PLANT BREEDING NEWS
23 JUNE 2003
An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding
Sponsored by FAO and Cornell University
Clair H. Hershey, Editor
1. EDITOR'S NOTES
2. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS
3. POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
* Research Fellow, Department of Agronomy & Soils, Auburn University
* Head, Plant Breeding Unit, FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratory
4. REQUEST FOR COLLABORATION
* Variation in Root Characteristics of Pasture Species
* Survey on Participatory Plant Breeding for Masters Study
* Genotype x Environment Interactions - Challenges and Opportunities for
Plant Breeding and Cultivar Recommendations
* Guidelines for Identification of Field Constraints to Rice Production *OECD - Accessing Agricultural Biotechnology in Emerging Economies
* The Status of Public and Proprietary Germplasm and Information: An
Assessment of Recent Developments at FAO
* New Booklet for Participatory Research in Southeast Asia
* The Quality of Science in Participatory Plant Breeding
* Agro-Biotech Applications in West and Central Africa
* World Agriculture - Towards 2015-2030- An FAO Perspective
* The Use of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries
6. NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND
* Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species
* Wheat Gene Controlling Cold-Weather Requirement Cloned
*Talks Collapse on U.S. Efforts to Open Europe to Biotech Food
* Farmers Breed Better Barley
* Improving Human Health Through Crop Biofortification
* The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
* Countdown Begins for Entry into Force of Biosafety Protocol
* Scientists Develop 'Decaf' GM Coffee Plants
* Twice as Many Predicted Genes in 'Finished' Rice Chromosome
* New Method Prevents Unwanted Gene Flow of GM Plants
* Combining Traditional Breeding Methods and Genomic Research to Make
* Canada Backs African Centre on 'Agricultural Biosciences'
* Do We Need Crop Diversity?
* Wambugu Appointed to Bill Gate's Science Board
* Wild Grasses Lead to First BYDV Resistant Wheat
7. ON THE WEB
* FAO-BiotechNews, Now Available in French and in Spanish
* E-mail Conference on Regulation of GMOs
* Egyptian Biotechnology Information Center Launches Website In Arabic
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 (email@example.com), Margaret Smith
(firstname.lastname@example.org), and Anne Marie Thro (email@example.com). The editor
will advise subscribers one to two weeks ahead of each edition, in order to
set deadlines for contributions.
Subscribers are encouraged
to take an active part in making the newsletter
a useful communications tool. 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. Suggestions on format and content are always welcome by the
editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would especially like to see a broad
participation from developing country programs and from those working on
species outside the major food crops.
Messages with attached files
are not distributed on PBN-L for two important
reasons. The first is that computer viruses and worms can be distributed in
this manner. The second reason is that attached files cause problems for
some e-mail systems.
PLEASE NOTE: Every month many
newsletters are returned because they are
undeliverable, for any one of a number of reasons. We try to keep the
mailing list up to date, and also to avoid deleting addresses that are only
temporarily inaccessible. If you miss a newsletter, write to me at
email@example.com and I will re-send it.
To subscribe to PBN-L: Send
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Leave the subject line blank and write SUBSCRIBE PBN-L (Important: use ALL
CAPS). 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 these persons; no one will be subscribed without their
2. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS
* 29 June - 3 July 2003:
Public Goods and Public Policy for Agricultural
Biotechnology. Ravello, Italy.
* 6-10 July 2003: 11th International
Rapeseed Congress. Copenhagen, Denmark
Contact: Anette Palm, 11th International Rapeseed Congress, Palm
International Conferences, Turnstrasse 11, 67706, Krickenbach, Germany;
Tel: + 49 (0) 6307 401103; Fax: + 49 (0) 6307 401104; Email:
* 6-11 July 2003: XVth International
Plant Protection Congress. Beijing,
China. Contact: WEN Liping, IPPC Secretariat, Institute of Plant
Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, #2 West Yuanmingyuan
Road, Beijing 100094, China; Tel: +86 (10) 6281 5913; Fax: +86 (10) 6289
5451; Email: email@example.com; http://www.ipmchina.cn.net/ippc/index.htm
* 6-11 July 2003: XIX International
Congress of Genetics. Melbourne,
* 8 July 2003: GM Foods -
Latest Developments. Chipping Campden, UK.
Contact: Training Department, Campden & Chorleywood Food Research
Association, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, GL55 6LD, UK; Tel: +44
(0)1386 842104; Fax: +44 (0) 1386 842100;
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.campden.co.uk/
* 13-18 July 2003: Institute
in Statistical Genetics. Melbourne, Australia.
Contact: Ms Debra Hibbard, Institute in Statistical Genetics, Box 7566,
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7566, USA; Tel: +1 (919)
515 1932; Fax: +1 (919) 515 7315; Email: email@example.com;
* 14-25 July 2003: PRA/PLA
Workshop. Reading, UK. Contact: Pascal SANGINGA
* 17-22 August 2003: Arnel
R. Hallauer International Symposium on Plant
Mexico City, Mexico.
* 25-29 August 2003: EUCARPIA
XXI International Symposium: Classical vs.
Molecular Breeding of Ornamentals. Freising-Weihenstephan (Germany) Info:
Prof. Dr. Gert Forkmann, TU Mnchen, Zierpflanzenbau, Am Hochanger 4, 85350
Freising, Germany. Phone: (49)8161713416, Fax: (49)8161713886, email:
* 1-6 September 2003: Tenth
International Wheat Genetics Symposium.
Contact: Leader SAS, Corso Garibaldi, 148-84123 Salerno, Italy; Tel: +39
(089) 253170; Fax: +39 (089) 253238; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
* 7-13 September 2003: Recent
Advances in Plant Biotechnology. High Tatras,
Contact: Alena GajdosovInstitute of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology SAS,
Akademicka 2, P.O.Box 39A, 950 07 Nitra, Slovak Republic Tel: +421/37 73
366 61 Fax: +421/37 73 366 60, Email: email@example.com
* 17-18 September 2003: Seedbanks:
Determination, Dynamics & Management. Reading, UK. Contact: Carol Millman,
Association of Applied Biologists,
Horticultural Research International, Wellesbourne, Warwick, CV35 9EF, UK;
Tel: +44 (0)1789 470382; Fax: +44 (0)1789 470234; Email:
* 21-26 September 2003: Global
Aspects of Technology Transfer:
Biotechnology. Big Sky, MT, USA. Contact: Gordon Research Conferences, 3071
Route 138, Kingston, RI 02881, USA; Tel: +1 (401) 783 4011; Fax: +1 (401)
783 7644; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
* 22-24 September 2003: XXX
CIOSTA CIGR V, Management and Technology
Applications to Empower Agriculture and Agro-Food Systems. Turin, Italy.
Contact: DEIAFA Sez. Meccanica Agraria Facolt$i Agraria, Universit$i
Torino via L. da Vinci, 44 10095,Grugliasco (TO), Italy; Fax: +39 (011) 670
8591; Email: email@example.com;
* 26 Sept.-1 Oct. 2004:The
4th International Crop Science Congress (4ICSC),
New Directions for a Diverse Planet, Queensland, Australia. To join the
Congress e-newsletter for updates and announcements, visit:
* 7-10 October 2003: ITAFE'03
- International Congress on Information
Technology in Agriculture, Food and Environment. Izmir, TURKEY. First
announcement and call for papers. Email : firstname.lastname@example.org or
* 12-17 October 2003: 6th
African Crop Science Conference, Nairobi, Kenya.
Submit abstracts to Organizing Committee Chairperson Prof. Agnes
* (NEW) 15-19 October 2003:
Congreso Internacional de Cultivos Andinos.
Patrimonio Andino para la alimentación del Mundo, Cochabamba, Fundacion
PROINPA. Contact persons: Gino Aguirre, Ana Maria Cortez, e mail:
email@example.com. tel. no: (00591) 44 360800 fax 00591 44 360802.
* 19-21 October 2003: Fourth
INGENIC International Workshop. Cocoa
Breeding for Improved Production Systems, Accra, Ghana. Contacts:
Chairman of the National Organising Committee: Dr.Yaw Adu-Ampomah -
firstname.lastname@example.org; Secretariat of INGENIC: Dr. Michelle End - E-mail:
* 22-25 October 2003: First
International Conference on Saffron Biology and
Biotechnology. Albacete, Spain. Contact: Dr. Lourdes Gomez-Gomez,
IDR-Biotechnology, Campus Universitario s/n, E-02071 Albacete, Spain; Tel:
+1 (34) 9675 99200 ext. 2612; Fax: +1 (34) 9675 99309; Email:
* 22-26 October 2003: Plant
Genetics 2003: Mechanisms of Genetic Variation.
Utah, USA. Contact: American Society of Plant Biologists, 15501 Monona
Drive, Rockville, MD 20855-2768 USA; Tel: +1 (301) 251 0560; Fax: +1 (301)
279 2996; Email: email@example.com; http://www.aspb.org/meetings/pg-2003/
* 2-6 November 2003: Annual
Meetings, American Society of Agronomy, Crop
Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America. Denver, USA.
Contact: ASA-CSSA-SSSA, 677 S. Segoe Rd., Madison WI 53711, USA; Tel: +1
(608) 273 8080; Fax: +1 (608) 273 2021; http://www.agronomy.org/
* 17-28 November 2003, New
Delhi, India. "Genomics and crop improvement".
Training course organised by the International Centre for Genetic
Engineering and Biotechnology. See
http://www.icgeb.trieste.it/TRAINING/CRS03/GenomicsND.htm or contact
firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
* 9-13 December 2003: Statistical
Genetics Workshop, Institute in
Dublin, Ireland. Contact: Ms Debra Hibbard, Institute in Statistical
Genetics Box 7566, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7566,
USA; Tel: +1 (919) 515 1932; Fax: +1 (919) 515 7315; Email:
* 10-12 December 2003: ASTA's
33rd Soybean Seed & 58th Corn & Sorghum Seed
Conference. Illinois, USA. Contact: American Seed Trade Association, 225
Reinekers Lane, Suite 650, Alexandria, VA 22314-2875, USA; Tel: +1 (703)
837 8140; Fax: +1 (837) 9365; http://www.amseed.com/default.asp
* (NEW) 8-14 March 2004: Sixth
International Scientific Meeting of the
Cassava Biotechnology Network (CBN VI). Theme - Adding Value to Cassava:
Applying Biotechnology to a Small-Farmer Crop. Venue: Centro Internacional
de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia. Presentations at the
Meeting will discuss how biotechnology can assist cassava farmers by
developing, for example, more suitable varieties, disease-free planting
materials, and better ways to conserve and process cassava after
harvesting. http://www.ciat.cgiar.org/biotechnology/cbn/index.htm Contact:
email@example.com Contact: Alfredo Alves
3. POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
Research Fellow, Department of Agronomy & Soils, Auburn University
The Department of Agronomy
& Soils, Auburn University is seeking candidates
for a Research Fellow position. This position is funded from external sources.
This is a research job involving
professional and technical work in the
evaluation of genetic variation within the invasive species Imperata
cylindrica (cogongrass) at the molecular level and the development of
methods to accurately measure the invasion rate for cogongrass and
distinguish between vegetative and generative spread. Responsibilities
include, but are not limited to: conduct field and laboratory studies;
perform survey of the distribution of cogongrass within the geographic
region of interest; provide collection of plant samples; perform molecular
analysis; perform statistical evaluation of research results; and prepare
research papers, research presentations, and participate in writing
Minimum qualifications are
a PhD in Plant Genetics, Plant Breeding or a
related discipline. Knowledge of basic molecular laboratory techniques and
bivariate and multivariate statistical techniques are required. Excellent
interpersonal communication skills, demonstrated technical excellence and
ability to work independently are also required. Experience in genetic
variation is desired. Candidate selected for this position must be able to
meet eligibility requirements for work in the United States. Applicants
must attach cover letter and resume to the online application. Salary will
be commensurate with education and experience.
Minorities and women are encouraged to apply.
Refer to Requisition # 20271
and apply on-line at:
http://www.auemployment.com/ If you need assistance, contact Auburn
University's Department of Human Resources at (334) 844-4145 or your local
state employment service office. Internet access is also available through
your local public library.
Review of applications will
begin after July 7, 2003.
Auburn University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer
Head, Plant Breeding Unit, FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratory
The FAO/IAEA Agriculture and
Biotechnology Laboratory is seeking an active
scientist for the Post of Head, Plant Breeding Unit. The Laboratory is located at Seibersdorf, about 45 Km from Vienna, Austria. Full details of
this vacancy can be found at: http://recruitment.iaea.org/vacancies/p/2003/2003_045.html
C. J. Rigney
FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratory
International Atomic Energy Agency
4. REQUEST FOR COLLABORATION
* Variation in Root Characteristics of Pasture Species
I am doing research with rooting
depth and root fiber content in pasture
species. I have demonstrated increased fiber numbers and "root strength"
between different varieties and accessions of corn, soybean, and
switchgrass. I have also found extensive variation in rooting depth
between cultivars in a range of species. I am in need of some leads to
temperate pasture species breeding lines that may have inherent differences
in these characteristics. I hypothesize that the end result of this
research will be lines that 1) improve soil tilth, 2) increase carbon
sequestration, and (most important) increase available nutrient and water
reservoirs in the soil.
If I am successful, I will
need to have some active breeders cooperate
with me on this, since I am not set up to do extensive breeding at this point.
502 E. Washington St
Lewisburg WV 24901
* Survey on Participatory Plant Breeding for Masters Study
From: Julia I. Kolanoski [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Saturday, June 14, 2003; Forwarded by Anne Marie Thro.
Dear PPB practitioner, As
part of my M.Sc.-thesis I am evaluating the
experiences of scientists with Funding and Accountability in Participatory
Plant Breeding. My research is under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Volker
Hoffmann and Dr. Kirsten Probst at the University of Hohenheim, Germany
(Institute of Social Sciences in Agriculture, Department of Agricultural
Communication and Extension). The focus of my study is on how scientists
involved in PPB perceive certain power structures, the problems which may
be related to them and their ideas on and experience with possible
solutions. I am approaching you as a researcher with practical experience
in Participatory Plant Breeding - to ask for your support and your sharing
of experiences. I would be glad if you allow me to enter into a
communication process with you. Since I am attempting to achieve - via
e-mail - a situation similar to qualitative interviews, I will do this in
more than one step.
(Editor's note: The questionnaire
mentioned below IS NOT attached, but you
can request it from Ms. Kolanoski)
Attached please find my first
questionnaire, which will allow me to obtain
an overview of your PPB work. I will thereafter come back to you with a
more open set of questions. I would greatly appreciate your participation
in this project. Please fill in the attached questionnaire, save a copy as
YOUR NAME.SURVEY_JK and e-mail to Julia Kolanoski
(email@example.com) until the 27th of June - attaching the
file. Thank your very much for your contribution. Yours sincerely Julia
Genotype x Environment Interactions
- Challenges and Opportunities for
Plant Breeding and Cultivar Recommendations
by P. Annicchiarico
FAO Plant Production and Protection
Paper - 174 (2002)
http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/005/Y4391E/Y4391E00.HTM 132 Pages; ISBN:
Genotype x environment interactions,
leading to inconsistency of
best-yielding material across cropping environments, challenges plant
breeders and complicates cultivar recommendation. However, it may also
offer opportunities, e.g. raising yields through material specifically
adapted to a given area or crop management practice, or limiting yield
reduction in unfavourable years through the cultivation of stable-yielding
material. Besides providing general background information, this
publication shows how to exploit multi-environment yield trial data for the
definition of adaptation strategies and yield stability targets in breeding
programmes and in order to optimize cultivar recommendations. Information
on useful software for data analysis is provided throughout the book, with
special emphasis on IRRISTAT, a programme developed by the International
Rice Research Institute, provided on the accompanying CD-ROM.
For more information you may contact: Helena.GomezMacpherson@fao.org
Guidelines for Identification of Field Constraints to Rice Production
by R. C. Chaudhary, J. S. Nanda and D. V. Tran
This 79 page book was Published
by FAO during 2003. It describes, using a
dichotomous model, identification of field problems and recommends remedies
to maladies of rice in the field. Well illustrated with more than 60
photos and drawings, this booklet clears the science of ice to even
ordinary readers concerned with the rice crop in any way. It has the
following major Chapters:
1. How to use these guidelines
2. Checklist of problems and solutions by growth stages
3. Problems and constraints to rice production
Physical, crop management related, biotic constraints, etc. 4. Determination procedures
Nitrogen requirement, estimation of yield, rice check
5. Resource material
Its simple yet well organised
structure makes the book truly worth every
one's reading and possession.
OECD - Accessing Agricultural Biotechnology in Emerging Economies
This 112-page publication
entitled "Accessing agricultural biotechnology in
emerging economies", published by the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development (OECD) in May 2003, brings together two
framework papers that were presented and discussed at a workshop entitled
"OECD Global Forum on the Knowledge Economy: Modern Agricultural
Biotechnology in Non-Member Countries", held on 18-19 November 2002 in
Paris, France. The first paper, by J. Falck-Zepeda, J. Cohen and J. Komen,
discusses methods to assess the impacts of modern agricultural
biotechnology, The second paper, by E.J. Trigo, focuses on designing a
country and policy typology for developing countries based on their
capacities in the field of agricultural biotechnology. Both papers were
discussed in the workshop and were revised and updated based on the
discussions and written comments received from participants. See
http://www.oecd.org/pdf/M00041000/M00041637.pdf (559 Kb) or contact
firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
From the Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews, 11-June-2003
The Status of Public and Proprietary
Germplasm and Information: An
Assessment of Recent Developments at FAO
by Cary Fowler.
Mr Foweler describes this
complex and sometimes emotionally charged debate
in a clear and concise manner and dispels many misunderstandings as to what
a series of treaties and agreements really mean. The paper stems from an
email discussion late last year and earlier this year.
The paper can be downloaded
IP Strategy Today No. 7-2003
New Booklet for Participatory Research in Southeast Asia
CIAT has just published a
booklet on participatory approaches for helping
small farmers tackle problems of low-input agriculture in remote upland
areas of Southeast Asia. Designed primarily for development professionals,
the booklet provides a wealth of ideas, practical tips, and basic tools for
getting started. This is the latest in a series of publications on
developing forage technologies with farmers in the region.
Download the booklet at:
http://www.ciat.cgiar.org/asia/pdf/aciar_monograph99_contents.pdf (374 kb)
Another related available
title (from 1999) is: How to Select the Best
Varieties to Offer Farmers in Southeast Asia by P.M. Horne and W.W. Stur
Proceedings: The Quality of Science in Participatory Plant Breeding
CGIAR Systemwide Program on
Participatory Research and Gender Analysis.
2003.. Proceedings of a workshop co-hosted by the CGIAR System-wide Program
on Participatory Research and Gender Analysis (PRGA) and the CGIAR
System-wide Genetic Resources Programme (SGRP). Rome, Italy, September 30 -
October 4, 2002. http://www.prgaprogram.org/download/q_of_s_mtg/q_of_s_report.pdf
Agro-Biotech Applications in West and Central Africa
In recognition of biotechnology's
capability to solve sub-Saharan Africa's
growing food problems, Walter S. Alhassan, Visiting Scientist at the
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan, Nigeria
conducted a study "Agrobiotechnology Application in West and Central
Africa" to identify the weaknesses, strengths, and opportunities for
biotechnology application for agriculture in seven selected countries in
West and Central Africa.
The study, which covered seven
countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote
d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal), revealed the weakness of the
national agricultural research systems (NARS) for biotechnology work. The
Le Conseil Quest et Centre Africain pour la Recherche et le Developpement
Agricoles/ West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and
Development (CORAF/WECARD), on the other hand, recognized the potential of
biotechnology for agricultural research, but there was no definite focus.
Other highlights of the study
are as follows:
* The biotechnology research capability (trained manpower and
infrastructure) in Burkina Faso was observed to be low, but better than Mali.
* There is considerable strength in tissue culture and a growing
potential for molecular biology work in Cameroon.
* Except for manpower, the infrastructure for biotechnology in Cote
d'Ivoire is above average for the subregion.
* In Ghana, the biotechnology infrastructure is weak but the manpower
base is relatively strong.
* Mali was observed to have the weakest biotechnology capacity among
the countries surveyed. Thus, there is a need to consolidate infrastructure
* Nigeria has a strong infrastructure in tissue culture work, but
relatively weak in its molecular biotechnology infrastructure. However,
this will all develop in time as Nigeria draws its biotechnology
development policy, biosafety guidelines, and establishes institutions to
promote biotechnology research and development with possible entrepreneurs.
* Senegal has the best laboratory infrastructure and manpower for
agricultural biotechnology in the subregion. Its standard of biotechnology
work is relatively more advanced than the other countries in the subregion.
Download the full report at http://www.iita.org/info/Agrobiotech.pdf
World Agriculture - Towards
2015-2030- An FAO Perspective
June 1, 2003
This report is FAO's latest
assessment of the long-term outlook for the
world's food supplies, nutrition and agriculture. It presents the
projections and the main messages. The projections cover supply and demand
for the major agricultural commodities and sectors, including fisheries and forestry. This analysis forms the basis for a more detailed examination
of other factors, such as nutrition and undernourishment, and the
implications for international trade. The report also investigates the
implications of future supply and demand for the natural resource base and discusses how technology can contribute to more sustainable development.
One of the report's main findings
is that, if no corrective action is
taken, the target set by the World Food Summit in 1996 (that of halving the
number of undernourished people by 2015) is not going to be met.
Nothing short of a massive
effort at improving the overall development
performance will free the developing world of its most pressing food
insecurity problems. The progress made towards this target depends on many
factors, not least of which are political will and the mobilization of
additional resources. Past experience underlines the crucial role of
agriculture in the development process, particularly where the majority of
the population still depends on this sector for employment and income.
In recent years the growth
rates of world agricultural production and crop
yields have slowed. This has raised fears that the world may not be able to
grow enough food and other commodities to ensure that future populations
are adequately fed. However, the slowdown has occurred not because of shortages of land or water but rather because demand for
agricultural products has also slowed. This is mainly because world
population growth rates have been declining since the late 1960s, and
fairly high levels of food consumption per person are now being reached in
many countries, beyond which further rises will be limited. But it is also
the case that a stubbornly high share of the world 's population remains in
absolute poverty and so lacks the necessary income to translate its needs
into effective demand.
The Use of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries
A discussion paper published by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics
Genetically modified crops
could help small-scale farmers in developing
countries according to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in The use of
genetically modified crops in developing countries, a Discussion Paper
published today. The Nuffield Council is inviting comments on the draft
paper which aims to contribute to 'GM Nation?', the public debate organised
by the government in the UK during the next six weeks.
In 1999, the Nuffield Council
recommended that there was a moral imperative
for making GM crops readily and economically available to people in
developing countries who want them. "We have reviewed the scientific
developments since our last report as well as recent trends in poverty and
hunger in developing countries. In the light of this evidence, we have no
hesitation in affirming and expanding our previous conclusions," said Dr
Sandy Thomas, Director of the Nuffield Council.
"We recognise that we
are discussing only part of a much larger picture,"
continued Dr Thomas. Food security and the reduction of poverty in
developing countries are extremely complex issues. "We do not claim that GM
crops will eliminate the need for economic, political or social change, or
that they will feed the world. However, we do believe that GM technology
could make a useful contribution, in appropriate circumstances, to
improving agriculture and the livelihood of poor farmers in developing
The impact of European Union policy
The draft considers developments
in regulation and trade and concludes that
European agricultural policy is likely to restrict severely the freedom of
choice of farmers in developing countries. Many developing countries do not
have the necessary infrastructure to meet strict EU requirements for
labelling and traceability of GM crops. Additionally, there is concern that
even planting GM crops only for domestic use might jeopardise an export
market for non-GM crops. "We believe EU regulators have not paid enough
attention to the impact of EU regulations on agriculture in developing
countries and we recommend that the UK government and non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) should monitor this closely," said Dr Thomas.
European scepticism may also
deter people in developing countries from
adopting GM crops, particularly when the risks of GM crops are exaggerated.
"The current evidence from safety assessments of GM crops does not suggest
any significant risk to people who eat them, and we believe it is unhelpful
to suggest otherwise," said Professor Derek Burke, a member of the Working
Last year, two million people
in Zambia were threatened with starvation.
However, the Zambian government refused food aid donations from the US
because the maize was genetically modified. The Nuffield Council discusses
issues behind this controversy and recommends that developing countries
must be given a genuine choice between GM and non-GM food aid. When
developing countries prefer to receive non-GM food aid, the World Food
Programme and other food aid organisations should purchase such grain,
Scientists claim that Golden
Rice, modified to produce beta-carotene, could
help prevent vitamin A deficiency in Asia, but opponents question whether
it would actually achieve this aim. The Nuffield Council recommends that it
is essential to continue research to establish how effective the approach
might be. Golden Rice could make a valuable contribution where other
sources of vitamin A are not easily available, but it should be compared
with alternative methods of improving micronutrients in the diet, for
example providing vitamin supplements through public health programmes.
Case by case assessment
The possible costs, benefits
and risks associated with particular GM crops
can only be assessed on a case by case basis. "It is important not to
generalise," said Professor Michael Lipton, a member of the Working Group.
"However GM crops do, in some cases, have considerable potential to
increase crop yields. There is an ethical obligation to explore these
Small-scale farmers in China
and South Africa are already benefiting from
GM cotton, modified to resist the cotton bollworm. Another example cited is
research to genetically modify bananas to resist the Black Sigatoka fungus.
Untreated, this fungus can reduce banana yields by as much as 70%.
Currently, farmers spend one quarter of the production costs on fungicides,
and farm workers may risk their health by applying the spray, up to 40
times per year. A GM banana, resistant to the fungus, could eliminate these
problems, reducing the amount of fungicide required and, at the same time,
Genetic modification could
also be used to address specific agricultural
problems, such as drought and salty soils, where other methods of plant
breeding have not proved successful. However, much GM research currently
serves the interests of large-scale farmers in developed countries. There
is also concern that only a few commercial companies control most of the
seeds, chemicals and research technology. The Nuffield Council recommends
that additional resources should be committed by governments and the EC to
fund a major expansion of GM-related research relevant to the needs of
small-scale farmers in developing countries.
The Council is inviting views
on the draft version of the Discussion Paper,
by 8 August 2003. "We look forward to hearing comments from members of the
public, stakeholders and experts. We would particularly welcome comments
from people in developing countries," concluded Dr Thomas.
The Discussion Paper in PDF
format can be downloaded at
6. NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species
(Editor's note: This announcement
was intended for the May 2003 newsletter,
but was inadvertently omitted.)
A new multi-stakeholder initiative
to support and facilitate the
development of underutilized species in order to contribute to food
security and poverty alleviation of the rural and urban poor
What are underutilized species?
In the context of this initiative underutilized species (both plant and
animal) are those with a potential, not yet fully exploited, to contribute
to food security and poverty alleviation. These species tend to be
neglected by research, extension services, farmers, policy- and
decision-makers, donors, technology providers, consumers and socio-cultural
practices. Many of them were once used more widely than they are today, but
have fallen into disuse for a variety of reasons. This is endangering their
existence and the genetic base for future crop and animal breed improvement.
How has this initiative evolved
and what are its activities? During the first Conference of GFAR in Dresden,
Germany, in May 2000 a
working group recommended that GFAR addresses underutilized species in
order to increase the visibility and valorize the work already done in this
area and to stimulate further activities at the regional level. The group
also recommended the establishment of a global Facilitation Mechanism. On
the GFAR Secretariats initiative representatives of FAO, IFAD, IPGRI, the
International Centre for Underutilised Crops (ICUC) and the German Ministry
for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) decided to establish a
globally operating Facilitation Unit. BMZ provided the necessary funds and
IPGRI offered to host the Unit which started operating in June 2002. A
steering committee, composed of representatives of the above mentioned
institutions, was appointed to give overall guidance and support to the
The Unit supports and facilitates
the work on different aspects of
underutilized species at different levels by networks, organizations,
agencies and others around the world. The initiative aims at strengthening
these stakeholders and encouraging new commitments for the development of
Initially the Unit is concentrating
on stakeholders working with plant
species. The main activities include:
• Providing improved access
to information (making use of traditional and
• Creating a platform for
discussion of concepts, strategies and
instruments to promote and facilitate the sustainable use of underutilized
• Facilitating stakeholdersaccess to financial resources
• Developing a self-sustaining
mechanism to support work on underutilized
Why is there a need for such
Global food security is increasingly based on a narrowing range of animal
and plant species, a situation, which is limiting livelihood options for
the poor. The chronic food shortages present in many developing countries
demonstrate clearly the fragility of food security based on a few staple
food species. Agrobiodiversity is a necessity for the survival of poor
communities and the stabilization of agroecosystems. Many underutilized
species are particularly useful in marginal lands where they have been
selected to withstand stress conditions and where they contribute to
sustainable production. They often contain essential micronutrients, which
are not present in stable foods. However little has been done to identify
markets and ways to commercialize these species, although new adapted food
processing technologies offer multiple opportunities to generate additional
income and improve livelihoods. No policy frameworks exist to promote their
use and maximize their economic value.
This initiative offers to
all stakeholders the opportunity to join forces
in steering the process of promotion and development of underutilized
species for the benefit of the rural and urban poor people.
What has been done so far?
The GFU has developed a website which will soon be online as its major
In a joint effort with GTZ
(German Agency for Technical Cooperation) and
InWEnt (Capacity Building International) an international workshop on
underutilized plant species was organized and it took place from 6-8 May
2003 in Leipzig, Germany. Over 50 participants from more than 30 countries
attended the event, which was sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for
Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Technical Center for
Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the International Fund for
Agricultural Development (IFAD). The objectives of the workshop were:
• identify strategic elements
for the promotion and sustainable
utilization of underutilized plant species
• identify potential actors
• recommend next steps
It addressed policy makers,
research institutions, food industry,
development agencies, donors, farmersorganizations, NGOs and networks. It
looked at the implications of underutilized plants on nutrition and health
issues, their economic and development aspects, their environmental
relevance and the cultural role the play.
All relevant information regarding
this workshop can be found at the
following URL http://www.inwent.org/ups/. By logging on as a guest you can
enter the virtual communication platform and participate in this forum.
Comments and contributions to the workshop presentations, results and
recommendations are more than welcome and can be placed by all interested
For further information regarding the GFU please contact:
Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon Paul
Coordinator GFU for Underutilized Species Scientific
Via dei Tre Denari,
472/a Via dei Tre Denari, 472/a
00057 Maccarese 00057 Maccarese
Rome, Italy Rome, Italy
Fax: ++39-06-61979661 Fax:
Wheat Gene Controlling Cold-Weather Requirement Cloned
The gene that controls "vernalization,"
the biological process that
requires cold temperatures to trigger flower formation in some plants, has
been isolated and cloned in wheat for the first time by a team of
researchers at the University of California, Davis.
"We are hopeful that this discovery, combined with existing
biotechnological methods, will facilitate better manipulation of flowering
time in wheat," said the team's lead researcher, Jorge Dubcovsky, a
professor and wheat breeder in UC Davis' agronomy and range science
department. "It also should open the way to a better understanding of the
complex network of genes responsible for determining flowering time in
temperate cereal crops."
Some plants, including certain wheat varieties, will not flower until they
have been exposed to a certain period of cold temperatures. For example,
winter wheat requires several weeks at low temperature, usually in the
range of 40-50 F, in order to flower and eventually produce grain. It is
thought that the plants evolved this vernalization mechanism to prevent the
cold-sensitive flowering parts of the plants from developing during winter
when they might be damaged by extremely cold winter temperatures. Previously, the VRN1 gene was known to largely control the vernalization
process in wheat, but researchers didn't know a lot about it, other than
its general location on three wheat chromosomes. To better identify the
gene, Dubcovsky and colleagues used thousands of plants to develop detailed
genetic and physical maps for the VRN1 region in wheat and for the same
region in rice and sorghum. By comparing the maps, the researchers
determined that the AP1 gene, which belongs to a family of genes known to
be important to the regulation of flower development, is the VRN1 gene that
Funding for the study, published recently in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences, was provided by a U.S. Department of
Agriculture National Research Initiative Grant and by the National Science
Jorge Dubcovsky <email@example.com>
Talks Collapse on U.S. Efforts to Open Europe to Biotech Food
By DAVID LEONHARDT
New York Times
June 20, 2003
WASHINGTON, June 19 Talks
between the United States and the European Union
over opening up Europe to genetically modified foods broke down in Geneva
today, the Bush administration announced, heightening trans-Atlantic tensions.
American officials said they
would soon request that the World Trade
Organization convene a panel to hear their case, in an effort to end a ban
that farm groups say is depriving agricultural businesses of hundreds of
billions of dollars a year.
The Bush administration called
Europe's policy illegal, saying that
scientific research had shown genetically altered crops to be safe. The
European Union "denies choices to European consumers," Richard Mills, a
spokesman for the United States trade representative, Robert Zoellick, said
in a statement today.
European officials said the
long-term effects of altered food remained
uncertain. They said they were disappointed by the administration's
publicizing of the dispute.
The food dispute is one of
a handful of trade fights between the United
States and Europe and comes as tensions linger over the war in Iraq, which
many European countries opposed. Trade officials also continue to haggle
over steel tariffs imposed by the Bush administration last year, farm
subsidies on both sides of the Atlantic, and an American law that reduces
taxes for companies with overseas operations, among other issues.
"There have never been
more of these litigations than there are right now,"
Robert E. Lighthizer, a trade lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher &
Flom in Washington, said of the disputes. He said the relationship was
"American and European
officials met in Geneva today for a round of
negotiations, known as a consultation, after the United States filed suit
at the W.T.O. over the issue last month. Today's announcement means that
the trade organization will soon begin selecting a panel of judges to hear
the case, although a decision is likely to take months.
Genetically modified food
whiich can grow more quickly than traditional
crops and can be resistant to insects has caused scant controversy in the
United States, where peoplle eat it every day. Almost 40 percent of all
corn planted in this country in genetically modified.
In Europe, however, the environmental
movement is more powerful, and a
series of food problems, including mad cow disease, have made people far
more skeptical of assurances of safety from governments and businesses.
Some food packages there bear the label "GM free," and the initials are
well enough known to be used regularly in headlines in British newspapers.
The European Commission has
permitted the use of some genetically modified
foods, like soybeans, in the last decade, but has effectively placed a
moratorium on most new products.
The Bush administration and
agricultural businesses view the policy as
simple protectionism because American companies, which dominate the
biotechnology industry,would benefit most from lifting the ban. Without it,
American companies would export about $300 billion more in corn each year
than they do now, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Scientific research has generally
shown that genetically modified foods do
not cause health problems.
be able to erect barriers for nonscientific reasons,"
Don Lipton, a spokesman for the farm federation, said. "That's a very
important principle in international trade."
In a speech last month, President
Bush escalated the dispute by saying that
Europe's policy was undermining efforts to fight hunger in Africa. African
nations, fearing their products would be shunned by Europe, are avoiding
developing genetically modified food that might help feed the continent, he
said. "European governments should join, not hinder, the great cause of
ending hunger in Africa," he said in the speech.
European diplomats reacted
angrily to Mr. Bush's comments, saying that
their health concerns were serious and noting that European nations spend a
greater part of their budget on foreign aid than the United States.
European officials have also
said that they are surprised that the United
States has highlighted the dispute recently. This summer, the European
Parliament is scheduled to consider a measure that would establish strict
labeling rules for genetically modified products, which could allow more of
them to be sold.
Europe's resistance to modified
crops received a political lift last week
when a global treaty restricting them was approved. Although it is not
clear what effect the treaty, known as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety,
will have on the trade dispute, it is likely to make it easier for
countries to restrict importing the crops, trade experts say.
The United States, worried
about the treaty's impact on American exporters,
agreed only reluctantly to support it when it was negotiated in 2000.
Announcing that the talks
between Europe and the United States had broken
down today, Mr. Mills, the trade representative's spokesman, said in his
statement that he was "disappointed but not surprised."
He added, "We'll be moving forward with requesting a panel" to decide the case.
Willy Helin, a European Commission
spokesman, said that European officials
had explained their policy fully to the United States delegation today, but
that they had expected the dispute to reach the next level.
"This is a first formal step," he said.
Argentine officials, who have
joined the United States in filing the W.T.O.
case, also attended today's talks, Mr. Helin said.
But other nations that have
previously criticized Europe's position,
including Egypt, did not, he said.
Farmers Breed Better Barley
New Lines Prove the Worth of Participatory Research
By Salvatore Ceccarelli and David Abbass http://www.icarda.cgiar.org/Publications/Caravan/caravan15/farmers/farmers.html
The need for farmer participation
in research and development is now well
recognized, and there can be few better examples of the benefits of a
participatory approach than ICARDA's farmer participatory barley breeding
program. After all, farmers have been breeding better crop plants since
Farmers know best-why participation works
Farmers have been selecting
better barley for millennia. In fact, virtually
every important crop plant was domesticated by farmers who recognized
better-performing plants and saved their seed for future sowing. Today,
drought-tolerant barley lines developed by ICARDA, using a participatory
approach, are proof that farmers still have an important role to play in
Some 300 farmers are involved
in ICARDA's barley research program in
Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. They
select, right on their own farms, from among the hundreds of breeding lines
produced by ICARDA every year.
Their efforts in cooperation
with ICARDA will help ensure livelihood and
nutrition for some of the poorest people in the world's dry areas, where
barley is a critically important food and feed crop.
Drought-tolerant barley lines for income security
In general, it takes at least
200 mm of rainfall to grow a barley crop in
non-irrigated areas, but 'farmer researchers' in Syria have produced crops
on much less using lines developed by ICARDA. In some locations, farmers
managed to harvest a crop from just 87 mm of rain! Yield was measured in
kilograms, not tonnes, but in such years of drought, a harvest of barley
grain and stubble for livestock can mean the difference between survival
and selling off livestock or a piece of the family farm.
Beyond subsistence agriculture
The northwest coast of Egypt
is another place where low and erratic
rainfall makes rural life precarious. There, the risk of drought
discourages farmers from investing in fertilizer. The result is low yields,
even in good years. ICARDA researchers figured if farmers had a barley
variety they could rely on, then they might be willing to invest in basic
Host farmers and local expert
farmers,' chosen by their neighbors, selected
28 promising barley populations from 53 developed by ICARDA. Some of the
lines selected by the farmers out-yielded the local favorite lines by 30-300%.
Had the selections been made
on an experiment station, the results could
have been much different. In a traditional breeding program, crosses are
made to generate variability, and breeders search through the resulting
populations for a few outstanding lines that a
great many potentially useful lines are passed over and discarded early in
the selection process. Participatory breeding involves farmers from diverse
locations in the initial stages of selection, when genetic variability is
still virtually untapped. Selections reflect farmers' perceived needs, and
take advantage of farmers' extensive knowledge of the crop and local
environment. The result is lines better adapted to farm conditions, greater
diversity in cropped varieties, and greater utilization of the genetic
potential generated by breeders.
Better barley comes with sense of ownership
Breeders have been working
for more than 100 years to improve barley
productivity in Tunisia. Yet farmers stick to their traditional varieties,
which are well suited to the harsh, dry conditions so different from the
breeders' experiment station. Even lines that seem to suit farmers' needs
have gained little acceptance.
ICARDA felt it could help
by implementing a program of decentralized
breeding and selection, with farmers as key collaborators. The result is
'Momtaz,' a six-row barley variety similar to the ones favored by local
farmers, but with much better yield potential in dry conditions. In dry
years, the variety yields 14-21% higher than the check varieties, and in
semi-dry seasons farmers can expect 30% higher yield than the best checks.
Aside from its improved adaptability
and yield potential, 'Momtaz' enjoys
the ready acceptance of Tunisian farmers. After all, it's their variety.
New responsibilities for professional plant breeders
Will farmers put breeders
out of work? No. Farmer participation is not a
substitute for the critical work done by professional breeders. Consider
the case of the Russian wheat aphid. ICARDA researchers have made good
progress developing barley plant resistance, which is the only practical
way for cash-poor farmers to withstand the devastating pest.
The Center's search for sources
of resistance began in 1997. Since then
five sources of resistance have been used in crosses with six varieties
grown in North Africa, from which 71 resistant lines were selected at
ICARDA's research farm in northern Syria. These lines have been sent to
Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia for further evaluation under local conditions.
Only an international institute
with trained breeders, access to a diverse
collection of germplasm, and access to advanced tools, including
biotechnology, could conduct such a multinational, multifaceted program. If
anything, professional breeders have additional roles to play organizing
farmer cooperators and making the most of farmers' picks in as many
locations as possible.
ICARDA's barley improvement program
Barley is grown on 70 million
ha worldwide, more than half in developing
countries. As part of its global mandate, ICARDA works to increase the
productivity of barley through the development and adoption of improved
varieties in six regions: Near East and West Asia; North Africa; East
Africa and Yemen; Central Asia and the Caucasus; Far East; and Central and
The major role of ICARDA's
barley breeders is to generate useful genetic
variability through targeted crosses, to distribute segregating
populations, and to coordinate the analysis and utilization of related
data. The role of the national agricultural research system breeders, in
turn, is to identify useful parental material, such as sources of disease
resistance, to design suitable crosses, and to select useful lines in
The project has released more
than 100 cultivars. The average adoption
level is 14% and the estimated annual benefit per adopted cultivar ranges
from US$1.1 million to US$39.5 million.
Dr Salvatore Ceccarelli is
Barley Breeder, and Mr David Abbass is Science
Writer/Editor at ICARDA.
Improving Human Health Through Crop Biofortification
Seventy-five scientists and
other professionals met at CIAT headquarters on
2-6 June 2003 to consolidate the CGIAR's new Challenge Program on crop
biofortification. Representing nine disciplines and nearly 50 partner
organizations, the group made major progress in determining how they will
work together to boost the vitamin and mineral content of the world's
staple foods. The goal of the program, described by CIAT director general
Joachim Voss as a "monumental and historic effort," is to help overcome
micronutrient malnutrition (especially lack of iron, zinc, and vitamin A),
which currently afflicts more than half the world's population.
For more information see
http://www.ifpri.org/themes/grp06/grp06_biofort.htm, research theme paper
from the IFPRI Web site.
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture http://www.fao.org/ag/cgrfa/itpgr.htm
Plant genetic resources for
food and agriculture are crucial in feeding the
world's population. They are the raw material that farmers and plant
breeders use to improve the quality and productivity of our crops. The
future of agriculture depends on international cooperation and on the open
exchange of the crops and their genes that farmers all over the world have
developed and exchanged over 10,000 years. No country is sufficient in
itself. All depend on crops and the genetic diversity within these crops
from other countries and regions.
After seven years of negotiations,
the FAO Conference (through
ftp://ext-ftp.fao.org/ag/cgrfa/res/c3-01e.pdf Resolution 3/2001) adopted
the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and
Agriculture, in November 2001. This legally-binding Treaty covers all plant
genetic resources relevant for food and agriculture. It is in harmony with
the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The Treaty is vital in ensuring
the continued availability of the plant
genetic resources that countries will need to feed their people. We must
conserve for future generations the genetic diversity that is essential for
food and agriculture.
What are "plant genetic
resources for food and agriculture"? The Treaty defines them as "any
genetic material of plant origin of actual
or potential value for food and agriculture".
What are the Treaty's objectives?
Its objectives are the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic
resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of
benefits derived from their use, in harmony with the Convention on
Biological Diversity, for sustainable agriculture and food security.
What is the Multilateral System
for Access and Benefit-Sharing? Through the Treaty, countries agree to establish
an efficient, effective
and transparent Multilateral System to facilitate access to plant genetic
resources for food and agriculture, and to share the benefits in a fair and
equitable way. The Multilateral System applies to over 64 major crops and
forages. The Governing Body of the Treaty, which will be composed of the
countries that have ratified it, will set out the conditions for access and
benefit-sharing in a "Material Transfer Agreement".
What are the conditions for
access in the Multilateral System? Resources may be obtained from the Multilateral
System for utilization and
conservation in research, breeding and training. When a commercial product
is developed using these resources, the Treaty provides for payment of an
equitable share of the resulting monetary benefits, if this product may not
be used without restriction by others for further research and breeding. If
others may use it, payment is voluntary.
How will benefits be shared?
The Treaty provides for sharing the benefits of using plant genetic
resources for food and agriculture through information-exchange, access to
and the transfer of technology, and capacity-building. It also foresees a
funding strategy to mobilize funds for activities, plans and programmes the
help, above all, small farmers in developing countries. This funding
strategy also includes the share of the monetary benefits paid under the
How does the Treaty protect
The Treaty recognizes the enormous contribution that farmers and their
communities have made and continue to make to the conservation and
development of plant genetic resources. This is the basis for Farmers'
Rights, which include the protection of traditional knowledge, and the
right to participate equitably in benefit-sharing and in national
decision-making about plant genetic resources. It gives governments the
responsibility for implementing these rights.
Who benefits from the Treaty
All benefit, in many ways:
Farmers and their communities,
through Farmers' Rights; Consumers, because of a greater variety of foods, and
products, as well as increased food security;
The scientific community, through access to the plant genetic resources
crucial for research and plant breeding;
International Agricultural Research Centres, whose collections the Treaty
puts on a safe and long-term legal footing;
Both the public and private sectors, which are assured access to a wide
range of genetic diversity for agricultural development; and The environment, and future generations, because the Treaty will help
conserve the genetic diversity necessary to face unpredictable
environmental changes, and future human needs.
When will the Treaty come
The Treaty will come into force ninety days after forty governments have
ratified it. Governments that have ratified it will make up its Governing
Body. At its first meeting, this Governing Body will address important
questions, such as the level, form and manner of monetary payments on
commercialization, a standard Material Transfer Agreement for plant genetic
resources, mechanisms to promote compliance with the Treaty, and the
funding strategy. Countries may therefore consider it important to be among
the first to ratify, so as to ensure that their national interests can be
taken into account at the Governing Body's first meeting.
Each country that ratifies will then develop the legislation and
regulations it needs to implement the Treaty.
An official version of the
treaty can be viewed at:
Countdown Begins for Entry into Force of Biosafety Protocol
Republic of Palau becomes the 50th country to ratify
June 13 2003
Accession today by Palau triggers
the countdown to the entry into force of
the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the first legally binding
international agreement governing the movement of living modified organisms
across national borders. It will take effect on 11 September 2003, ninety
days from today.
The Protocol, adopted by the
member governments of the Convention on
Biological Diversity (CBD) on 29 January 2000 after more than five years of
negotiation, aims at ensuring adequate safety in the transboundary movement
and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern
biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the biological diversity and
Welcoming the imminent entry
into force of the Protocol, CBD Executive
Secretary Hamdallah Zedan said that it is a vital tool for sustainable
development and the safeguarding of biodiversity. "This treaty will enable
countries to derive maximum benefit from biotechnology while ensuring
adequate safety measures for the environment, also taking into account
human health", he said.
The Cartagena Protocol will
ensure that the development and use of
biotechnology are subject to adequate and transparent safety measures,
known collectively as biosafety At the date of entry into force, certain
provisions will take effect immediately:
* Countries shipping LMOs for intentional introduction into the
environment will have to give prior notification of the first shipment to
an importing country that is a party to the Protocol under what is referred
to as the "Advance Informed Agreement" procedure. Sufficient information
will have to be provided to enable importing countries make informed decisions.
* Member countries of the Protocol will also be required to use the
Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH) to fulfill a number of specific obligations.
The BCH is a largely Internet-based facility established under the Protocol
to ease communications and exchange of information between the Parties.
* All shipments containing LMOs for intentional introduction into the
environment will be clearly identified as such in the accompanying
documentation which must specify the identity and characteristics of the
specific LMOs contained in each shipment.
Following the agreements entry
into force, the decision-making body of all
the member countries of the Protocol, - the Conference of the Parties
serving as the meeting of the Parties -, will convene to address topics
related to the operation and implementation of the Protocol. The first
meeting is scheduled for the first quarter of 2004 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
"The first meeting of
Parties will be a historic event that will provide a
foundation for the future of the Protocol", said Mr. Zedan. "I urge all
countries that have not yet done so to ratify the Protocol as soon as
possible in order to participate as full partners in the decision making at
the first meeting of Parties which will shape the future of the Protocol".
(1) The Cartagena Protocol
on Biosafety was negotiated under the Convention
on Biological Diversity with the objective to promote "the safe transfer,
handling and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern
biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and
sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to
human health, and specifically focusing on transboundary movements".
(2) 103 countries signed the
Protocol by the closing date for signature on
4 June 2001. Todays ratification by Palau was the fiftieth instrument of
ratification, accession, approval or acceptance required for Protocol to
enter into force, which will happen after ninety days. For the purpose of
entry into force of the Protocol, any instrument deposited by a regional
economic integration organization, such as the European Community, does not
count as additional to those deposited by member States of such organization.
(3) At entry into force, a
number of provisions of the Protocol will take
effect immediately including the following:
* Countries shipping LMOs
for intentional introduction into the
environment will have to give prior notification to the importing country
that is a Party to the Protocol under the Advance Informed Agreement
procedure and provide sufficient information to enable them to make
informed decisions. Those shipments will have to be identified in
accompanying documentation as LMOs with specification of the identity and
characteristics and with a declaration that "the movement is in conformity
with the requirements of the Protocol".
* Likewise, shipments of
bulk LMO commodities intended for direct use
for food, feed or processing will, in the interim, have to be identified in
accompanying documentation as "may contain" LMOs and as "not intended for
intentional introduction into the environment".
* Countries will be required
to use the Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH)
to fulfill a number of obligations. The BCH is established under the
Protocol to facilitate the exchange between countries of scientific,
technical, environmental and legal information on, and experiences with,
LMOs. Specific information that must be made available through the BCH
includes: national biosafety laws; risk assessment summaries; and final
decisions by importing countries with supporting reasons. The pilot phase
of the BCH, which is largely Internet-based, has been developed by the
Secretariat of the Convention and is available at
* Any Party that approves
for domestic use and marketing LMOs intended
for direct use as food, feed or processing that may be exported will be
required to communicate this decision and details about the LMO to the
world community via the Biosafety Clearing-House.
(4) Additional information
about the Protocol is available at the following
http://www.biodiv.org/biosafety and the Biosafety Clearing-House:
http://bch.biodiv.org/Pilot/Home.aspx. Frequently asked questions are also
available at: http://www.biodiv.org/biosafety/faqs.asp
Scientists Develop 'Decaf' GM Coffee Plants
19 June 2003
Coffee plants can be genetically
modified to produce coffee with reduced
caffeine content, according to a new study.
At present, decaffeinated
coffee which does not cause the rise in blood
pressure and palpitations that can be triggered by full-strength coffee is
produced via expensive industrial processes that can compromise flavour.
But now scientists from the
Nara Institute of Science and Technology in
Japan have used genetic engineering to reduce the activity of
caffeine-making genes in coffee plants, cutting their caffeine content by
up to 70 per cent.
As well as potentially reducing
the cost and improving the taste of
decaffeinated coffee, the research has other benefits, the scientists say.
"Our method not only shortens the breeding period, which is more than 25
years for conventional crossing, but also opens the way to develop new
species of coffee plant," they write in the journal Nature.
Most of the world's coffee
is grown in developing countries, primarily in
Latin America and Africa.
Link to paper in Nature
Reference: Nature 423, 823 (2003)
Twice as Many Predicted Genes in 'Finished' Rice Chromosome
Contact: Robert Koenig
http://www.tigr.org The Institute for Genomic Research
Researchers sequence, analyze rice Chromosome 10
The smallest rice chromosome
has nearly twice as many predicted genes as
the draft DNA sequence had indicated, according to a new study.
The new "finished"
sequence and analysis of rice Chromosome 10, published
in the June 6 issue of Science, confirms that the rice genome is closely
similar to that of other grains, particular sorghum and maize. The study
also offers a close look at the compacted short arm of the chromosome,
which is a gene-poor heterochromatic region of the rice genome.
Robin Buell, who leads the
rice genome sequencing team at The Institute for
Genomic Research (TIGR), says the "finished" sequence which helped
researchers identify about 1,700 additional rice genes shows the importance
of completing a draft DNA sequence. "This work clearly demonstrates the
importance of finished sequence," says Buell. "The finished Chromosome 10
sequence of rice will be a major component for future comparative studies
of other cereals, such as corn and wheat."
Chromosome 10 was sequenced
by a U.S. group led by Buell at TIGR and by Rod
A. Wing at the University of Arizona with funding from the U.S. Department
of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of
Energy. That effort was part of the International Rice Genome Sequencing
Project (IRGSP), a public effort that is completing the sequences of all 12
rice chromosomes, which have a total of 430 million DNA base pairs.
Rice is one of the world's
most important foods, providing more than half
of the daily calories for about a third of the world's population. The
IRGSP sequenced the genome of the japonica subspecies of rice (Oryza
sativa) that is cultivated in Japan, Korea and the United States. Another
rice subspecies, indica, has been sequenced by a Chinese institute.
The IGRSP public consortium
announced in December 2002 that it had
completed an advanced, high-quality draft genome sequence of rice. The data
freely available on the internet to all scientists worldwide are expected
to help plant scientists develop improved rice strains that are hardier and
more productive. The draft sequence also provides an important tool for
scientists who focus their research on other cereal crops (including maize,
wheat and barley) with genomes that are colinear with rice.
Buell said that the new study
predicts a total of about 3,500 genes on
Chromosome 10, which encompasses about 22 million DNA base pairs. The
previous estimate, based on the draft genome blueprint, had predicted about
half that number of genes.
The analysis of the "completed"
genome which still has seven gaps,
representing about 4 percent of the total chromosome sequence also found
that the chromosome is "modular," with a long arm that is rich with genes
and a short arm that has relatively few genes. That short arm has an
abundance of heterochromatin, a stretch of highly compacted DNA with few
genes in it. Buell says this is the first large stretch of heterochromatin
in plants that has been studied in depth.
In an effort to determine
the functions of many of the genes, Buell, Wing
and colleagues also compared the proteins encoded by the chromosome with
those encoded by the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. They found matches
for about two-thirds of the proteins, indicating that some of the genes
were responsible for functions such as producing enzymes and binding
nucleic acids that are carried out by many plants.
Rice, setting a record for
a single species, has been the focus of four
separate genome-sequencing initiatives, including the IRGSP and private
initiatives by agribusinesses Syngenta and Monsanto Co., both of which have
shared their rice sequence data with the public project. In addition, a
separate research project at the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) has
developed a draft sequence of subspecies indica 93-11, which is the main
subspecies grown in China and Southeast Asia.
Scientific papers by Japanese
and Chinese IRGSP research groups detailing
the complete draft sequences of rice chromosomes 1 and 4 were published
last fall in the journal Nature, and IRGSP papers on the "complete"
sequences of the remaining rice chromosomes are planned. The final,
"finished" rice genome sequence is expected by 2004.
The rice project is an important
part of TIGR's plant genomics program,
which includes other major research projects involving, maize (corn),
potato, and the model plant Arabadopsis thaliana and some of its close
relatives. TIGR had sequenced about one-third of the Arabadopsis genome as
part of an international consortium that published its results in Nature in
December 2000. TIGR is also conducting research involving pine, barley,
banana, and plant pathogens.
TIGR's president, Claire M.
Fraser, Ph.D., said the rice genome sequence is
an important step towards better understanding one of the world's most
important crops and in gaining insight into related crops such as maize,
wheat and barley which have much larger genomes. "The rice genome sequence
will benefit a large number of plant genomics projects and offers the
potential to help millions of people across the globe," Fraser said.
The Institute for Genomic
Research (TIGR) is a not-for-profit research
institute based in Rockville, Maryland. TIGR, which sequenced the first
complete genome of a free-living organism in 1995, has been at the
forefront of the genomic revolution since the institute was founded in
1992. TIGR conducts research involving the structural, functional, and
comparative analysis of genomes and gene products in viruses, bacteria,
archaea, and eukaryotes.
Additional Media Contact:
C. Robin Buell, TIGR Assistant Investigator
New Method Prevents Unwanted Gene Flow of GM Plants
June 5, 2003
By Christof Fellmann, http://www.checkbiotech.org/
A new study shows that a special
two component system represses the gene
flow from GM plants to related plant species. The system consists of two
complexes, one containing the new desired gene and a lethal factor gene,
the second one containing a gene that codes for a protein to suppress the
lethal factor gene.
One major concern of environmental
groups and some farmers is that newly
introduced genetic material can be passed on from genetically modified
plants to the gene pool, where it can persist even if it is not functional.
To prevent this, a team, led by Dr. Johann P. Schernthaner at the Eastern
Cereal and Oilseed Research Center, in Ottawa, Canada, recently developed a
method that reduces the probability of gene flow between GM plants and
sexually compatible wild types or related plants, by producing a system
that helps ensure that if a GM plant in-crosses or out-crosses, the next
generation will not survive. The publication of their results can be found
in the May 27th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences (PNAS) - see abstract below. (http://www.pnas.org)
In order to prevent the flow
of inserted genes to other plants, the
scientist inserted the gene of interest (trait gene) with an specific
lethal factor gene. The lethal factor gene used in this experiment uses a
embryo-specific starting sequence (phaseolin promoter), which subsequently
leads to the plants death due to overproduction of the naturally occurring
plant hormone (phytohormone) auxin. Thus, if a plant produces hybrid seeds
on account of cross-pollination, they will not lead to any adult plants,
but instead die during germination caused by an overproduction of auxin.
Now that the possibility of
gene dispersal is prevented, the problem of
producing a functional plant must be solved, since the lethal factor gene
by itself will also cause the target plants to die. Therefore, the research
group introduced another gene into the target plants, which codes for a
protein that prevents the lethal factor gene from being expressed in the
As an example, a crop with
a fungicide gene could be produced in order to
prevent chemical fungicide use. To this gene two more genes (the lethal
factor gene and the repressor gene) would have to be added to prevent the
desired fungicide gene from in-crossing or out-crossing. Thus, in the
target plant the product of the repressor gene blocks the expression of the
lethal factor gene and thereby prevents the overproduction of auxin. In
consequence, the desired fungicide gene is correctly expressed, giving the
plant resistance to a certain fungal infection.
To insure that the trait gene/lethal
factor gene complex is never passed on
together with the repressor gene, they are inserted at specific sites on
the chromosome, which are known areas of recombination. Recombination
occurs during the production of pollen, which nature uses to increase
variability in the gene pool. Inserting the genes at specific sites will
ensure that the lethal gene is passed on without the repressor gene. Thus,
should in-crossing or out-crossing occur, only the trait gene/lethal factor
gene complex will be passed on, causing the germ to die, and thus
preventing the flow of new DNA material.
The new method developed by
Dr. Johann P. Schernthaner and his team has the
potential of becoming a major mechanism in preventing gene flow with the
use of GM plants. Once the GM plant is produced it requires no more
intervention, such as the use of chemical sprays to activate the lethal
factor gene, for example. Its general functionality and easy to use
applicability will help this system to establish a new generation of GM
plants that will ensure an unrivalled safety level.
For special applications that
require bacterial (prokaryotic) genes to be
introduced, Dr. Schernthaners method may be combined with another recently
developed system that makes use of the chloroplasts genome.
Christof Fellmann is a writer
for Checkbiotech and a student at Basel
University, Switzerland (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Control of seed germination in transgenic plants based on the segregation
of a two-component genetic system
by Johann P. Schernthaner, Steven F. Fabijanski, Paul G. Arnison, Martine
Racicot and Laurian S. Robert
Eastern Cereal and Oilseed
Research Center, Agriculture and Agri-Food
Canada, 960 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1A0C6; and The FAAR
Biotechnology Group, Suite 323, 5929 Jeanne d'Arc Boulevard, Ottawa, ON,
Edited by Charles J. Arntzen,
Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ and
approved March 21, 2003 (received for review November 8, 2002)
We have developed a repressible
seed-lethal (SL) system aimed at reducing
the probability of transgene introgression into a population of sexually
compatible plants. To evaluate the potential of this method, tobacco plants
were transformed with an SL construct comprising gene 1 and gene 2 from
Agrobacterium tumefaciens whereby gene 1 was controlled by the
seed-specific phaseolin promoter modified to contain a binding site for the
Escherichia coli TET repressor (R). The expression of this construct allows
normal plant and seed development but inhibits seed germination. Plants
containing the SL construct were crossed with plants containing the tet R
gene to derive plant lines where the expression of the SL construct is
repressed. Plant lines that contained both constructs allowed normal seed
formation and germination, whereas seeds in which the SL construct was
separated from the R gene through segregation did not germinate. The
requirements of such a method to efficiently control the flow of novel
traits among sexually compatible plants are discussed.
The complete article is on
the PNAS website at
Combining Traditional Breeding
Methods and Genomic Research to Make Better
June 4, 2003
by Brenna Doheny, Daily Barometer, http://www.osu.edu, Oregon State University
Barley, beer and human civilization
have a long mutual history. Humans
began cultivating barley in the early days of civilization in the Fertile
Crescent, and began using barley to make beer soon after. OSU crop and soil
science professor Patrick Hayes is combining traditional breeding
techniques and new genetic research tools to improve barley to meet the
demands of modern society. Hayes is the coordinator of a collaborative
research project known as the North American Barley Genome Project.
With only seven pairs of chromosomes,
barley is a relatively simple model
to work with, Hayes said, as compared with wheat, which has 21 chromosomal
pairs, or humans, with 23 pairs. Surprisingly enough, the barley genome is
bigger than the human genome, meaning there is more DNA in barley than in
people, Hayes said.
By mapping the barley genome
to find the genes responsible for important
characteristics such as malting quality, disease resistance and tolerance
to stressful conditions, plants bearing the desired genes can be selected.
Better quality barley can be created by breeding the plants with the
In the U.S. today, an average
of 400 million bushels of barley are
cultivated each year, but over half is used as livestock feed and is
therefore not very valuable. As Dr. Hayes explained, barley is marketed at
about $100 per ton, with an average annual yield of 2 tons per acre. "The
only way you can make money is to have lots of acres or do something to add
value to that barley," Hayes said.
He added that throughout history,
the best way to make barley more valuable
has been to convert it into malt for making beer, which can increase the
marketable value of barley by 30 percent. Hayes' department is conducting
research to determine the genes responsible for malting quality. "If you
know where they are and what they express, you can determine what to do to
increase malting quality," Hayes said.
Hayes' research has found
that the genes responsible for malting quality
can be separated from the genes responsible for row numbers. While the bulk
of his barley research centers on genetics, Hayes is quick to point out
that the barley plants used for consumption are not actually products of
genetic engineering. The U.S. malting and brewing industry does not approve
of genetically modified barley plants being used for beer, so for now, the
genetic engineering of barley is only being used as a research tool.
A major difficulty Hayes has
experienced in his research is lack of
funding. He receives some support from farmers and the brewing industry,
and has received grants for several projects. To supplement this funding,
he also sells t-shirts and other merchandise touting the benefits of barley
out of his department and at Whitesides Wine and Beer in downtown Corvallis.
For more information, visit
Hayes' project website at
Canada Backs African Centre on 'Agricultural Biosciences'
- David Dickson, 30 May 2003
Canadian Prime Minister Jean
Chretien announced this week (26 May) that his
government is to give Can$30 million towards setting up an African centre
of excellence in "biosciences for agriculture".
According to Chretien, the
new centre "will serve as a focal point for
African scientists to develop the capacity to conduct, drive and fund
advanced biosciences research programmes in priority development areas".
The new grant is part of a
set of initiatives with a combined value of
Can$60 million, each concerned with either agriculture or youth, that are
being financed out of the Canada Fund for Africa.
This Can$500 million fund was set up last year to support the
implementation of an "action plan" for Africa that was agreed by leaders of
the G8 industrialised countries when they met in Kananaskis, Alberta, last
June. The fund is also intended to support the New Partnership for Africas Development (NEPAD), an initiative spearheaded by six African
countries that seeks to achieve sustainable growth and development on the
continent. NEPAD will again be discussed by the G8 leaders when they hold
this year's meeting in Evian, France, which opens on Sunday (1 June).
"As a principal architect
of the G8 Africa Action Plan, Canada is fully
committed to working with African nations that value democracy and good
governance in priority areas, including health and education, trade and
investment and peace and security," said Chretien in announcing the new initiatives. "Today's funding will contribute to healthy and safe futures
for young people in Africa, and the development of agriculture on the
No details have been provided
on where the new centre of excellence is
likely to be based. However the principle of using such centres to build
scientific capacity in Africa was endorsed at a NEPAD workshop held in
Pretoria, South Africa, in February (see 'Roadmap' proposed for science in
Chretien also announced that
the Canada Fund for Africa will provide Can$12
million to support the work of a Canadian coalition on HIV/AIDS on the
social impact of the disease, including its consequences for labour,
children's education, and family structures.
Canada has already has committed
Can$40 million for research on
agricultural productivity in Africa in conjunction with the Consultative
Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). As a result, all of
the consultative group's 16 agricultural research centres are increasing their Africa-specific research, focusing on the needs of small-scale
farmers and women producers.
Do We Need Crop Diversity?
- Dave Wood and Jill Lenne, UK <email@example.com>
Mac Margolis (Newsweek, June
9) suggests that there is a crisis in
agriculture because crop monocultures are failing to pests and disease. We
disagree. If there is a coming crisis for food production it has nothing to
do with monocultures, but rather with the reduction of funding for plant breeding and current animosity to GM technology. Rather than assess
the enormous achievements of plant breeding, Margolis reports the views of
professional purveyors of diversity. Given a platform, these people
naturally promote their own views and paint a doomsday scenario for
The evidence that monocultures
are widely threatened is thin. The hoary
example of corn blight in the US in 1970 was nothing to do with
monocultures, but with the narrow genetic base of corn, resulting from the
technology of hybrid seed production. The loss would have been the same in
complex polycultures. The following season the US had record corn
production as breeders immediately deployed a viable solution to leaf
blight: a decided success, rather than a failure.
Potatoes -- all potatoes everywhere
- were susceptible to the Irish potato
blight. Crop diversity would not have prevented this disaster, which was
made worse by overpopulation (Ireland is the only country on earth with a
smaller population today than when the blight struck in 1845). No form of
agriculture, monoculture or diverse, can feed such great overpopulation.
During 1850-1950, wheat rust
epidemics in India resulted in 27 major
famines in diverse cropping systems. But there has not been one major
rust-induced famine in India in the past 50 years although wheat is now
extensively grown in monocultures of uniform varieties. During the 1960s-1980s, a major effort was made to improve disease resistance in
wheat. Resistances to rusts, blotch, scab, bacterial leaf streak, barley
yellow dwarf virus, and many other diseases were added to Green Revolution
semi-dwarf wheats. In India, yields of wheat increased by 120%; grain output increased twice as fast as population growth; and year-to-year
fluctuations in yield were reduced. The Green Revolution would not have
been as revolutionary without the development and diffusion of
multiple-disease resistant, high-yielding varieties. Breeders of major food
crops continue to build on established gains through effective
Modern crop breeding and management
practices have resulted in more stable,
less risk-prone crop production. The coefficient of variation for global
rice production and global rice yields has declined from 1960 onwards. In
six of eight countries in South and Southeast Asia (India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines) yields have
become more stable, partly due to improved pest management practices. For
wheat, much of this stability is related to the widespread use of varieties
with durable resistances to stem and leaf rusts. For rice, multiple resistance to major pests and diseases as well as efficient IPM
practices have made a similar contribution to yield stability.
Evidence is accumulating that
cereal monocultures (wheat, rice, sorghum,
millet) are closely based on natural monodominant vegetation. If so, we can
expect them to be ecologically stable. Also, the main regions of production
are well dispersed wheat for example is important in the US, India, China, Australia, Europe, and Argentina.
The suggested mechanism for
agricultural sustainability through crop
diversity is a leap of faith. As Tilman said four years ago: 'a myopic
focus on diversity would be a poor management strategy as diversity is only
one of many factors that influence ecosystem processes. When given the
chance, most farmers worldwide sensibly choose the best varieties, not the
most, for sound socio-economic reasons. If farmers want diversity, they
grow it in multi-crop gardens, not fields. In fact, in both fields and
gardens there is considerable evolutionary diversity over time through on-farm varietal turnover and introduction, and this is uncoordinated over
different areas. So, at least in traditional farming, each region has its
own unique and dynamic portfolio of varieties. New crop varieties carry
forward genes of earlier varieties, farmer varieties, domesticates, and wild species through an evolutionary continuum.
There is diversity between
seasons, notably in the rice-wheat regions of
Southern Asia. Rather than the Green Revolution putting all the eggs into
the rice basket, the opposite occurred. Wheat was introduced as a winter
crop in rotation with summer rice, and proved an outstanding success for
regional food security. India now has wheat surpluses, and Thailand and
Vietnam export rice.
In any case, a lack of diversity
is less important to farmers than the
constraints of abiotic factors. And genetic manipulation provides extensive
and novel opportunities for accessing and deploying the genes required for
tolerating drought, water-logging, heat, cold, salinity and other abiotic
The most important crop in
the world, irrigated rice, is uniformly a
monoculture no other crop has the ecological toughness to share the field
with rice in just those conditions. Margolis quotes Zhu: the work of Zhu is
inevitably promoted as somehow proving that monocultures fail under disease. But Zhus work shows the opposite. Zhus experiments on disease
reduction were with different rice varieties within the single crop
species, Asian rice. As such, they are by definition, monocultures (a
single crop grown in a field), and show the potential of monocultures in disease reduction.
Real polycultures, that is,
several different crops mixed in a field, are
very difficult to design under the constraints of modern mechanized
farming. Evidence that modern polycultures consistently reduce disease is
rare, and increased management costs significant. For example, in peanut, sorghum and millet in Nigeria, and sorghum and millet in Kenya, disasters
have occurred despite the fact that the crops were growing in polycultural
or rotational systems, demonstrating that devastating pest and disease
outbreaks can occur even under traditional systems.
Arguments that crop diversity
is in steady decline have little factual
base. A massive intercontinental exchange of very different crops after
1492 allowed a vast enrichment of farmers fields. The argument that prudent
policy makers scoured the world in the 1970s for varieties left behind by
the Green Revolution is fanciful. Collecting and plant introduction were a
major feature of agriculture since the early 1900s. The United States
Department of Agricultures was collecting massively and distributing many
million samples each year directly to farmers. The
Russian expeditions of Vavilov did scour the world for diversity, but this
was 40 years before the Green Revolution. All these samples, and subsequent
crop diversification through effective breeding have both fed the world and
diversified and stabilized our food supply.
Finally, the great potential
of biotechnology (GM and non-GM) to help with
crop diversification is still mainly untapped. Molecular tools and
techniques allow even more rapid and complete access to crop genomes
providing greater potential for successful deployment of disease resistance
and other valuable genes. Wide crossing, where useful genes are identified
in wild species and moved into the crop, has the greatest potential. Key
events in crop evolution were rare or unique: in one of the most important,
cultivated wheat crossed naturally with a weedy wild wheat
and the added genetic diversity transformed 'a rather ordinary cereal into
the most widely grown food crop on earth'. Genetic mapping of grasses
through synteny offers the probability of identifying useful genes and then
moving them widely between different groups of cereals. We no longer need
to wait for another eight thousand years for one-in-a-billion event that
gave us bread wheat.
Source: AgBioView June 9, 2003
Wambugu Appointed to Bill Gate's Science Board
- A Harvest Biotech Foundation http://www.ahbfi.org
The Chief Executive Director
of A Harvest Biotech Foundation International,
Dr. Florence Wambugu, has been appointed to the Science Board of the Grand
Challenges in Global Health initiative, a new initiative of the Bill &
Melissa Gates Foundation.
The initiative will identify
critical scientific challenges in global
health and increase research on diseases that cause millions of deaths in
the developing world. Nobel Laureate, Dr. Harold Varmus, President of the
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and former Director of
the National Institutes of Health, will chair a board of pre-eminent
scientists who will guide and direct the initiative.
The scientific board will
identify and publish a focused set of critical
problems, or "grand challenges", in global health, that -- if solved
--could lead to important advances against diseases of the developing world.
The initiative will then provide
competitive grants to teams of scientists
around the world to search for solutions to each of the challenges.
In accepting the appointment,
Dr. Wambugu said: "Although we live in an era
of incredible innovation in science and technology about 200 million
Africans and many others in the developing world live a life of abject
poverty, are hungry and malnourished".
"There is consensus that
whats needed now is major funding to support
scientists to articulate and prioritize great scientific challenges. Africa
must be part of the novel research approaches to address global problems
related to health and nutrition," said Dr. Wambugu.
Source: AgBioView 5 June 2003
Wild Grasses Lead to First BYDV Resistant Wheat
June 10, 2003
http://pi.csiro.au CSIRO Plant Industry
Barley yellow dwarf virus
(BYDV) is the most damaging cereal virus in the
world and can cause yield losses in Australian barley, oats and wheats as
high as 40-50 per cent. CSIRO Plant Industry plant breeders have used a
wild grass to produce what may be the worlds first barley yellow dwarf
virus resistant wheat variety.
Over the past fifteen years,
CSIRO plant breeders have worked with Chinese
researchers to screen wild grasses that were close relatives of wheat, in
search of a BYDV resistant strain. They found several, but had to come up
with creative methods of breeding the resistance trait into commercial
By growing plant cells rapidly
in an unorganised callus mass, a process
that induces a high rate of chromosome exchange, researchers generated
thousands of potentially resistant plants. From these plants five or six
were shown to have the BYDV resistance trait and were bred into spring and
Mackellar is the first of
the new resistant varieties to be available
commercially, with early trials showing a 26 per cent yield increase under
standard field conditions. Mackellar is a dual-purpose winter wheat that
also has very good resistance to stem, leaf and stripe rust.
Named after the poet Dorothea
Mackellar, the variety is being launched by
AWB Seeds throughout 2003.
7. ON THE WEB
FAO-BiotechNews, Now Available in French and in Spanish
FAO-BiotechNews is an e-mail
list containing news and events items that are
relevant to applications of biotechnology in food and agriculture in
developing countries. Its aim is to inform policy makers and technical
decision-makers about current developments and issues in agricultural
biotechnology, with a particular emphasis on developing countries, as well as to inform scientists of the wider policy/regulatory/agricultural
development aspects of their work. The news and events items focus on FAO's
work and the work of its main United Nations (UN) and non-UN partners. The
items cover crops, as well as livestock, forest trees, fish and agro-industry. It was launched in January 2002 and there are currently
2,700 subscribers. Updates are sent roughly every 3 weeks, containing on
average 8 short items.
The French and Spanish language
versions of the newsletter have just been
launched, called FAO-BiotechNews-Fr and FAO-BiotechNews-Esp respectively.
Instructions for subscribing to the French, Spanish or English versions are
Feel free to circulate this
information among your colleagues in plant
breeding or in other agriculture sectors.
From the Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews
E-mail address: FAO-Biotech-News@fao.org
FAO website http://www.fao.org
FAO Biotechnology website http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp
E-mail Conference on Regulation of GMOs
The FAO e-mail conference
entitled "Regulating GMOs in developing and
transition countries", which began on 28 April, finished on 1 June 2003.
There was a large number of excellent contributions, covering a wide
breadth of key issues such as why developing countries need regulations
covering GMOs, what kinds of regulations they should be, what risks should be assessed within the regulatory framework, how GMOs should be regulated
compared to conventional crops and whether economic aspects should be
included in the GMO regulatory framework. Roughly 400 people registered for
this moderated conference, posting a total of 93 messages. Messages came
from people in 19 different countries, with highest numbers from the United
States, India, South Africa, Canada and Australia respectively. Half of the
messages came from people living in developing countries. The messages are
available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/c9logs.htm or can be requested
as a single e-mail (size 154 KB) from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Egyptian Biotechnology Information Center Launches Website In Arabic
The Biotechnology Information
Center in Giza, Egypt has launched its
official website which is considered the first Arabic website on
biotechnology and genetic engineering. Established by the Ministry of
Agriculture and Land Reclamation, the Center is part of the Global
Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology network of the International Service
for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications.
Visit the site at http://www.egyptbic.com.