investigaciones para el Desarrollo, Ministerio de Educación Superior y el Ministerio de Ciencia Tecnología y Medio Ambientey el Programa Colaborativo Mesoamericano de Fitomejoramiento Participativo .

¿Que es Fitomejoramiento Participativo (FP)? Es una modalidad del fitomejoramiento que involucra la participación de los agricultores en la selección, conservación, multiplicación e intercambio de semillas.

¿Por qué FP en Cuba? Los sistemas convencionales de mejoramiento genético de los cultivos alimenticios en Cuba, presentan limitaciones para cubrir las demandas de los agricultores en términos de cantidad, calidad y diversidad de semillas mejoradas. El diverso y cambiante contexto agrícola cubano, reclama de estrategias en el manejo de semillas capaces de activar las potencialidades de selección, conservación, multiplicación e intercambio de semillas de los agricultores con diferentes grados de diversidad varietal en sus fincas.

¿Que ha aportado FP? El proyecto de FP ha facilitado a los agricultores, el acceso a la diversidad genética genética manejada por los programas formales de mejoramiento, variedades autóctonas manejadas por los campesinos y aquellas conservadas en los bancos de germoplasma. De igual modo, ha fomentado la capacidad de experimentación de los agricultores. Todo lo anterior ha permitido aumentar exponencialmente el número de variedades, el intercambio de semillas y la conformación de grupos de campesinos experimentadores. Los avances de FP respecto a la selección y difusión de variedades con participación de los campesinos, ha significado un punto de reflexión para la comunidad científica y actores vinculados al panorama agrícola en Cuba.

¿Por que un taller sobre FP? Necesidad de fortalecer el ambiente favorable hacia el Fitomejoramiento Participativo como estrategia complementaria en Cuba.

Analizar los avances y limitaciones del Fitomejoramiento Participativo en Cuba. Analizar las posibilidades del escalado de Fitomejoramiento Participativo en Cuba.Fortalecer el intercambio de variedades entre los Institutos Nacionales, Internacionales, agricultores y otros actores vinculados con el fitomejoramiento genético de los cultivos en Cuba.

INCA. San José de las Lajas. La Habana. Cuba cp32700 Email: y Telefax:53 64 63867


24-28 March 2003, Florence, Italy. "Advanced research and procedures in biosafety and risk assessment for the environmental release of GMOs". Workshop organised by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and the Istituto Agronomico per l'Oltremare. See or contact for more information.

(from FAO-BiotechNews)


Molecular Breeding of Forage and Turf 3rd International Symposium May 18-22, 2003 Dallas, Texas See for details and online registration


22-24 May 2003. The Third Taro Symposium. Nadi, Fiji Islands. The symposium aims to "review progress in taro research, analyze needs and priorities, develop a strategy for future work in taro research and development, explore new ways to use genetic diversity and improve taro quality and production, and stimulate international collaboration, information exchange and networking". The symposium themes include the use of novel technologies to improve taro (a staple crop, important in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, West Africa and the Caribbean). Organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), IPGRI, FAO and CIRAD. See or contact for more details.

(from FAO-BiotechNews)


26-30 May 2003, Trieste, Italy. "Introduction to biosafety and risk assessment for the environmental release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs): Theoretical approach and scientific background". Workshop organised by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. See or contact for more information.

(from FAO-BiotechNews)


Public Goods and Public Policy for Agricultural Biotechnology 29 June 3 July 2003- Conference at Ravello (Italy)

In the past decade a number of agricultural biotechnology products have been invented and commercialized. These "genetically modified organism" (GMO) crops have attracted public attention and debate. Recently public and government's attitudes are changing. While in the US public acceptance has slightly deteriorated, government's positions in Europe have improved. Overall public discussion, however, has paid little attention to the fact that these products were enabled by advances in the biological sciences. The techniques of genetic engineering were first developed in scientific research programs and first pursued by scientists. The sciences underpinning the technology are continuing to open up new technological invention opportunities as genome maps are completed and as the fields of genomics and proteomics analysis take form.

As these sciences develop, we can expect to see changes in the organizations and conduct of public or government programs of applied research and in the private industrial sector as well. Important policy questions regarding public research system design and conduct are emerging. These are of particular importance in developing countries. These questions require a long view and an understanding of the scientific revolution that is underway.

The Ravello's Conference will focus on the following topics: Impact of agricultural biotechnology, Industrial organization, Public acceptance, Impact of science, Intellectual property rights, Biotechnology & developing countries, Regulation of biotechnology, Biomasses and new products, Governance issues for the Biotechnology sector, Biotechnology, trade and development, Ecogenomics and ecoproteomics.

Proposals for contributing papers are sought. As for the previous conferences, presented papers will be published in a proceedings volume. Proposals in the form of a maximum of 500 words abstract incorporating agbiotech applications to one or more of the topics on the previous list of topics should be sent to: Prof. Vittorio Santaniello University of Rome "Tor Vergata" Via Columbia, 2 00133 Roma, Italy fax: ++39 06 72595721 or electronically to: by January 10, 2003

The Conference steering committee (R. Evenson, Yale University; P. Pingali, Fao, Rome; V. Santaniello, University of Rome - Tor Vergata; P.L. Scandizzo, University of Rome - Tor Vergata; E. Tollens, K. U. Leuven) promise a response by February 1, 2003, with accepted papers due May 10, 2003.

Authors of accepted papers should register as soon as possible following notification. The registration form can be found on the Conference web page:

Conference Secretariat: <> fax: ++39 06 7259 5721

(from AgBioView)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++ XIX International Congress of Genetics, Melbourne, Australia, 6-11 July 2003 2003 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA by James D. Watson and Francis Crick. The International Congress of Genetics, to be held in Melbourne, Australia, will be the focus of global celebrations to note this discovery that continues to shape human history. James D. Watson will be joined in Melbourne by other scientists who laid the foundations of molecular genetics including Seymour Benzer, Sydney Brenner, Robin Holliday, H. Gobind Khorana and Charles Yanofsky. You are invited to join them at the DNA Discovery Dinner. The scientific theme of the Congress is Genomes - The Linkage to Life. The Congress will consider and celebrate the ongoing impact of the genome projects that have placed the discipline of genetics in a position to powerfully address biological questions, both basic and applied. 280 elite invited speakers including six Nobel Laureates will address an anticipated audience of 3000 delegates on basic themes ranging from embryogenesis to evolution and applied themes impacting agriculture, the environment and medicine. Details of the Congress program will be constantly updated on the web site. You can examine the list of 54 Symposia topics and see the impressive, continually expanding list of invited speakers.


A workshop for PRA/PLA practitioners, facilitated by The International and Rural Development Department (formerly AERDD) and the Statistical Services Centre of the University of Reading, U.K. 14-25 July 2003.

Workshop aims Our aim during workshop discussions and demonstrations is to give you an understanding of important issues that should be considered in sampling and in information collection and handling. We aim to give you confidence that conclusions you draw are appropriate and applicable to the communities you have targeted for receiving the benefits of your work.

We are interested in helping you to achieve an optimal combination of PRA tools and statistical principles for dealing with qualitative and quantitative information collected in participatory studies.

Workshop approach and content The workshop will use discussions centred on our experiences in combining PRA/PLA and statistical tools in a series of studies concerning poverty and targeting in Southern Africa. This, together with your own experiences, will enable us to draw lessons and establish principles for the design and analysis of future studies.

Workshop contents will include sampling, design of tools for information management, data handling, and analysis techniques that are relevant for social mapping, trend analysis, ranking and scoring and seasonal calendars. We encourage participants to bring along datasets and analysis issues that concern them directly and wherever possible discuss strategies for utilising these during the workshop.

Data analysis work will be based largely on MS Excel. Each participant will receive, free of charge, a copy of the add-in macros developed by the Statistical Services Centre for data analysis.

Pre-requisites Participants do not need to have prior statistical knowledge to attend this workshop. However, basic computing skills will be needed.

Summary details: Venue: The University of Reading, U.K. Course Director: Savitri Abeyasekera (SSC)

Dates: 14-25 July 2003.

Fee: £1850 (including course handouts, software, and accommodation in a self-catering University Hall for 14 nights, e.g. nights from Saturday 12 July to Friday 25 July inclusive). We recommend you allow £35 per day for subsistence. A non-refundable deposit of £200 will be required before 1 May 2003 to ensure a place on the workshop. Early registration is encouraged to avoid disappointment.

Contact: Pascal SANGINGA []



Green Revolution: Curse or Blessing?

The Green Revolution has led to a phenomenal growth in food production and to a vigorous debate about its merits. This brief assesses both the positive and negative sides of the Green Revolution. Issue Brief 11 (4 pages) DOWNLOAD or ORDER

(from SciDev.Net )


A draft study entitled "The role of law in realising the potential and avoiding the risks of modern biotechnology: Selected issues of relevance to food and agriculture" is now available on the web. The study was prepared by L. Glowka at the request of FAO following the first session of the FAO Panel of Eminent Experts in Food and Agriculture which "underlined the advisability of conducting a comparative study of national regulations concerning biotechnology, including GMOs, exploring the possibility and desirability of harmonizing such regulations". The study was put at the disposition of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture for its 9th Regular Session held on 14-18 October 2002 at FAO Headquarters, Rome. FAO's Legal Office intends to publish a revised version in its FAO Legislative Studies series. See (154 pages, 1.6 MB) or contact for more information.

(from FAO-BiotechNews)


A symposium on "The co-existence of patents and plant breeders' rights in the promotion of biotechnological developments" was held on 25 October 2002 in Geneva, Switzerland under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). Some 185 participants from the public and private sectors from 55 countries, 6 intergovernmental organisations and 17 non-governmental organisations took part. The papers presented are available at For more information, contact

(from FAO-BiotechNews)


Report from the International Workshop on Biosafety of Transgenic Rice, Chennai, October 27-30, 2002

The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi, India, conducted an international workshop at Chennai from 27 to 30 October, 2002, to address issues relating to biosafety and potential environmental impacts emanating from the deliberate release of transgenic rice.

The workshop deliberated on a set on non-binding biosafety and regulatory recommendations that are given here:

Workshop Recommendations:

a. The workshop recognizes the importance of conventional plant breeding and strongly recommends its further strengthening through incorporation of new scientific and technological tools, including biotechnology.

b. There are real benefits to be had, by all sections of the society, from the application of biotechnology, in particular the recombinant-DNA (rDNA) technology. A broad based consultative process must be conducted to rank priorities for transgenic rice development suited to national needs on an ongoing basis.

c. Developing rice varieties having greater tolerance to drought, submergence and salinity, better resistance to pests and disease, and rich in micronutrients, appear to be achievable goals through rDNA engineering and should be pursued actively.

d. A comprehensive science-based risk assessment system must be practiced for genetically engineered crops including rice that takes into account issues relating to Centers of Diversity and unique social and economic aspects.

e. Currently, genetically enhanced transgenic rice conferring high level of resistance to stem borers and leaf folders are in advanced stage of development in some countries. Transgenes encoding d-endotoxins of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are the commonly used insecticidal genes in view of their good record of specificity and efficacy against target pests, and its non-toxicity to humans, other mammals and birds. The workshop recommends that to enhance its efficacy, wherever possible such transgenes must be put under the control of target tissue- or stage-specific regulatory elements rather than the constitutive ones.

f. Importance of resistance management through integrated pest management has been stressed in the workshop, as also the imperative to extend the usefulness of Bt and such other transgenes. Resistance management strategies for the predominantly tiny rice farms of Asia need to be fine-tuned in keeping with the local practices. The aspect of refugia in particular would merit special attention. The workshop recommends that studies be undertaken to assess efficacy of refuges and refugia provided by non-transgenic rice crops. Given the scenario of greater vulnerability to resistance breakdown in Asian rice farming systems, deployment of two-genes (having dissimilar mode of action) transgenics may be required to prolong resistance.

g. The potential of gene flow in rice exists and its occurrence has been scientifically established. This phenomenon must be addressed for transgenic rice through appropriate regulatory oversight, on a case-by-case basis. Given the importance of rice as a staple crop, regulatory agencies must develop and put in place a comprehensive monitoring mechanism to assess long-term environmental/ecological impacts from the release of transgenic rice.

h. The regulatory process relating to genetically engineered crops need to be made transparent, participatory (involving all stakeholders), effective and efficient. Appropriate regulatory oversight based on sound scientific information should be an essential requirement for the approval and release of crops derived from rDNA technology.

i. International experience garnered across different species must be used to make appropriate case-by-case study of biosafety assessment and regulatory oversight while taking into account current difficulties experienced internationally in interpreting and applying concepts such as the precautionary principle and substantial equivalence.

j. No credible scientific evidence is available indicating horizontal transfer of antibiotic-marker genes under natural conditions, and chances of such transfer are far greater from other microbes in the environment. The workshop recommends use of alternative systems of selection where feasible. The Workshop also recommends use of 'clean DNA' (minus the vector background) technology for transformation.

k. The technological application of micronutrient-enhanced rice must be reviewed through the regulatory process, keeping in view the social, political and cultural implications.

l. Prior to commercialising herbicide resistant rice, issues relating to the potential development of resistance in the genetically modified crop besides the ecological, social and cultural factors from such an introduction to the society must be addressed.

m. The workshop recommends that transgenic rice producing pharmaceuticals and drugs must be assessed carefully for their impact on food and feed chain. It was strongly felt that rice crop must be avoided to produce such compounds as far as possible. However, if there was critical need to develop such transgenic rice, a distinct set of bio-containment protocols must be developed under rigorous oversight.

n. No scientifically valid environmental or ecological impact issue was identified with respect to releasing transgenic rice varieties in centre(s) of origin and centres of diversity.

o. Basic research relating to transgenic rice should be encouraged even as effective regulatory systems are put in place.

The agenda, the program and a final report of the workshop can be accessed at

Dr. Gurumurti Natarajan ( For the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences New Delhi, India.

(from AgBioView)


Proceedings of the 5th International Triticale Symposium Radzików, Poland, 30 June - 5 July 2002 Editor: E. Arseniuk Published: June 2002 Volume 1: Oral presentations 38 contributions on 300 pages ISBN 83-89172-01-1 Volume 2: Poster presentations 71 contributions on 450 pages ISBN 83-89172-02-X Supplement 10 contributions on 76 pages ISBN 83-89172-03-8 Total price: EUR 50.-- Obtainable from: Plant Breeding and Acclimatization Institute, Radzików 05-870 Blonie, Poland Fax: +48 22 7254714 e-mail:


Breeding Rainfed Rice for Drought-prone Environments Proceedings of a DFID Plant Sciences Research Programme conference 12-15 March 2002, IRRI, Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines


Book Announcement: Diversity in Barley (Hordeum vulgare) (To appear in spring 2003)

Editorial committee: Roland von Bothmer (Alnarp, Sweden), Theo van Hintum (Wageningen, The Netherlands), Helmut Knüpffer (Gatersleben, Germany) and Kazuhiro Sato (Kurashiki, Japan) Publisher: Elsevier Science (The Netherlands)

The book focuses on various aspects of diversity in cultivated barley. It mirrors the actual knowledge and gives prospects for conservation and utilisation of plant genetic resources. It contains descriptions of, e.g., different marker systems as well as diversity shown in adaptive and agroecological contexts. It draws conclusions of what is imperfectly known and provides an outlook on areas and research fields that should be the target for further investigations and explorations. The book chapters are reviews of relevant, older and newer research world-wide. The emphasis is on cultivated barley (Hordeum vulgare ssp. vulgare) and its closest wild relative (Hordeum vulgare ssp. spontaneum).

Contents Preface (B. Nilan, USA, K. Kasha, Canada, A. Hagberg, Sweden) Section I: Introduction Chapter 1: Barley diversity: an introduction (editors) Section II: Origin of diversity Chapter 2: The domestication of cultivated barley (R. von Bothmer, K. Sato, T. Komatsuda, S. Yasuda, G. Fischbeck) Chapter 3: Diversification through breeding (G. Fischbeck) Section III: Current diversity in barley Chapter 4: Ecogeographical diversity a Vavilovian approach (H. Knüpffer, I. Terentyeva, K. Hammer, O. Kovalyova, K. Sato) Chapter 5: Diversity of barley mutants (U. Lundqvist, J.D. Franckowiak) Chapter 6: Cytogenetic diversity (S. Taketa, I. Linde-Laursen, G. Künzel) Chapter 7: Molecular diversity of the barley genome (A. Graner, Å. Bjørnstad, T. Konishi, F. Ordon) Chapter 8: Diversity in resistance to biotic stresses (J. Weibull, U. Walther, K. Sato) Chapter 9: Diversity in abiotic stresses (A.M. Stanca, I. Romagosa, K. Takeda, T. Lundborg, V. Terzi, L. Cattivelli) Chapter 10: Genetic diversity for quantitatively inherited agronomic and malting quality traits (P.M. Hayes, A. Castro, L. Marquez-Cedillo, A. Corey, C. Henson, B.L. Jones, J. Kling, D. Mather, I. Matus, C. Rossi, K. Sato) Section IV: Conservation and future utilisation of barley Chapter 11: Detecting diversity: a new holistic, exploratory approach bridging phenotype and genotype (L. Munck) Chapter 12: Diversity in ex situ collections of barley (Th. van Hintum, F. Menting) Chapter 13: Summarised diversity - the Barley Core Collection (H. Knüpffer, Th. van Hintum) Section V: Outlook Chapter 14: Barley diversity: an outlook (editors)

To order the book or to receive further information on publication date, price, etc., please contact the senior editor: Prof. Roland von Bothmer, Department of Crop Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 44, SE-230 53 Alnarp, Sweden, or by e-mail:

(from Dr. Helmut Knuepffer


This to inform you of our newly born scientific journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment (

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Ramdane Dris JFAE Meri-Rastilantie 3 C FIN-00980 Helsinki Email:


High Tech Harvest: Understanding Genetically Modified Food Plants Paul F. Lurquin Westview (Perseus), Boulder, CO, 2002. 236 pp., illus. $25, C$37.95. ISBN 0-8133-3946-4.

Lurquin offers the general public a summary of the science behind genetically engineered plants and a discussion of their potential applications.



(Editor's note: The following article is an update from a similar one posted in Edition 133 of this newsletter. This new version clarifies the collaborative role among partners in this project.)

First Rice Variety in the World Developed from Composite Population Improvement using Recurrent Selection Breeding

Rice composite population improvement approach began at "Embrapa Arroz e Feijão" - Brazil, in 1984, in the framework of a collaborative research project with the "Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement"- France. In 1989, populations prepared for irrigated and aerobic (upland) ecosystems where ready for enhancement. In 2002 the first variety, named SCSBRS 113 - TioTaka, was released for the irrigated conditions of Santa Catarina, the second largest irrigated rice producing state in Brazil.

The line was derived from the second recurrent selection cycle applied to the CNA-IRAT 4, a broad-base population that has a mixture of genes coming from Asian improved lines (BG 90-2 and UPR, Latin American germplasm (Eloni and Colombia 1), Brazilian land races (Nanicao), and Brazilian improved lines (CNA 7, CNA 3815, CNA 3887, and CNA 3848).

This work has been carried out under the leadership of Dr. Paulo Hideo Nakano Rangel, a rice breeder from "Embrapa Arroz e Feijão", in very close collaboration with breeders from other institutions. Epagri, the Santa Catarina's state institution, was responsible for the release of the new variety. The outstanding aspects for the release were: yields 6% higher than the best check; resistance to diseases, mainly blast; and good grain quality. It also has excellent ratooning ability.

This is a very good example of how genetic resources use and novel adequate breeding methods can contribute to broaden the genetic base leading to the release of a commercial varieties of a specific crop.

For further information, please contact Dr. P.H.N. Rangel through the e-mail:


NutriRice: a genetic approach to modify the rice seed structure to prevent nutrition loss during milling Chun-Ming Liu, Jun Xu, Henk Jalink, Hong-Wei Xue, Paul Dijkhuis Plant Research International, P.O.Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands

Summary Nutrient deficiencies are widespread among poor rice-eating populations in various parts of the world. This problem has received attention from various specialists, leading to a range of possible solutions. Our strategy of changing the structure of the rice seed should lead to a sustainable contribution to increase the natural health-contributing compounds in processed rice. As soon as the first results have been obtained, new research-partners and funding sources will be needed.

The problem - white rice has very little nutrition As the most important staple food, each year 457 billion kg of rice is consumed in the world. In addition to the production of enough food to feed the expanding world population, another challenge the plant breeders have is to provide food with enough nutrition. A recent report showed that 182 million preschool children, or 1/3 children under five years old in developing countries, are stunted or chronically undernourished (UN, ACC/SCN, 2000).

For many people living in developing countries, rice is their major energy and nutrient supply. Unfortunately the rice they consume, i.e. the milled and well-polished white rice, is a product with satisfactory appearance, but most of the nutrients are lost during milling. The major nutritional deficiencies of typical rice-eaters are in vitamins and minerals. Sudden death both in adults and infants caused by cardiac failure (beri-beri disease) is the best-known deficiency caused by short of vitamin B1. This disease became widely spread through rice-eating regions of Asia after the truncated-cone type rice mill was introduced early last century. Additionally, Vitamin A deficiency still affects about 250 million pre-school children (UN, ACC/SCN, 2000). Deficiency of micronutrients, such as iron, zinc and calcium, is another major health concern, as the consequence of limited food diversity in developing countries. Iron deficiency (anaemia) impairs immunity and reduces the physical and mental capacities in human. In developing countries, 40% children under 5 and 50% of pregnant women are iron deficient, which contributes to 20% of all maternal deaths.

Various attempts have been made to search for solutions Efforts have been made over the past years to improve the nutrition levels of rice, which include the encouragement of milling by using old-fashion mills, parboiling or reduced washing before cooking. Avoiding or reducing polishing can preserve the aleurone and the embryos, thus increasing nutrient content. However, the brown rice produced requires longer cooking time, has shorter storage capacity, contains much fibre, and has a less preferred appearance. For these reasons it has not been widely accepted.

The Rice Grower's Association of California has developed a process of milling that combines chemical and mechanical principles. A hexane/oil mixture was used to neutralize the adhesive bond between the pericarp layer and the seed, thus allowing easier removal of the pericarp without causing the loss of the aleurone layer and the embryo. This process reduces the oil content that gives a relatively good storage capacity. However, the machine itself and the running of such machine are quite expensive, which make it practically inaccessible for people in developing countries.

The nutrition levels of rice can also be enriched artificially by adding the lost nutrients, riboflavin, nicotinic acid, thiamine and iron back after milling. The recurrent costs of such a solution may however turn this strategy unsustainable.

Finally, breeding and transgenic approaches have been taken up to improve the contents of certain micronutrients in seeds or to decrease the phytate content that is known to be the major anti-nutrition factor for the bioavailability of iron, zinc and calcium. For example, the "Golden Rice" generated in Prof. Ingo Potrykus' lab is to express 3 genes in vitamin A biosynthetic pathway in rice endosperm, which leads to the production of 1.6ug/g pro-vitamin A, -carotene, in the rice grain (Ye et al, 2000, Science, 287:303).

Our strategy - using a genetic approach to modify the seed structure to preserve the nutrition in aleurone and embryo We at the Plant Research International in Wageningen,the Netherlands, take a genetic approach to modify the rice seed structure and storage product content to prevent the nutrition loss during milling, aiming at improving the nutrition value of rice in general. This is a non-GMO approach that should lead to using the natural balance of nutrients in consumed rice.

Rice grain is tightly enclosed in lemma and palea (the hull) which are removed during the first step of milling, a process known as dehusk or hulling. Inside the hull are several tightly fused layers: the pericarp, the testa, the aleurone layer of the endosperm and the embryo, which are removed altogether during the following polishing step. This leads to the white rice that contains only the starchy endosperm. As the most nutritious components of the rice grain, the embryo and the aleurone together count about 8% total weight, but contain 87% of vitamin B1, 29% of proteins, 84% calcium and 67% iron of the total grain.

Our aim is to alter the structure of the rice grain in such a way that the aleurone layer merges with the endosperm in such a way that it remains part of the edible product after hulling and polishing. To reach this target, in the last two years we used an EMS mutagenesis approach to induce a large spectrum of mutations in rice. A common Japonica type rice variety (Xiu-Shui 63) from China was chosen as the starting material. A total of 8,000 rice seeds have been treated with three EMS dosages, which give rise to the effective kill rates of 12.1%, 41.5% and 75.2%, respectively. About 60,000 M2 seeds have obtained after growing the M1 plants hydroponically in our greenhouse. A collaborative project has been initiated with Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology to allow the M2 populations to grow in the field at Shanghai and in a tropical island (Hai-Nan) in South China. M3 seeds (carrying M2 hull, paricarp and testa and M3 embryo and endosperm) have been harvested from each individual plants, and a pool containing 10 seeds from each line will be generated. After gentle hulling to remove the palea and lema, the pooled rice seeds are being screened using a high throughput laser-based screening machine designed in house. This machine will first have a spectrum scan in some individual seeds, to define the optimal wavelength to be used for screening for changes in a particular layer or in a particular seed component. The machine has the capacity to do seed sorting as well, to pick up particular seed-of-interests from a large population of seeds in a short period of time. This will give us a quick primary screening for putative prototype variety. When the desired variation could be found, we expect to gain a balanced nutrient-rich rice containing 667% more vitamin B1, 41% more proteins, 525% more calcium and 200% more iron.

To generate the new rice varieties and to make them accessible for people in developing countries, we need further collaboration with partners in the South as soon as the first success is received, and a substantial support from public funding agencies to allow us to reach the final goal. Of course, such variety will also be beneficial for people from developed countries to get healthier cooking rice and breakfast cereals. For this reason, we would hope to attract investments from private partners as well to contribute to the development of such new variety for further breeding. Since the approach we took is purely conventional and no GMO is involved, we expect no problem for public to accept such new type of rice.

(from Chun-Ming Liu


Cassava Development for Small-scale Farmers: Approaches to Breeding in Malawi.

Jonathan Mkumbira

Akademisk avhandling som för vinnande av agronomie doktorsexamen kommer att offentligen försvaras i Aulan, Genetikcentrum, SLU, Uppsala, fredagen den 29 november 2002, kl. 10.00

It is estimated that small-scale farmers, a majority of whom live and farm in marginal environments, produce over half of the world's cassava. Breeding for such environments has not been successful for many crops including cassava, primarily due to the complex and diverse nature of marginal environments, people's culture and needs. The aim of these studies was to elucidate the small-scale farmers' cassava diversity, knowledge and environment so as to adapt the cassava breeding activities in Malawi to better serve the beneficiaries. The fieldwork was done in a number of areas in Malawi employing interviews, agronomy, chemistry and molecular markers in a multi-disciplinary manner. The results reveal enormous environmental heterogeneity among the eight breeding environments in research stations across Malawi, which would make it difficult to extrapolate results over space (country-wide) and time. Furthermore, micro-environmental variations, due to uncontrolled as well as controlled factors, cause considerable G x E interaction in farmers' fields. SSR markers showed farmers' high ability to distinguish plants with specific genotypes as belonging to named cultivars. The farmers' distinction of "bitter" and "cool/sweet" cultivars, with high and low levels of cyanogenic glucoside levels, appears to have influenced the gene pool of cassava since the genotypes of the two groups separated into two clusters in a principle component analysis. Within a community, the commonly grown cultivars are mostly maintained as single genotypes while the least grown cultivars seem to be kept for bio-diversity and are more genetically heterogeneous. Based on the polymorphism in eight SSR loci, 170 different genotypes have been identified among the 161 named cultivars studied in Malawi. The genotypes are specific to the different areas and the few found in common are as a result of the wide scale multiplication and distribution activities of the recommended cultivars by the national programme in Malawi It is imperative that the cassava breeding process in Malawi incorporates farmers as active participants and that most breeding activities be conducted in farmers' fields with farmer level inputs.

Keywords: Africa, Manihot esculenta, genotype x environment, microsatellites, field trials, cyanogenic glucoside, cyanide, taste, plant morphology

(from +++++++++++++++++++++++++

Chile applies genomics to fruit production Claudia Orellana

Three research projects into the genomes of wine-grapes and nectarines, both among Chile's most important export crops, have been launched by the country's National Commission of Science and Technology (CONICYT).

The projects will receive a total of US$3.6 million over the next three years under an initiative partly financed by a loan from the Inter American Development Bank.

All three projects are part of the Chile Genome Initiative, which seeks to boost both private and public investment in genomics and bioinformatics, in order to improve the competitiveness of the country's agricultural and mining exports.

Research proposals on the micro-organisms used to leach minerals out of ore are already being submitted for the second round of funding from the initiatives, which will focus on 'bio-mining genomics'.

"The initiative will help to develop areas, such as bioinformatics and the large-scale analysis of genomic information, that are very poorly developed in this country," says Hugo Peña-Cortés, a plant physiologist and molecular biologist from the Federico Santa María Technical University in Valparaiso, who leads one of the grape genome projects that has just been funded.

The researchers are planning to sequence gene fragments of fruit-associated tissues, as well as those involved in seed formation and the plant's own defence against pathogens, in order to improve post-harvest conservation of grapes and to help combat infection with the fungus Botrytis cinerea. The research will be carried out on varieties used for the production of table grapes (Thompson seedless) and Carménère wine.

A second grape project, led by plant biotechnologist Patricio Arce-Johnson from the Catholic University of Chile in Santiago, focuses on grape-vine gene expression in general, and in particular its response to viral infection.

"The sums involved in the initiative are fairly large," says Arce-Johnson. "This will allow [researchers in Chile] to acquire the basic infrastructure for genomic studies, and also to develop the ability to use techniques such as sequencing, microarrays and gene expression analyses".

The project on nectarines focuses on functional genomics, and is led by cellular biologist Ariel Orellana from the University of Chile in Santiago.

Other institutions involved in the projects are the Universities of Santiago and Talca, the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA), the Chilean Exporters Association, the Chile Foundation, the Fruit Development Foundation, Life Science Foundation and Bios Chile Ltd.

All the researchers involved in the projects form part of the National Genomic Plant Network, which is designed to combine research and exchange information.

"One of the objectives is to generate a public data bank accessible for the researchers working in Chile," explains Jenny Blamey from CONICYT, manager of the genome initiative.

"However first we have to protect intellectual property at the international level. The idea is to generate international patents, since we want new processes to be incorporated into products that are commercialised internationally."

Asked whether their intention is to produce transgenic grapes, Arce-Johnson says that the funding period is too short to do this, and points out that none of the three projects stipulates such a goal.

But he adds that they don't discount producing transgenics in the future and that Chile "has to be technically prepared in case an international agreement on the use and commercialisation of transgenics is reached".

(from SciDevNet)


Brazil's Farms Minister Supports Gene-modified Crops

- Financial Times (London), December 17, 2002 - The minister of agriculture designated by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil's leftwing president-elect, argued yesterday in favour of legalising genetically-modified crops in Brazil, one of the world's leading agricultural exporters.

The statement by Roberto Rodrigues, appointed to the cabinet last Friday, contrasts with the opposition of many members in Mr Lula da Silva's leftwing Workers' party (PT) to GM crops.

"We need to give Brazilian farmers the chance to use GM crops, as long as there is absolute control, labelling, and scientific assurances that there is no impact on public health and the environment," Mr Rodrigues told Globo television. GM crops could help combat famine by reducing food prices, added Mr Rodrigues, who heads an agricultural business association that represents several multinational commodity groups. He acknowledged, however, that it was a controversial issue and that reforms would be adopted only gradually and with a scientific foundation.

Brazil is among the world's last large agricultural producers to prohibit GM crops. Billions of dollars in sales rest on the decision. Agriculture is one of the country's most competitive exports and has been one of the few fast-growth sectors in the economy. The government forecast yet another record grain harvest of 106m tonnes next year.

Monsanto, the international agriculture and biotechnology group, has been locked in a legal battle for years in an attempt to permit the sale of its GM Roundup Ready soya seeds. Environmental and consumer defence groups have led the battle against GM crops. "We are surprised by Mr Rodrigues' statement. Lula won on a platform of extreme responsibility regarding GM crops," said Mariana Paoli, a campaign co-ordinator with Greenpeace.

Last year Brazil's landless movement (MST), which is closely linked to the PT, destroyed an experimental GM soya plantation on the sidelines of the World Social Forum attended by Mr Lula da Silva. The appointment late last week of a market-friendly economic team, including Mr Rodrigues, fuelled a rally in Brazil's financial markets yesterday.

(from AgBioView)


Chinese scientists complete rice gene map Jia Hepeng

[BEIJING] Chinese scientists announced yesterday (12 December) that they have finished the world's first accurate map of the rice genome.

The map the first of an agricultural plant to be completed will help scientists from around the globe to use rice genetics to improve yields by indicating where the most important genes are located.

A team of researchers from 14 Chinese science institutes, headed by the Beijing Genomics Institute worked on the three-year project to map the indica subspecies of rice, the most widely cultivated strain in China, as well as most of the rest of Asia.

The new map will help researchers to decipher the draft sequence of the rice genome, which was published earlier this year (see Scientists crack rice code). This is because a gene map indicates which parts of such sequences are genes, and which parts are 'junk'.

According to Wang Jun from Beijing Genomics Institute, the chief scientist of the rice genome-mapping project, the map shows not only the location and distribution of genes on rice chromosomes, but also reveals inherited signals that can be used for breeding improved varieties.

"The map covers 97 per cent of rice genes, and is able to accurately locate 97 per cent of these genes in the 12 rice chromosomes,'' he says. "The map's accuracy has reached 99.99 per cent, attaining the internationally recognised standard of accurate genome maps."

Chinese scientists will now work to determine the functions of individual rice genes, he says.

As with information on the human genome, the rice genome map will be published on the Internet. Researchers from around the world will be able to freely access the material. "The completion of the rice genome map will enable scientists to more easily research individual genes, so that we will have stronger weapons to improve rice breeds,'' says Wang.

The rice genome contains more than 60,000 genes, and is the largest of any plant sequenced to date.

(from SciDevNet)


Research center to develop GM crops for commercialization in the Philippines

BusinessWorld (Philippines) By Leilani M. Gallardo December 03, 2002 08:40 AM

A research center that will develop new varieties of genetically modified (GM) crops for commercialization is expected to be set up in the Philippines next year under the auspices of New York-based Cornell University and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Dubbed the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSP II), the program will focus on the safe and effective development and commercialization of GM crops as a complement to traditional and organic agricultural approaches in developing countries.

We hope to work on the project within five years and then have the crops commercialized after that. We hope that we could build up on existing resources and help in getting these products to the end consumer, said Peter Gregory, ABSP II director and head of Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' International Programs.

The project aims to boost food security, economic growth, nutrition and environmental quality in hosts such as East and West Africa, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and the Philippines through the adoption of GM crops.

A GM, or transgenic, crop is a plant that contains a gene, or genes, that has been artificially inserted to create a desired trait.

Funded by a $15-million grant from USAID and led by Cornell University, ABSP II will be implemented by a consortium of public and private sector institutions. The consortium, which will vary from each host country, is expected to develop new biotech products which will eventually be commercialized.

To ensure the successful commercialization of the new GM crops, ABSP II aims to conduct highly participatory priority setting to ensure that the new biotechnology products developed by the centers will focus on the real needs of the host country.

It will also produce Product Commercialization Packages for each new GM crop to make sure that the product gets to the market after it is developed. The package will include policy considerations, technology development, outreach and communication as well as marketing and distribution.

By doing this, all issue surrounding the commercialization of a GM crop will be addressed.

Aside from this, ABSP II also aims to help create an enabling regulatory environment in the host country so that the GM products can be commercialized legally.

We don't want to move too fast before regulatory functions are in place, Mr. Gregory said.

Mr. Gregory said ABSP II officials are still in the process of choosing which counterpart agencies in the Philippines they will choose for the consortium that will oversee the center.

Among those that are being considered include the University of the Philippines in Los Banos and the Philippine-based International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.

(from AgBioView)


Brazilian Scientist Ends First Stage of GM Coffee Quest

Alastair Stewart, OsterDowJones, FWN Financial News, December 10, 2002

Sao Paulo, Dec 10, 2002 (ODJ via COMTEX) - Super gene-modified coffee trees will come a step closer in December when Brazilian scientists finish mapping the coffee genome.

Over the last 10 months, research teams have identified approximately 200,000 genetic sequences in coffee trees, information which will be the basis for research into creating more resistant trees that produce higher-quality coffees, a scientist leading the project told OsterDowJones.

"We now want to find out more about what the genes do," said Carlos Colombo, chief researcher on the project at the Campinas Agronomic Institute, or IAC, in Sao Paulo state. Colombo said the next phase of the project, starting in the new year, will be to identify key gene sequences and discover their properties.

From this information, scientists aim to modify trees as a way of increasing the quality of arabica coffee produced at a lower cost. "We have been told not to focus on increasing yields but adding value to produce," said Colombo.

Researchers, for example, will look at ways of reducing the arabica coffee blossoming period to cut time spent picking coffee. This would not only cut harvesting costs, which account for around 40% of total outlays, but also increase the likelihood cherries are taken off the trees at exactly the right time, said the researcher. "At the moment, very little is known about how the blossoming works," said Colombo.

Scientists will also look at which genes increase resistance to drought, a major problem, as well as pest and fungi. Gene-modified technology offers the potential to reduce herbicide and pesticide costs by 50% to 100%, according to Agriculture Ministry's research arm.

But don't expect gene-modified trees to start populating Minas Gerais hillsides too soon. Colombo estimates it will take five to 10 years to identify the relevant sequences start creating modified trees. Meanwhile, funds still have to be raised to sustain the research groups, which involved 20 laboratories in Sao Paulo state alone, through the next stage. Around 200,000 Brazilian real ($1 = BRL3.80) are in the coffers but the first phase alone ate up around BRL2 million in government and state funds.

All 200,000 gene sequences will be stored at the Sao Paulo State University of Campinas, or Unicamp, one of the country's leading centers of agricultural research, and the University of Sao Paulo, or USP. This is by far the most advanced study into coffee genes. "The hope is that this research allows Brazil to stay ahead of the competition," said Colombo.

Brazil is the world's No. 1 coffee producer and exporter, accounting for around 40% of world production, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. In 2003-04 (July-June), Brazilian coffee production is expected to slip to around 25 million to 35 million 60-kg bags from 45 million to 52 million bags this year.

Brazilian researchers have already genetically mapped sugarcane and are in the process of studying the genes of witches' broom fungus, which has devastated Brazil's cocoa production in recent years.

(from AgBioView)


Small Farmers in Developing Countries Are Major Beneficiaries of GM crops

- The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, December 11, 2002

Cornell, NY - A new study by Dr. Clive James, Chairman of ISAAA, confirms that in 2001, global area of transgenic or GM crops was 52.6 million hectares (m has.) or 130 million acres, representing an increase of 8.4 million hectares, or 20 million acres over 2000. The principal GM crops were soybean (33 million hectares), corn (10m has.), cotton (7m has.) and canola (3m has.). These GM crops were grown in 13 countries by about 5 million farmers, over 75% of whom were small resource-poor farmers growing Bt cotton in developing countries. The study presents a global overview of the cotton crop, an assessment of the performance of Bt cotton to-date, and its future global potential. The focus on developing countries is consistent with ISAAA's mission to assist developing countries in assessing the potential of new technologies.

Overview of The Global Cotton Crop

-- Of the global 33.5 million hectares (83 million acres) of cotton worth $20 billion, approximately 70% are grown in developing countries. Asia has up to 60% of world cotton, Africa up to 15% with <5% in Latin America. There are approximately 20 million cotton farmers globally, 97% of whom farm in developing countries -- most are small resource-poor farmers growing 2 hectares or less of cotton.

-- Insect pests are a major problem in cotton and yield losses and insecticides cost cotton farmers $5 billion annually -- 20% of global insecticides are used on cotton. Cotton farmers used $1.7 billion worth of insecticides in 2001. A novel and very effective method of controlling the major insect pests of cotton is through genetically modified cotton with "Bt genes" from a soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

-- Since 1996, 13 million has. of Bt cotton have been successfully deployed in nine countries, 7 developing and 2 industrial; these include USA, Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia (pre-commercial) in the Americas, China, India, Indonesia and Australia in Asia, and South Africa on the African continent.

"Countries that have introduced Bt cotton have derived significant and multiple benefits -- these include increased yield, decreased production costs, a reduction of at least 50% in insecticide applications, resulting in substantial environmental benefits to small producers, and significant economic and social benefits," said Dr. James.

Significant Economic, Environmental And Social Benefits Associated With Bt Cotton

Productivity Benefits. Yield increases for Bt cotton range from 5 to 10% in China, 10% or more in the US and Mexico, 25% in South Africa. In the US in 2001, Bt cotton increased lint production on 2 million has. by over 84,000 metric tons (MT) valued at $115 million. In China, seed cotton production on 1.5 million has. of Bt cotton increased by 514,000 MT.

Environmental Benefits. The major benefit has been a decrease of 50% in the number of insecticide sprays/season, which in turn reduced insecticide residues that could potentially runoff into watersheds and aquifers: a decrease of 14 sprays in China (from 28 to 14 sprays), 7 in S. Africa, and 2 in the USA. Global insecticide savings attributed to Bt cotton in 2001 were 10,500 MT of insecticide (active ingredient, a.i.), equivalent to 13% of the 81,200 MT (a.i) of all cotton insecticides used globally in 2001. From a health perspective, cotton farmers in China and South Africa applying insecticides by hand with knapsacks, have significantly less potential exposure to insecticides when using Bt cotton.

Economic benefits. The economic advantage of Bt cotton versus conventional cotton results from Bt cotton's superior control of insect pests which results in higher yields, cost savings of 50% on insecticide and labor, which are partially offset by the higher price of Bt cotton seed. In the US in 2001 economic gain for Bt cotton was $50/ha and > $100 million nationally. In China, economic gain from Bt cotton was $500/ha with a national benefit of $750 million. In China in 2001 over 4 million resource-poor cotton farmers as well as several thousand in the Makhathini Flats in South Africa derived significant economic benefits from Bt cotton, supporting the 2001 UNDP Human Development Report thesis that biotechnology can contribute to the alleviation of poverty.

Social benefits. Bt cotton significantly increases income and saves time, which is particularly valuable for small resource-poor Bt cotton farmers in developing countries. In China, the increased income allows poor farm families to spend more on food and increase nutritional standards. In South Africa, where 50% of the cotton farmers are women, Bt cotton gives them more time to care for children, the sick, and/or generate additional income from other activities.

"It is important that a human face is put on the benefits of Bt cotton," said Dr. James. "For the average cotton holding of 1.7 hectares in the Makhathini Flats in South Africa, in a typical season, a woman farmer is relieved of 12 days of arduous spraying, saves over 1,000 liters of water (over 250 US gallons), walks 100 km less, has less potential exposure to insecticides, and increases her income by approximately $85 per season, through using Bt cotton, rather than conventional cotton."

Global Potential Of Bt Cotton

-- Bt cotton occupies 4 million hectares today but has the potential to deliver significant benefits on at least half of the world's 33.5 million has. of cotton with medium to high insect pest levels. With optimal deployment of Bt cotton the projected annual insecticide saving is estimated at 33,000 MT (a.i), equivalent to 37% of the 81,200 MT (a.i) of cotton insecticides used globally in 2001.

-- To-date, nine countries have adopted Bt cotton and are benefiting, but what about the fifty key countries that grow cotton throughout the world. The challenge is to provide the same opportunity for the potential beneficiary countries, with small to modest areas of cotton, in the developing world. There are 30 such developing countries, 21 in Africa, five in Asia and four in Latin America that grow small to modest areas of cotton. Experience to-date in several developing countries has clearly demonstrated that Bt cotton can deliver significant economic, environmental, and social benefits to millions of resource-poor farmers that are assigned high priority by the donor community.

-- It is important that these smaller cotton-growing countries with resource-poor cotton farmers are offered the option of commercial access to Bt cotton so that they are not disadvantaged by being denied the significant benefits that accrue to adopters of the technology. The case for providing more developing countries the option of sharing in the substantial environmental, economic and social benefits delivered by Bt cotton to millions of resource-poor cotton farmers in developing countries on millions of hectares over the last six years, represents a challenge for both the donor community and the developing countries which are the potential beneficiaries.

ISAAA -- The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications

-- A not-for-profit public charity working to alleviate poverty in developing countries, by facilitating the transfer and sharing of crop biotechnology applications to increase crop productivity and income generation, particularly for resource-poor farmers, and to bring about a safer environment and more sustainable agricultural development. An International Network with a global hub in the Philippines and centers in Nairobi, Kenya, and at Cornell University Ithaca, New York.

-- The study by Dr. Clive James is entitled "Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2001. Feature Bt cotton", ISAAA Briefs 26. The publication and further information can be obtained from ISAAA's Center in SouthEast Asia: e-mail . Cost of the publication is $US 25 including postage. The publication is available free of charge for nationals of developing countries. /CONTACT: media inquiries, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, +1-345-947-1839, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, EST, USA, until 17 Dec, or /

(from AgBioView)


More GM Crops to be Grown in Asia

Manila Bulletin, Dec 9, 2002

The Philippines recently approved the domestic propagation of a popular high-yielding environment-friendly and pest-resistant maize variety (Bt-corn), the final step towards its commercialisation in the country. It is now the first commercially available GM food crop in Asia.. China, India and Indonesia are extensively growing GM cotton.

Field test results showed that Bt-corn could yield up to 40% more than conventional corn varieties during the wet season and up to 35% during the dry season. This translates into additional earnings of approximately £65 to £130 per hectare for the farmers. Bt-corn is naturally resistant to the Asiatic Corn Borer, the most prevalent scourge of local corn crops known to destroy entire crops in many localities. In addition to increased harvest, its use will generate savings from the drastic reduction or total elimination of chemical pesticides.

The decision to commercialise came after nearly five years of rigid scientific and technical scrutiny by various government regulatory agencies, all recommending going ahead. The review took place amid intense debate on the government's policy of adopting biotechnology as the anchor of the country's food security and sufficiency programme. Scientific community and farmer groups were pitted against the efforts international pressure groups and NGOs to block further progress.

Important organisations and individuals recognising the value of commercialising agricultural biotechnology for the Philippine population and economy were the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Business Council and several local Catholic Church leaders. Opposition was spearheaded by Europe-based activist groups, one of which apparently repeatedly cautioned the Philippine government that "millions of dead bodies and sick children, cancer cluster and deformities" would arise from the use of the technology in agriculture. Several NGOs also warned farmers in some regions that biotech food crops can cause homosexuality and mental retardation.

With this decision, the Philippines joins other major planters of GM crops, including the United States, Canada, Argentina, China, South Africa, Mexico, India, Australia and Uruguay. According to the Financial Times, the global adoption of agricultural biotechnology increased by 19 percent over the past year.

(from AgBioView)


WHO Lists Hunger as Number One Global Health Risk

The World Health Organization recently identified lack of food as number one on the list of health risks globally. Read overviews of the findings in six languages at the WHO website:

(from AgBioView)


Best in Biotech: Tomato November 18, 2002 The prospect of a cancer-fighting tomato has been named the top development in food biotechnology in 2002, according to a Roper survey of 1,000 randomly selected American adults.

When asked which publicly reported development in food biotechnology during 2002 was considered most valuable, two-thirds of respondents selected a research program that is enhancing tomatoes with a higher quantity of lycopene, an antioxidant believed to help fight cancer. The tomato is currently undergoing field tests.

Other top developments from more than 20 achievements by government and academic institutions include: sweet potatoes that can ward off a devastating plant virus; bananas and potatoes that contain a vaccine for a human virus associated with cervical cancer; produce that can stay fresh longer; and field crops that can thrive in extreme climates.

"It is these types of advances through biotechnology that can make our foods more functional and truly benefit the healthfulness of people over the long-term," said Mary Lee Chin, a registered dietitian who is a nationally recognized expert on nutrition trends and significant health and food issues. "As our society struggles with a growing range of health and nutritional issues, biotechnology is a tool that can help us grow foods that are better for our health."

Chin said food biotechnology is hitting its stride after 20 years of development and six years of commercially planted varieties that first emphasized managing pests, such as insects and weeds. "This year's top advances in biotechnology represent a shift in the focus of plant biotechnology beyond pest management," Chin said. "More and more, biotechnology is moving toward products that will offer direct benefits to consumers, such as improved nutrient profiles and enhanced tastes."

After ranking the top developments in food biotechnology, six of every 10 respondents said they support the use of biotechnology in agriculture, while two out of every 10 were neutral and two out of every 10 expressed opposition. The study is considered to have a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.

The top five developments 1. Cancer-fighting tomatoes. (65% of respondents ranked as "valuable") Field tests currently are underway for a new cancer-fighting tomato variety, which has been under development for a decade by Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service. The new variety offers more than three times the amount of the antioxidant lycopene compared to conventional varieties. Lycopene is known to trap harmful molecules that damage human body tissue and could lower the risk of breast and prostate cancers, as well as coronary heart disease. The development was discovered when attempting to lengthen the shelf life of tomatoes.

2. Virus-resistant sweet potatoes. (61% ranked as "valuable") A new sweet potato variety has built-in resistance to a devastating virus that consumes more than three-fourths of the annual harvest. Scientists at the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications' AfriCenter in Nairobi, Kenya, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and other research institutions developed the improved sweet potato, a staple in many African countries. It is being field tested and likely will be commercially available in a few years to help in the fight against global hunger.

3. Banana and potato vaccines. (56% ranked as "valuable") Bananas and potatoes have been developed that contain a vaccine for Human Papillomavirus (HPV), one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases and the cause of almost all cervical cancer in women. Researchers with the University of Rochester have tested varieties equipped with the vaccine, and work is now entering the third stage of clinical evaluation.

4. Fresher produce. (54% ranked as "valuable") A gene that produces a plant hormone that counteracts aging and keeps fruits and vegetables fresh longer was recently discovered at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. Researchers currently are investing practical applications for the commercial food marketplace that would help lengthen the shelf life of fruits and vegetables and ensure they reach consumers.

5. Hardier crops. (52% ranked as "valuable") Hardier varieties that would allow crops to flourish in extreme climates are being developed at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. Researchers there have enhanced a thale cress plant, an herb from the mustard family, to have a higher tolerance to heat and light stress. This research translates into an opportunity to develop plants that could grow in extreme climates. Currently, this research is being examined for use in plants such as maize (corn), potatoes and other staple crops that are often grown for survival in the arid developing world.

(from AgBioView)


DuPont Establishes Commercial Seed Business in China

WILMINGTON, Del., and LAI ZHOU, China - Dec. 11, 2002 - DuPont today announced the establishment of a commercial agricultural seed business in the People's Republic of China.

DuPont subsidiary, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., the world's largest seed company, has formed a joint venture with one of China's largest seed companies, Denghai Seed Group, to produce top-performing corn seed for Chinese farmers.

"Today is the culmination of many years of work to leverage the Pioneer expertise and elite seed lines in this huge agriculture market," said Dean Oestreich, Pioneer vice president.

With 25 million hectares in corn production, China is second only to the United States in the amount of land producing corn. Consumption within China of corn for livestock feed is expected to grow significantly over the next 10 years.

Pioneer established a business office in Beijing in 1997. A year later it established a research center near Tieling City in the Liaoning province and began breeding and testing corn hybrids for commercialization in China. The country's membership in the World Trade Organization along with a new seed law helped ensure that those hybrids would be made available to Chinese farmers.

The new joint venture, Shandong Denghai Pioneer Seeds Co., Ltd., will develop and distribute high-yielding corn hybrids for the summer corn markets, which represent about one third of the total corn market in China. The joint venture plans to have new hybrids in those markets in 2004.

Denghai Seeds has 30 years experience in corn breeding and research for Chinese markets. It markets its products in over 27 provinces, cities and the near-by regions.

Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., a subsidiary of DuPont, is the world's leading source of customized solutions for farmers, livestock producers, and grain and oilseed processors. With headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, Pioneer provides access to advanced plant genetics, crop protection solutions, and quality crop systems to customers in nearly 70 countries.

During 2002, DuPont is celebrating its 200th year of scientific achievement and innovation - providing products and services that improve the lives of people everywhere. Based in Wilmington, Del., DuPont delivers science-based solutions for markets that make a difference in people's lives in food and nutrition, health care, apparel, home and construction, electronics, and transportation.

Contact: Doyle Karr <>


CSIRO Breeds Salt-tolerant Wheat

Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) announced that they have successfully bred the first salt-tolerant durum wheat variety. CSIRO claims that it will give farmers in salt-affected areas the opportunity to grow durum wheat and attract its higher prices, while increasing Australia's world market share in premium wheat.

Rana Munns, senior research scientist at CSIRO Plant Industry, says there are two mechanisms for salt tolerance in cereals like wheat. One is the exclusion of salt by the plant's roots, the other is tolerance of salt in the leaves. Bread wheat has one and barley has the other, but modern durum wheat has neither.

Munns and Ray Hare, from Enterprise Grains Australia's wheat and durum breeding program, discovered an ancient salt-tolerant durum wheat variety that excluded salt. The team was able to breed the tolerance mechanisms of the ancient wheat variety into modern breeding lines and current Australian varieties.

Extensive field trials are planned for next year. "If successful, a salt-tolerant durum wheat variety could be available to growers within three years, says Hare.

For more information email Rana Munns at or Ray Hare at

(from AgBioView)



Slide Presentation on 'Golden Rice'

(from AgBioView)


Database of GM labeling laws of different countries available. The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) has compiled information on GM labeling laws of different countries. The database currently has information available for 19 countries. To view the data, go to ISAAA is a not-for-profit organization that delivers the benefits of new agricultural biotechnologies to the poor in developing countries. It aims to share these powerful technologies to those who stand to benefit from them and at the same time establish an enabling environment for their safe use.



New Gene Tools for Rice Biologists [BEIJING] Two new information resources have been made available to rice researchers and farmers following announcements made at the International Rice Congress in Beijing. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) near Manila, the Philippines, officially opened its Rice Knowledge Bank, a freely available database of information and tips on topics such as pest management and the transplantation of hybrid rice. IRRI hopes that the project will close the gap between lab research and agricultural practice. At the same meeting, the Beijing Genomics Institute, which has sequenced the indica subspecies of rice, Oryza sativa (J. Yu et al. Science 296, 7992; 2002), said that it will supply microarrays containing 54,000 predicted genes to IRRI and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The analysis will help researchers locate genes for crucial traits such as pest resistance. (from Nature: 419, 330 (2002))


WEB Sources for Scientific Literature

HighWire Press Stanford University's HighWire Press maintains the Web versions of almost 300 major journals in science and biomedicine. It currently lists more than 1 million articles, one third of which are freely accessible. Individual journals can be searched by keyword for relevant articles.

Ingenta An online search service of published content from research sources that is free to users (though paid for by publishers). Currently lists more than 25,000 publications produced by over 150 publishers. Results delivered electronically or by fax. Database is searchable by keyword, title or author.

ResearchIndex (CiteSeer) A scientific literature digital library that aims "to improve the dissemination and feedback of scientific literature, and to provide improvements in functionality, usability, availability, cost, comprehensiveness, efficiency, and timeliness.".

Scirus A search facility offer by the scientific publisher Elsevier that combines a targeted crawler focussing on websites with scientific content, with scientific information resources drawn from thousands of journals and books. Currently covers BioMedNet, journals published by Elsevier, and patents published by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Search4Science An interactive 'intelligent' search service, developed by researchers in Norway, that currently contains over 220,000 scientific words and phrases. Covers both the scientific literature and scientific news and information sources.

Remember that although many leading scientific, technical and biomedical publishers make the abstracts of articles in their journals freely available on the Internet, they often require a fee for full-text access to individual articles (which are themselves often not directly accessible by search engines).


Reaching Sustainable Food Security for All by 2020: Powerpoint version

New tool for teachers, researchers, practitioners, and others working on global food security: 34 slides on IFPRI's action plan for ending hunger by 2020. The action plan reflects IFPRI's best judgment and the advice of more than 900 public, civil society, and private leaders. Use entire presentation or selected slides.

Download: (the powerpoint file is only 250K)

(from AgBioView)


Biotechnology Risk Assessment

Worldwide, over 25,000 field safety and production trials have been conducted on more than 60 genetically engineered plants and animals in 45 countries. In the U.S. alone, over 6,500 field tests of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been conducted at some 18,000 sites. Last year, 74% of the soybeans, 71% of the cotton, and 32% of the corn planted in the U.S. were GMO varieties.

Which regulatory agencies are responsible for ensuring the safety of these GMOs? How are their regulatory decisions made?

This web site is designed to help provide answers to these questions and necessary background information to understand the process of gene engineering and the available data relating to the safety of GMOs and the risk assessment questions asked. The site has several levels, with each level containing increasing detail on particular topics. By clicking on the site navigation buttons to the left, you will first find summaries of general areas of risk/safety assessment written by experts in the fields, followed by links to comprehensive expert reviews, together with citations of primary literature.

(from AgBioView)


Biotechnology and the research agenda

The FAO e-mail conference entitled "What should be the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research agendas of developing countries?" began on 13 November and finished on 16 December 2002. There was an open and positive dialogue from people facing diverse realities and holding a wide range of different views. Roughly 350 people subscribed to this moderated conference, where 67 people posted a total of 128 messages, which came from participants in Asia (34% of messages), Europe (18%), United States (17%), Africa (16%), Latin America and the Caribbean (9%) and Oceania (7%). Almost 60% came from participants in developing countries. The majority of messages were from people working in research centres or research organisations, universities or non-governmental organisations. The messages are available at or can be requested as a single e-mail (size 237 KB) from

(from FAO-BiotechNews)


WIPO intellectual property database

As part of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization) is compiling an on-line, searchable database of biodiversity-related access and benefit-sharing agreements or contracts, with a particular emphasis on the intellectual property (IP) aspects of such agreements. The database is intended to provide a means of promoting understanding about the range of approaches that have been taken concerning IP and genetic resources, and may be used as a practical tool for providers of genetic resources who are engaged in negotiations concerning use of their resources. Agreements in the database can, for example, be searched based on the IP clauses involved (e.g. patents, plant breeders' rights) or the applicable law (e.g. national, regional, international). See or contact for more information. International regulatory frameworks concerning access to plant genetic resources include the Convention on Biological Diversity (see and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (see

(from FAO-BiotechNews)



Support the next generation of scientists by responding to the questions posed by an 8th-grade student about the work of plant breeders! Reply directly to:

I would like to know the following:

*What is your name?

*What kind of work do you do?

*How long have you been a scientist?

*Have you ever cross breeded plants of any kind?

*What were the results?

*Is there any difference between plant genetics and human genetics? *What contributions have you made to science if any in regards to plants and genetic discoveries?

Thank you for your time, your help is greatly appreciated.


Ashley Rink Tuffree Middle School 8th grade

(forwarded from FAO)