PLANT BREEDING NEWS
An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding
by FAO and
Clair H. Hershey, Editor
1. EDITOR'S NOTES
* Past issues of the Plant Breeding Newsletter are now available on the
web. The address is:
2. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS
* Applications of Molecular Tools in Agricultural and Forestry Sciences
* Post Harvest Fruit: The Path to Success
3. POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
* Breeding Coordinator for HarvestPlus (Biofortification Challenge Program)
Trainee Plant Breeder:
4. BOOKS, PROCEEDINGS AND OTHER MAJOR PUBLICATIONS
* IP Strategy Today
5. NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
* Member States Fail to Agree on New GM Authorisation
* Green Light for Transgenic Crop
* Genetically Engineered Crops Up 15% Worldwide
* Commentary on Use of GM crops in Developing Countries
* Harmonizing the Agricultural Biotechnology Debate for the Benefit of
* Global Food Security: Challenges and Policies
Cereal-Grain-Legume-Livestock Systems in the Dry Savanna of
* Rapidly Evolving Genes Providing New Insights in Plant Evolution
* Identifying Frost Tolerant Wheat Varieties
* Drought Tolerant Sunflower Varieties on the Way for Australian Farmers
* Winter Weather Turns on Flowering Gene
* Gene Discovered to Trigger Flowering
* IITA to Work on Cassava Mosaic Disease
* ARS and ISU Develop 'Healthy Corn'
* Male Sterility in Plants Unlocked
* New Drought Tolerant Wheat Variety
* Less Waiting Time to Determine if Apple Tree's a Dwarf
Appropriate Biotechnologies for
* Novel Sugar Transport System in Plants
* Genetic Improvement of Ash
Crops for Better Nutrition in
Drought Tolerant Sorghum and Millet in
Cold-tolerant Hybrid Oil Palms Bear Fruit in
* Soybean Biotechnology - Special Issue of AgBioForum
* Cassava: from Poor Farmer's Crop to Pacesetter of African Rural Development.
6. ON THE WEB
* E-mail Conference on Marker Assisted Selection
* OECD - Biotechnology statistics
* FAO Biotechnology News Webpage
Record of Negotiations of the
Liability and Redress in the Context of the
* Ecocrop - an updated version.
Plant Virology in Sub-Saharan
* National Agricultural Library upgrades AGRICOLA Online Public Catalog
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.
REVIEW PAST NEWSLETTERS ON THE WEB: Past issues of the Plant Breeding
Newsletter are now available on the web. The address is:
We will continue to improve the organization of archival issues of the
newsletter. Readers who have suggestions about features they wish to see
should contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com. 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
firstname.lastname@example.org and I will re-send it.
To subscribe to PBN-L: Send an e-mail message to email@example.com.
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
* 9-12 February 2004: ISHS International Root and Tuber Crops Symposium:
Down Under". Palmerston North (
INR, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
Phone: (64)63505799 ext. 2614, Fax: (64)63505679, email:
* 9-20 February 2004. Molecular Markers Use in Plant Genetic Studies and
Institute, on behalf of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering
and Biotechnology. See
(site sometimes not available) or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more
* 19-24 February 2004. Plant Responses to Abiotic Stress, Keystone
262 1230; Fax: +1 (970) 262 1525;
Email: email@example.com; URL:
* (NEW) 1-2 March 2004. The 40th
aimed at keeping practicing corn breeders up to date on topics of
importance to corn breeding. Details on the program, registration, and
housing are available at htttp://imbgl.cropsci.uiuc.edu. Questions can be
referred to firstname.lastname@example.org.
* 4-9 March 2004: Comparative Genomics of Plants (C6), Keystone Symposium.
1630, Silverthorne, CO 80498, USA; Tel: +1 (970) 262 1230; Fax: +1 (970)
Email: email@example.com; URL:
* 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.
Contact: Alfredo Alves at firstname.lastname@example.org
* 21-24 March 2004: The 16th Biennial International Plant Resistance to
* 11-16 May 2004. 15th International Plant Protection Congress (IPPC),
6281 5913 or +86 (10) 6289 5451; Fax: +86 (10) 6289 5451; Email:
* (NEW) 17-28 May 2004. International Course: Applications of Molecular
Tools in Agricultural and Forestry Sciences, CATIE Central Headquarters,
* 17-19 May 2004: 12th Meeting on Genetics and Breeding of Capsicum and
* 24-25 May 2004: Workshop on Molecular Aspects of Germination and
* 7-11 June 2004,
Legumes and Second International Conference on Legume Genomics and Genetics
, "Legumes for the benefit of agriculture, nutrition and the environment:
their genomics, their products, and their improvement".
20-26 June 2004: The 9th International Barley Genetics Symposium.
Ltd., Havlickova 2787, CZ - 767 01
+420 (5) 7331 7166; Fax: +420 (5) 7333 9725;
Email: email@example.com; URL: <<http://www.ibgs.cz/>>
5-8 July, 2004: Campinas-SP (
Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Breeding Research and II Latin American
Symposium on the Production of Medicinal, Aromatic and Condiments Plants.
Info: Prof. Dr. Lin Chau Ming, Dept. Plant Production, Sector Horticulture,
* 12-17 July 2004: Cucurbitaceae 2004, 8th Meeting on Cucurbit Genetics
University, Faculty of Sciences, Department of Botany, Slechtitelu 11,
+420 (5) 8524 1027; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
18-22 July 2004: 7th International Oat Conference .
Mrs. Pirjo Peltonen-Sainio, MTT, Agrifood Research
Fax: +358 (3) 4188 2437;
URL: <<http://www.ioc2004.org/> >
18-23 July 2004: Plant Molecular Biology.
Research Conferences, 3071 Route 138,
+1 (401) 783 4011; Fax: +1 (401) 783 7644; Email:
email@example.com; URL: <<http://www.grc.uri.edu/grc_home.htm>>
6-9 September 2004): VIII International Symposium on
Breeding and Technology.
Plante Forsk - Norwegian Crops Research Institute, Ullensvang Research
email: firstname.lastname@example.org web:
* 8-11 September 2004. Eucarpia XVII General Triennial Congress, Vienna,
Austria. Contact: P. Ruckenbauer, IFA Tulln, Dept. Biotechnology in Plant
Konrad-Lorenz Str. 20, A-3430
66280 201; Fax: +43 (2272) 66280 203;
Email: email@example.com; URL:
* 12-17 September 2004: V International Symposium on In Vitro Culture and
A u. 4, PO Box 411, 2101 Godollo, Hungary. Phone: (36)28330600, Fax:
(36)28330482, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, web:
Brisbane, Australia. Contact: PO Box 1280, Milton, QLD 4064, Australia;
Tel: +61 (7) 3858 5554; Fax: +61 (7) 3858 5583; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
* 24-28 October, 2004: IV ISHS Symposium on Brassica and XIV Crucifer
Workshop. Daejon (
Crop Science Society of
53711, USA; Tel: +1 (608) 273 8080; Fax: +1 (608) 273 2021; URL:
* (NEW) 7-10 November 2004: International Conference: Post Harvest Fruit:
Path to Success, Campus Lircay, Universidad de Talca,
<http://www.utalca.cl/congreso/postharvestfruit/index.htm> (See complete
conference description at end of this section)
of Molecular Tools in Agricultural and Forestry Sciences 17-28 May 2004 CATIE
and the University of
Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, Molecular Geneticist, CABI/CATIE/USDA Mr. Carlos Astorga, Investigator, CATIE
This course covers from the basics of the structure and function of nucleic
acids to the theory behind techniques currently employed in molecular
genetics and genomics. In the second week participants will be presented
with practical applications of molecular tools in tree crop research of
species such as coffee, cacao and forest trees. Practical sessions
consists of hands on DNA extraction, PCR amplification, gel scoring and
data analysis and use of software for primer design, linkage mapping and
A first degree in agriculture, biology, ecology, forestry sciences, plant
pathology or any of the related sciences. The course is aimed at
professionals and students interested in knowing and applying the tools of
molecular biology to their field of interest. Applications should include
a copy of your CV and a paragraph stating your expectations from the
course. An institutional letter of endorsement, signed by the
corresponding authority and source of financial support must also be supplied.
LANGUAGE: The course will be taught in English with the majority of the
practical sessions taught in Spanish. Being bilingual is a definite
advantage but not an absolute necessity.
Mr.Carlos Astorga - M.Sc. - CATIE, Costa Rica
Scott Jackson -
Dr. Elizabeth Johnson - North Carolina State University, USA Dr, Wilbert Phillips - University of Reading, England Dr. Jeane Romeros-Severson - University of Notre Dame, USA Dr. Jeffrey J. Stuart - Purdue University, USA
Mr. Juan Luis Ortiz, M.Sc. CATIE, Costa Rica
Mr. Olman Quiros,
17 May 2004 - Course begins
Due to space limitations the course caters for a minimum of 10 and a
maximum of 20 participants. The Course fee is US$ 2000 which includes
registration, teaching materials, a certificate of completion, medical
insurance, refreshments during course breaks, ground transport from the
airport to CATIE and back, room and board at CATIE. Airfare, costs of
visas and taxes must be covered by participants.
A limited number of stipends are available.
For more information and application forms contact: AREA OF CAPACITACION,
Headquarters, CATIE 7170,
Tel: (506) 556-6021/5582433 Fax: (506) 556-0176
E-mail: email@example.com FORM OF INSCRIPCION
Submitted by "Lizz Johnson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Post Harvest Fruit: The Path to Success
Campus Lircay, Universidad de Talca,
The meeting is to strengthen research and development ideas and expertise
in all aspects of post-harvest fruit. To ensure that we encompass all
aspects there will be sessions to highlight all facets in the development
and growth of the plant that lead finally to the fruit that is eaten or
processed. This implies consideration of a range of subjects from the
basic fruit biology, through biochemistry, molecular biology, breeding,
physiology and horticulture, to commercialisation, consumers and novel
Session 1: Improved Planting material
Session 2 : Improved Growth
Sessions 3 & 4: Harvest & Beyond
Dr. Peter D.S.Caligari
Dr. Ral Herrera
Dr. Mar`Alejandra Moya-Le"r>
Dr. Jorge Retamales
Dr. Jose Diaz
James Hancock (
Dr. Randy Beaudry (Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA) Dr. Ian Ferguson (HortResearch, New Zealand) Dr. Jean Claude Pech (ENSAT/INRA, France) Dr. Miguel Vendrell (CSIC, Spain) Dr. Tom Reardon (Michigan State University) Dr. Alan Bennett (University of California, USA) Dr. Carlos Barriga (Chile)
Contributions are welcome on the following topics:
Genomics and Bioinformatics
Breeding and Biotechnology (incl Transgenics/GMO)
Crop protection (Pests diseases and weeds) or stress: biotic & abiotic Biochemistry and molecular biology Market and Economics Conservation & Biodiversity
Submitted by Peter Caligari <email@example.com>
3. POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
Breeding Coordinator for HarvestPlus (Biofortification Challenge Program)
Breeding Coordinator for HarvestPlus (Biofortification Challenge Program),
one of the two Challenge Programs (CPs) already approved by the
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). This
position is a two-year, fixed term, renewable appointment. The position
be based at CIAT headquarters in
The term 'biofortification' refers to a strategy of breeding staple food
crops, which are relatively high in bioavailable micronutrients as a
promising means to reduce micronutrient malnutrition in developing
countries. The initial target micronutrients are iron, zinc, and vitamin
A. HarvestPlus is coordinated by CIAT and IFPRI and involves collaboration
developing and developed countries.
Responsibilities. The Breeding Coordinator will provide overall
leadership for breeding and other related plant science research under this
inter-disciplinary project. Responsibilities include:
1. Evaluate workplans/budgets and monitor progress for research on
16 staple food crops. Facilitate the work of crop leaders and coordinate
collaboration and discussion across the crop breeding activities. Provide
written annual assessments for each crop and synthesize findings.
2. Develop guidelines for collaboration with regional NARES
programs, implement these collaborative programs and monitor progress,
provide written assessments of annual progress and synthesize findings.
3. Along with the Program Director and other Coordinators in the
Program Management Team: (i) implement the strategy of the Program and
decide on the allocation of its resources (ii) interact with the Program
Advisory Committee, (iii) help in the planning of and participate in
annual project meetings and annual crop meetings), (iv) facilitate
information flows across program components.
4. Undertake outreach/networking within agriculture and plant
research communities and participate in fund-raising.
5. Oversee development of a system of sample analysis (breeding)
that ensures comparability of data across collaborating laboratories and
oversee development a database across crops.
6. Recommend strategic directions for the Program especially as
regards breeding and related plant science research, based on regular
contacts with plant scientists and other program collaborators. Interact
closely with the Biotechnology Coordinator and the nutritional genomics
team in developing an optimal strategy for use of the full range of genetic
tools, including marker-assisted selection.
Qualifications, Sills and Experience:
1. PhD degree, with specialization in plant breeding or related discipline.
2. At least 7 years working experience in developing countries, with
experience in undertaking research in developing improved varieties of
crops for small farmers.
3. Good knowledge and understanding of the links between agriculture and
4. Capable of communicating effectively with researchers in the fields of
agriculture, nutrition, and health.
5. Good interpersonal communication skills, writing ability and
administrative skills; and ability to work in multidisciplinary teams.
6. Willingness to travel (estimated: one-third of the time).
7. Excellent written and spoken English.
8. Experience in supervising agricultural research projects in developing
9. Training in human nutrition and health, or a good understanding of
10. Basic command of Spanish, Portuguese and French.
whose HQ are in
than 80 internationally recruited scientists. As an international and
equal opportunity employer, CIAT believes that the diversity of its staff
contributes to excellence, and encourages applications from both women and
developing country professionals.
Please send an electronically version of a letter of application including
curriculum vitae, and names, fax/e-mail and addresses of three referees to
hard copy to Claudia Zuá, Biotecnologl A.A. 6713, Cali, Colombia. Fax
(57-2) 445-0073, tel. (57-2) 445-0055.
For more information on CIAT and HarvestPlus, please visit our website at
Required at Aberystwyth Research Centre to meet IGERs forage grass
breeding programme and maintain its continuity. An innovative person is
required who is able to seize opportunities at every level and widen the
range of adaptation of IGERs varieties by testing material for tolerance
to greater extremes of climatic stress earlier in the breeding process. A
training and career development programme will be established to include:
quantitative genetics and other relevant subjects; developments in
genetics, ruminant nutrition and grassland agronomy; monitoring and
technical developments; visiting trial sites in
abroad; recording and analysing data. In addition the postholder is also
expected to undertake applied techniques of plant breeding, such as
harvesting, cleaning and sowing seed, cross-pollinating and
self-pollinating plants and screening plants for DNA profiles.
Candidates must possess a first or upper second class degree in plant
science and a keen interest in practical plant breeding. Must be computer
literate. Relevant work experience desirable. Ability to communicate with
other scientists and farmers is important as will be the potential to
initiate research programmes. Must be able to travel outside normal
working hours. Driving licence essential.
Starting salary : 17,100 - 19,500
Application forms and further details are available from Auriel Evans,
Personnel Office, IGER, Plas Gogerddan, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3EB
(tel: 01970-823023 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Closing date: 20
The BBSRC is an Equal Opportunities Employer.
Submitted by Dr Peter Wilkins
Plant Genetics and Breeding
4. BOOKS, PROCEEDINGS AND OTHER MAJOR PUBLICATIONS
Submitted by Anatole F Krattiger <email@example.com>
We are pleased to inform you that IP Strategy Today now has seven published
volumes. These can all be downloaded for free by visiting
You may also subscribe for free to IP Strategy Today an future volumes will
directly be emailed to you. Please visit:
and click on "Subscribe".
The published volumes to-date are:
IP Strategy Today No. 7-2003
The Status of Public and Proprietary Germplasm and Information: An
Assessment of Recent Developments at FAO.
IP Strategy Today No. 6-2003
Future of Technology Transfer at a
JS Gross, JE Hunter, WH Lesser,
Scott & AF Krattiger.
The Search for the Holy Grail? Maximizing Social Welfare under Canadian
Biotechnology Patent Policy. Pp. 45-62.
Dierker, DA & PWB Phillips.
IP Strategy Today No. 5-2002
The Effects of Intellectual Property Rights on Foreign Direct Investment
and Imports into Developing Countries in the Post TRIPs Era. Pp. 1-16. William Lesser.
Technology Transfer for Humanitarian Use: Economic Issues and Market
Segmentation Approaches. Pp. 17-25.
IP Strategy Today No. 4-2002
Public-Private Partnerships for Efficient Proprietary Biotech Management
and Transfer, and Increased Private Sector Investments. A Briefings Paper
with Six Proposals Commissioned by UNIDO.
IP Strategy Today No. 3-2001
Towards an Intellectual Property Clearinghouse for Agricultural
Biotechnology. Pp 1-13.
Greg Graff and D Zilberman
Intellectual Property Clearinghouse Mechanisms for Agriculture: Summary of
an Industry, Academia, and International Development Round Table. Pp 15-38. Graff, G, A Bennett, B Wright and D Zilberman
IP Strategy Today No. 2-2001
Biotechnology, the Gene Revolution, and Proprietary Technology in
Agriculture: A Strategic Note for the World Bank.
Dodds, JH, R Ortiz, JH Crouch, V Mahalasksmi and KK Sharma
IP Strategy Today No. 1-2001
Accessing Modern Science: Policy and Institutional Options for Agricultural
Biotechnology in Developing Countries.
Byerlee D and K Fischer
Submitted by Anatole F Krattiger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
5. NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
Member States Fail to Agree on New GM Authorisation
food chain and animal health on 8 December were unable to reach a decision
on whether to authorise the import of a new type of genetically modified
Bt-11, a variety of sweet corn that has been genetically modified with an
inbuilt insecticide, is produced by the Swiss company Syngenta. The
decision was regarded by some as the first test of the EU's recently
adopted regulations on GM products.
Ultimately, the required qualified majority decision proved elusive.
of approving the import of Bt-11, while
abstained from the vote.
The committee's failure to reach a decision means that responsibility now
passes to the Agriculture Council, where EU ministers will vote on the
basis of a Commission proposal. If Member States are again unable to reach
a qualified majority, the Commission could take the decision to grant an
For further information on GMOs, please consult the following web address: <http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/gmo/gmo_index_en.html>
Green Light for Transgenic Crop
Government advisers give genetically modified maize the thumbs up. JIM GILES
British farmers could be free to sow genetically modified (GM) maize seeds
this spring. A government advisory committee said this Tuesday that the
crop doesn't have a harmful impact on biodiversity if it is sprayed with
the right herbicides.
The committee also said that appropriate crop management techniques could
eliminate the harmful effects on insects and weeds associated with two
other GM crops under the scrutiny of scientists.
The advice won't come as a surprise to researchers, as it simply follows
the results of the farm-scale evaluations that were published last October
- a three-year investigation of the impact of GM maize, spring oilseed rape
and beet on the biodiversity of British farmland. The report from the
Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) translates that
science into formal advice for the government.
When the results of the farm-scale trials were first revealed, they were
widely interpreted by the media as showing that GM crops are 'bad' for the
environment. But the negative impacts on biodiversity were caused entirely
by the herbicides used with the crops.
Trials with oilseed rape and beet, for example, involved several doses of a
powerful herbicide that killed many insects and weeds. But in the maize
trial, the non-GM crops were sprayed with a powerful herbicide called
atrazine, which killed more wildlife than the gentler herbicide used on the
The committee now points out that farmers could counteract the effects of
some herbicides by, for example, providing space between rows of crops for
weeds to grow. "There may be viable mitigation measures that could be used
farmers to offset any adverse effects," says the
But it's not all good news for GM. Atrazine is currently being phased out
the European Union.
on GM maize to test how it fares against non-GM crops treated with the
gentler, replacement herbicides - the relative benefit seen in the initial
trial for GM maize may disappear.
British government says that it will respond to
the next six weeks. It already has a report, delivered last July, detailing
other scientific concerns associated with the use of GM crops. Its pending
decision about whether to allow the growth of these crops will be watched
interest by the rest of
Nature Science Update Highlights
Genetically Engineered Crops Up 15% Worldwide
Genetically engineered crop plantings increased 15% last year despite
consumer resistance in
that promotes use of the technology in poor countries, reports the
Seven million farmers in 18 countries grew engineered crops on 167.2
million acres last year, compared to 145 million acres in 2002, according
to a report released by the industry-backed International Service for the
Acquistion of Agri-Biotech Applications.
In 1996, the first year genetically modified crops were commercially
available, about 4.3 million acres were under biotechnology cultivation.
"Farmers have made up their minds," said the group's founder and chairman
Clive James. "They continue to rapidly adopt biotech crops because of
significant agronomic, economic, environmental and social advantages."
The most popular biotech crops contain bacterium genes that make the plants
resistant to either bugs or weed killers, says AP.
James and other biotechnology proponents argue that genetically modified
plants will help alleviate poverty and hunger in developing nations by
improving crop yields and cutting expenses through less use of pesticides.
the first year altered crops were approved commercially there.
nearly doubled its genetically engineered cotton output last year to
increase over 2002.
genetically engineered crops last year, James said.
mostly corn, soy and cotton.
"I'm on board with genetically engineered crops because they reduce my use
chemicals, fuel and labor," said
increase his genetically engineered corn harvest from 600 acres last year
to 1,000 acres this year.
But critics argue stable governments, improved transportation systems and
education are more important to improving the developing nations' food
production than biotechnology. Further, they argue there isn't enough known
about their impact on human health or the environment and many groups are
campaigning to slow the technology's spread.
a ballot measure that would ban genetically engineered plants and animals
from the area.
campaigns are underway in
to the AP, Biotechnology has met the most resistance in
where a five-year moratorium on new crops remains in place. A divided
European Union failed last month to agree on lifting the ban, dragging out
to starvation in
The Bush administration, charging the ban is unscientific and hurts
American exporters, started legal action in August at the World Trade
Organization to get it lifted.
Despite the continued opposition, James predicts that within five years, 10
million farmers in 25 countries will plant 247 million acres of genetically
Some biotech critics, though, contend that James' forecast is overly
optimistic, especially as it relates to the developing world. Soy, corn and
cotton continue to be the most popular crops to engineer.
None of those crops are widely grown on the African continent or throughout
the developing world.
"Those crops have limited benefits to many developing country farmers,"
said Greg Jaffe, biotech director for the Center for Science in the Public
Interest, says AP.
Nature Science Update Highlights
January 14, 2004
Commentary on Use of GM crops in Developing Countries
Tewolde Egziabher argues that a recent report on the use of GM crops in
developing countries is too complacent about the potential threats that
The UKs Nuffield Council on Bioethics has just released the latest version
of its report: The use of genetically modified crops in developing
countries (see <http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readnews&itemid=1167&language=1> GM decisions 'must examine all options', says report). It is full of useful
facts. But it steers clear of many uncomfortable conclusions to which those
facts add up.
The report suggests that there is a moral imperative to fund research on
genetically modified (GM) crops in developing countries. But if there is a
moral imperative, it is in fact in the opposite direction. It is the policy
of shifting funds from low-cost sustainable agriculture research towards
hi-tech, exclusive, expensive and unsafe technology that is ethically
questionable. Indeed, there is a strong moral argument that the funding of
GM crops is harming the long-term sustainability of agriculture in the
developing world. There are plausible and viable alternatives to GM
technology, but these are being ignored and underfunded as a result of the
expensive demands of GM research and development.
Secondly, the council also appears to have glossed over the complex issue
of biosafety. Instead, its report criticises the application of
precautionary principle on which the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is
based, claiming that a highly restrictive interpretation of this principle
"is likely to ignore the possibility that, in some cases, the use of a GM
crop variety may pose fewer risks than are implied by current practices or
by plausible non-GM alternatives.
Such a conclusion is unethical on several counts. Why look to GM when we
know that there are plausible non-GM alternatives? How can an approach be
precautionary if our confidence about safety relies on the fact that a crop
"may pose fewer risks"? And, if we are uncertain about whether a GM variety
does in fact pose fewer risks, is it not essential to become more careful?
Another disappointing aspect of the Nuffield report is its handling of the
issue of patents. It refers to the fact that Golden Rice is covered by "70
patents belonging to 32 different owners". But it fails to address how
smallholder farmers in developing countries are supposed to negotiate and
pay for multiple royalties. While it gives examples of attempts by some
organisations to obtain exemptions for such farmers, this is hardly a solid
basis for recommending that the poor smallholder farmers of Africa and the
rest of the South be tempted into planting GM crops.
Perhaps more importantly, the council appears to have ignored the
biological fact that when a smallholder plants a variety with 70 patented
genes, those genes may be passed on to that farmers own non-GM varieties.
And it fails to mention the implication of Article 34 of the World Trade
Organisation's Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property
(TRIPS) on this biological phenomenon, which would subject the non-GM
varieties affected in this way to the same licensing requirements as the GM
The bizarre twist that this adds to the whole process of globalisation is
that smallholder farmers could unwittingly become patent infringers. In
effect, a GM crop could act as a trawling net that placed all a smallholder
farmers' varieties and thus their lives under the control of the 32 patent
owners! If this is the way to help agriculture in developing countries,
perhaps the slave raiding and trading ships of previous centuries should be
similarly viewed as helping to globalize poor rural Africans!
I would have expected a respectable body such as the Nuffield Council on
Bioethics to show great respect for the lives of the poor in the South. I
would also have expected to see a statement emphasising that, if genetic
engineering is to help farmers in the South, it has to be freed from the
patent knots that are effectively making it a global trawling net.
The report does admit that patents on agriculture may not always serve the
interests of the developing world. But it does not go so far as to condemn
them. If the Nuffield Council truly considers itself to be an authority on
bioethics, then it should have a strong and clear position on this.
The author is director general of Ethiopias Environmental Protection
Authority, and was chief African negotiator at the Cartagena Protocol.
Source: Gaia Foundation
12 January 2004
Harmonizing the Agricultural Biotechnology Debate for the Benefit of
African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 2 (11), pp. 394-416, October 2003 Special Anniversary Review
Segenet Kelemu, George Mahuku, Martin Fregene, Douglas Pachico, Nancy
Johnson, Lee Calvert, Idupulapati Rao, Robin Buruchara, Tilahun Amede, Paul
Kimani, Roger Kirkby, Susan Kaaria, Kwasi Ampofo
The intense debate over agricultural biotechnology is at once fascinating,
confusing and disappointing. It is complicated by issues of ethical, moral,
socio-economic, political, philosophical and scientific import. Its vocal
champions exaggerate their claims of biotechnology as saviour of the poor
and hungry, while, equally loudly, its opponents declare it as the doomsday
devil of agriculture. Sandwiched between these two camps is the rest of the
public, either absorbed or indifferent. Biotechnology issues specific to
the African public must include crop and animal productivity, food
security, alleviation of poverty and gender equity, and must exclude
political considerations. Food and its availability are basic human rights
issues for people without food, everything else is insignificant. Although
we should discuss and challenge new technologies and their products,
bringing the agricultural biotechnology debate into food aid for Africa
where millions are faced with life-or-death situations is irresponsible.
Agricultural biotechnology promises the impoverished African a means to
improve food security and reduce pressures on the environment, provided the
perceived risks associated with the technology are addressed. This paper
attempts to harmonize the debate, and to examine the potential benefits and
risks that agricultural biotechnology brings to African farmers.
Global Food Security: Challenges and Policies
Global food security will remain a worldwide concern for the next 50 years
and beyond. Recently, crop yield has fallen in many areas because of
declining investments in research and infrastructure, as well as increasing
water scarcity. Climate change and HIV/AIDS are also crucial factors
affecting food security in many regions. Although agroecological approaches
offer some promise for improving yields, food security in developing
countries could be substantially improved by increased investment and
International Food Policy Research Institute, 2033 K Street, N.W.,
Washington, DC 20006, USA.
Mark W. Rosegrant and Sarah A. Cline
Science 302, 1917 (2003)
12 Dec 2003
Cereal-Grain-Legume-Livestock Systems in the Dry Savanna of Africa
Sustainable resource management coupled to resilient germplasm to provide
new intensive cereal-grain-legume-livestock systems in the dry savanna
N. Sanginga, K.E. Dashiell, J. Diels, B. Vanlauwe, O. Lyasse, R.J. Carsky, S. Tarawali, B. Asafo-Adjei, A. Menkir, S. Schulz, B.B. Singh, D. Chikoye, D. Keatinge, R. Ortiz (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Tropical Soil
Biology and Fertility Programme (TSBF), UNESCO-Gigiri)
Sustainable resource management is the critical agricultural research and
development challenge in sub-Saharan Africa. The accumulated knowledge on
soil management gathered over the last 10 years, combined with solid crop
improvement and plant health research at farmers' level, has brought us to
a stage where we can now address with confidence the intensification of
cereal-grain-legume-based cropping systems in the dry savanna of West
Africa in a sustainable and environmentally positive manner.
Two sustainable farming systems that greatly enhance the productivity and
sustainability of integrated livestock systems have been developed and
implemented in the dry savanna of Nigeria. These are: (i) maize (Zea mays
L.)-promiscuous soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] rotations that combine
high nitrogen fixation and the ability to kill large numbers of Striga hermonthica seeds in the soil; and (ii) millet [Eleusine coracana (L.)
Gaerth] and dual-purpose cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.]. Improvement
of the cropping systems in the dry savanna has been driven by the adoption
of promiscuously nodulating soybean varieties (in particular TGx 1448-2E)
and dual-purpose cowpea. The rate of adoption is very high, even in the absence of an efficient seed distribution system. The number of farmers cultivating
the improved varieties increased by 228% during the last 3 years. Increased
production of promiscuous soybean has been stimulated by increased demand
from industries and home utilization. Production in Nigeria was estimated
at 405,000 t in 1999 compared to less than 60,000 t in 1984. Economic
analysis of these systems shows already an increase of 50-70% in the gross
incomes of adopting farmers compared to those still following the current
practices, mainly continuous maize cultivation. Furthermore, increases in
legume areas of 10% in Nigeria (about 30,000 ha in the northern Guinea
savanna) and increases of 20% in yield have translated into additional
fixed nitrogen valued annually at US$ 44 million. This reflects, at the
same time, an equivalent increase in land-use productivity, and with
further spread of the improved crops, there are excellent prospects for
additional economic and environmental benefits from a very large
recommendation domain across West Africa.
Submitted by Rodomiro Ortiz (IITA) <email@example.com>
Rapidly Evolving Genes Providing New Insights in Plant Evolution
Blacksburg, Va. Flowering plants are the largest group of plants and
contain just about all of our food crops. Khidir Hilu's research using
rapidly evolving genes to determine the molecular evolution of flowering
plants is providing new insights into plant relationships, according to the
cover story article in the recently released December 2003 issue of the
American Journal of Botany (Angiosperm phylogeny based on matK sequence
Flowering plants include cereals such as wheat, barley, ryes, and corn;
major starch plants such as potatoes and sweet potatoes; legumes such as
soybeans, beans, and peanuts; all of our fruit crops, spices, and medicinal
plants. Also among the approximately 300,000 species of flowering plants
are those that provide almost all our lumber (excluding pines).
"Scientists in the past tried to look at how the plants relate to each
other and to classify them by the way they looked, their morphology,
anatomy, and chemistry," Hilu, professor of biology in the College of
Science at Virginia Tech, said. "But recently, people started using
molecular biology, the sequence of genes, to infer relationships and
classification. With this molecular approach, the whole classification has
been revised and the pattern of evolution looks different from what we
Using the molecular approach in understanding the angiosperms, or flowering
plants, scientists traditionally used slowly evolving genes, or genes that
mutate at a very slow rate, to understand the deep relationship between the
families and orders of the plants, Hilu said. In fact, the use of slowly
evolving genes was the traditional way of understanding deep relationships
not only in plants, but also in animals.
However, Hilu and his colleagues have come up with a new approach using
rapidly evolving genes to understand deep-level relationships. Those genes
mutate at higher rates than the slowly evolving genes. Although
evolutionary biologists previously thought rapidly evolving genes would
give a misleading picture of deep evolutionary history and were useful only
in more recent evolutionary events such as evolution at the species and
genus levels, Hilu has demonstrated that as few as 1,200 nuclear-type bases
of a rapidly evolving gene such as matK, a gene in the chloroplasty genome,
will give a tree of angiosperm that is far more robust than that obtained
from 13,400 bases of several slowly evolving genes combined.
With this new approach, Hilu said, scientists will be able to sample many
more species, and the process will be much more economical. "This does not
mean slowly evolving genes are useless," Hilu said, "but a combination of
the two could give us information at different evolutionary levels."
Hilu has found that the quality of the signal is better in rapidly evolving
genes due to tendencies towards neutrality and lack of as many strong
functional constraints as in slowly evolving genes. He also found that
rapidly evolving genes provide more characters because they keep mutating
more quickly. "Between the quality and the quantity, we were able to obtain
more historical signals from rapidly evolving genes," he said.
Hilu is working now on expanding the use of these fast evolving genes
beyond flowering plants to understand the evolutionary relationships among
land plants such as conifers, ferns, mosses, and liverworts. He would like
to understand relationships in plants that could be important, for
instance, to ecologists in their work on animal-plant interaction and the
evolution of nectar in pollination, as well as to geneticists and breeders
who need to understand the genetics of domestication and breeding of crops
that may have an impact on farming. His work is important, too, to
molecular biologists who want to understand the pattern of differentiation
and origin of genes and gene families. These goals could have an effect on
assessments of biodiversity in plants by allowing scientists to understand
their classification, patterns of variation, and placement of endangered
Hilu's work has resulted in collaborations with some of the top
laboratories around the world. The paper in the American Journal of Botany
(90: 1758-1776) is based on molecular information mostly from Hilu's
collaboration with the University of Bonn as well as other laboratories in
the United States, Germany, France, and England. Hilu is the principal
investigator and first author on the paper. Co-authors are Thomas Borsch
and Kai Mller, Botanisches Institut, Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universit Bonn;
Douglas E. Soltis, School of Biological Sciences, Washington State
University; Pamela S. Soltis, Florida Museum of Natural History and the
Genetics Institute, University of Florida; Vincent Savolainen, Mark W.
Chase, and Martyn P. Powell, Molecular Systematics Section, Royal Botanic
Gardens, Surrey, UK Lawrence A. Alice, Department of Biology, Western
Kentucky University, Bowling Green; Rodger Evans, Biology Department,
Acadia University, Nova Scotia; Hervauquet, Musm National d'Histoire
Naturelle, Paris; Christoph Neinhuis, Institut fr Botanik, Dresden; Tracey
A. B. Slotta, Virginia Tech graduate student; Jens G. Rohwer, Institut fr
Allgemeine Botanik, Universit Hamburg; Christopher S. Campbell, Department
of Biological Sciences, University of Maine; and Lars W. Chatrou, National
Herbarium of the Netherlands, Utrecht University Branch.
Contact Dr. Hilu at <<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>> or
12 Jan 2004
Identifying Frost Tolerant Wheat Varieties
Recent success identifying frost tolerance in barley has renewed optimism
for developing frost tolerant wheat varieties. The Grains Research and
Development Corporation (GRDC) has budgeted $750,000 over three years to
support a national project implementing those barley screening protocols
for the identification of frost tolerant wheats.
The key screening targets will include synthetic wheat varieties from
CIMMYT and exotic germplasm from cool regions of the Middle East, Asia and
Yield damage caused by frost costs Western Australia an average of $5
million per year.
12 Jan 2004
Drought Tolerant Sunflower Varieties on the Way for Australian Farmers
Sunflower will be the next broadacre crop to benefit from pioneering
research into transpiration efficiency that allows plant breeders to select
for higher yields during droughts.
Scientists define transpiration efficiency (TE) as dry matter production
per unit of water transpired and the unlocking of its secrets has opened
the way for plant breeders to develop crop varieties that are more tolerant
of the frequent moisture deficits faced by Australian farmers.
Years of Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) supported
research by CSIRO and the Australian National University paid off with the
release of the drought tolerant wheat varieties Drysdale and Rees.
Now the first germplasm from similar TE research in sunflowers has gone to
private sector seed companies which will incorporate the drought tolerance
characteristic into commercial varieties for release to farmers.
The responsible scientist, Chris Lambrides, University of Queensland
research fellow in molecular plant breeding, says the parent breeding
material passed to seed companies also incorporated excellent and new rust
resistance which would be a valuable addition to that currently used in
The transfer also included molecular markers that will allow seed company
breeders to select for the TE genes in their development of new hybrid
varieties for the commercial market.
"We worked with data from computer simulations and research into improved
TE in other crops to begin our selection work in sunflower," Dr Lambrides said.
"Using surrograte trait carbon isotope discrimination, we identified
significant genetic variation for TE in sunflower lines and made
segregating populations to construct a genetic linkage map and to identify
molecular markers for the TE trait
"We tested the yield advantage of hybrids selected for improved TE by
top-crossing lines selected for high and low TE to a common female breeding
"Then we tested these experimental hybrids at three locations and found the
group with high TE out-yielded the low TE group by 35% in the droughted
"Of course we dont expect this yield advantage in commercial hybrids, but
our computer simulations suggest that a 10% to 15% yield advantage in
hybrids containing the high TE trait may be possible in droughted environments.
"On one occasion, at Capella in 2001, experimental hybrids selected for
high TE outyielded the commercial check varieties by 15%."
Dr Lambrides said the experimental hybrids were also tested under irrigated
conditions to ensure there was no yield disadvantage from the TE
characteristics under favourable conditions.
Under conditions producing yields as high as two tonnes to the hectare
almost twice the average commercial yield they found there was less
advantage for lines with the high TE characteristic but no yield penalty.
"A significant point is that the experimental hybrids in this trial had
only one high TE parent. Obviously theres potential for even greater
benefits from hybrids made with two high TE parents," Dr Lambrides said.
12 Jan 2004
Winter Weather Turns on Flowering Gene
In four months, when flower buds spring up from the ground, you may wonder
how plants know it's time to bloom. This question has baffled plant
biologists for years. Now, scientists at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison have an answer: a gene that functions as an alarm clock
to rouse certain plants from a vegetative state in the winter to a
flowering state in the spring.
According to the researchers, the findings, published in the Jan. 8 issue
of the journal Nature, could lead to new methods for manipulating the
productivity of crop plants, as well as a better understanding of how
organisms control the fate of their cells.
Most people may not know that some of our favorite salad ingredients -
carrots, cabbage, radishes, beets and parsley - take two seasons to flower
and produce seeds because we harvest them before they have the chance to
flower. These plants, called biennials, require a season of cold to flower.
"We've known that winter does something to the plant's growing tip, or
meristem, and makes it competent to flower," says Richard Amasino, a
UW-Madison biochemistry professor and senior author of the paper. "If
biennials don't go through winter, they won't flower." But why, he adds,
has remained a mystery.
This mystery started to unravel in 1999, when Amasino and his colleagues
identified two genes central to the flowering of Arabidopsis thaliana, a
small, flowering plant that's a member of the mustard family. The genes
work together to block blossoming. As they observed, one of these genes is
no longer expressed in the spring, when the plants can flower and complete
their life cycle.
How winter switches off this flower-inhibiting gene in the second growing
season, says Amasino, was the next obvious question. So, the Wisconsin
scientist and UW-Madison biochemistry graduate student Sibung Sung looked
to a biennial variety of Arabadopsis, a plant that's widely used as a model
organism in plant biology and genetics. They screened for mutants that
wouldn't bud after surviving temperatures just above freezing, and they
found three - all lacking a gene now called VIN3.
After further investigation, the researchers learned that an extended
period of cooler temperatures prompts the VIN3 gene to turn on. Once
activated, the gene starts the process of vernalization, whereby the plant
becomes competent to flower after exposure to cold. As this process begins,
the expression of the flower-suppressing gene identified in 1999 wanes
until it is completely blocked.
The researchers report that the VIN3 gene is expressed only after plants
have been exposed to conditions effective for vernalization, suggesting
that the VIN3 gene functions as an alarm clock rousing biennial plants to
But how do plants know they've been exposed to the right temperature for
the right amount of time? "This is an intriguing question," says Sung.
"Without a nervous system, plants must have a mechanism by which they can
remember they have been through the winter season." Although plants don't
have a brain like humans do, they do have cellular machinery that appears
to remember cold exposure, according to the new research.
The Wisconsin scientists show that the expression of VIN3, which occurs
after exposure to cold, initiates a series of changes in one of the
flower-suppressing genes. Specifically, VIN3 activation permanently
modifies the structure of histones, a group of proteins over which DNA is
wrapped. These changes block the flower-suppressing gene, switching the
plant from a fixed state where it won't flower to a fixed state where it
Scientists speculate that changes in histone structure play a major role in
the development of higher organisms and the formation of cancer cells. Says
Sung, "Histone changes in model plants could give us the opportunity to
extend our understanding of how organisms control their cell fates during
The findings by Amasino and Sung also could lead to improvements in
"This new molecular understanding could provide information to help design
tools to manipulate flowering," the biochemistry professor says. For
example, agronomists could engineer biennial crops that lack VIN3 and never
flower, potentially increasing yield. But as Amasino clarifies, he's in the
business of basic science - it's up to others to use the information.
January 7, 2004
Gene Discovered to Trigger Flowering
The secret of flowering in our major food crops like wheat has been
revealed with the discovery by CSIRO Plant Industry of a gene that triggers
flowering in cereals.
"Important cereal crops like wheat and barley rely on the gene we found,
WAP1, to initiate flowering," says Dr Ben Trevaskis, CSIRO Plant Industry.
"Flowering is important because it determines when the plant will produce
grain or fruit - the parts we usually eat."
WAP1 turns 'on' to activate flowering when the cereal plant is at the right
stage of development and when environmental conditions are suitable.
For example, in winter wheat, WAP1 and hence flowering is activated after a
cold period, like winter. Spring wheat, however, flowers without exposure
to cold because its version of WAP1 does not require a cold period to start it.
"Different flowering times in wheat are one of the key traits that wheat
breeders have bred for since wheat breeding began," says Dr Trevaskis.
"This breakthrough discovery of WAP1 means a piece of the flowering puzzle
has been found. It helps us understand what breeders have been manipulating
for thousands of years, but there is still a lot of work ahead of us to
fully unravel the flowering process."
In the future WAP1 could be used to help breed cereal plants that flower
"WAP1 could be used to modify flowering time in cereals. Experiments are
now underway to see if spring wheats can be made to flower even earlier
using more active versions of WAP1," says Dr Trevaskis.
"WAP1 could potentially also be used to block flowering in grasses that
cause allergies and prevent sugarcane flowering, allowing it to put more
resources into cane production."
The discovery of WAP1 has been simultaneously confirmed in the USA and
Canada where scientists have independently identified the same gene for
7 Jan 2004
IITA to Work on Cassava Mosaic Disease
The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan,
Nigeria is gearing efforts to stop the outbreak of virulent Cassava Mosaic
Disease (CMD) in Nigeria which could lead to food shortages in the cassava
belt of the country. Supporting the project are the government of Nigeria,
the Niger Delta Development Commission, and the United States Agency for
IITA reports that the two viruses, which are precursors to the most
destructive form of the disease, have already been found in the cassava
belt of Nigeria and IITA researchers believe that prompt action is needed.
In Nigeria, IITA plans to produce millions of new disease-resistant cassava
plantlets and cuttings for distribution to Nigerian farmers. The improved plants will not only resist the disease but will also slow its
spread to nonresistant varieties, acting as a barrier. CMD is often carried
from plant to plant by white flies that feed on the cassava leaves. The
virus attacks the leaves, preventing normal photosynthesis. As a
consequence, the diseased plant stops producing storage roots. For more information, email Dr. Alfred Dixon, IITA cassava breeder, at
From Crop Biotech Update electronic newsletter
ARS and ISU Develop Healthy Corn'
Researchers from the US Department of Agriculture -Agricultural Research
Service (USDA-ARS), and the Iowa State University (ISU) have developed new
corn varieties that have potential consumer benefits.
Luis Pons of ARS reports that the 14 new lines may enable corn-based
cooking oils and margarine to have lower cholesterol content. Some of the
corn lines yield oils with 60 to 70 percent oleic acid, a compound that
helps products stay fresh longer and is thought to help lower blood
cholesterol in people. Most commercially available corn oils contain 20 to
30 percent oleic acid. High oleic acid content may also lead margarine
makers to skip hydrogenation, a process that creates trans fatty acids,
which are believed to raise cholesterol.
Some oils from the new corn lines have total saturated fatty acid
compositions as low as 6.5 percent, compared to the 13 percent found in
corn oils currently available. Meanwhile, the high protein and oil contents
of some of the new varieties may lead to cost-effective animal feeds. Read more about this research in the August issue of Agricultural Research
magazine, available at
From Crop Biotech Update electronic newsletter
Male Sterility in Plants Unlocked
A plant geneticist, Sally Mackenzie, at the University of Nebraska is said
to have discovered the genetic key to the male sterility of a wide range of
crops. Sterile plants make it easier to breed improved varieties that yield
and perform better. They also help to produce hybrid seeds more
economically. Sterility in plants also solves the concerns that genetically
modified (GM) plants could possibly spread their pollen to their wild plant
Mackenzie and her colleagues found a gene in the cell's nucleus that
controls genetic changes in the mitochondria, which are the cell's energy
producers and also contains the plant's DNA. By inserting a foreign DNA
into this gene, changes were observed in the mitochondria - and one of
these pinpointed what triggers male sterility.
The plant geneticist added that after removing the foreign DNA that caused
the genetic change, the plant remained sterile. Thus, removal of the
foreign DNA will no longer make the plant transgenic, and lessen concerns
about it being genetically modified. The news release is available at
From Crop Biotech Update electronic newsletter
New Drought Tolerant Wheat Variety
Graingene, a Commonweath Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
(CSIRO) joint venture organization, has released a new drought tolerant
wheat variety called "Rees". According to Richard Richards, CSIRO
scientist, the variety produces about five percent more grain over
comparable wheat cultivars.
The variety was developed using scientific gene selection criteria based on
measuring a plant's carbon isotope signature. Using the techniques has
enabled scientists to breed varieties of wheat that more efficiently
exchange atmospheric carbon dioxide for water during photosynthesis. Rees is claimed also to be resistant to major wheat diseases and has
excellent yellow alkaline noodle qualities.
A Rees fact sheet is available at
From Crop Biotech Update electronic newsletter
Less Waiting Time to Determine if Apple Trees a Dwarf
Scientists from the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of
Agriculture have significantly reduced the time to determine if an apple
tree will grow to be a dwarf and resist diseases. Through gene mapping,
Genarro Fazio and H. Todd Holleran of the ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit
in New York, have discovered the genetic inheritance of the dwarfing
characteristic in apple tree roots, also known as rootstocks. The discovery can help researchers find molecular markers that can help
identify dwarf varieties, as well as positive and negative traits within
those varieties, early in their development. Currently, a tree must grow
for about 12 years before growers can tell whether it's a dwarf. Fazio says the ability to read genetic markers may cut these evaluation
times in half. In addition, further understanding of the workings of the
genetic inheritance gene may make it possible to transfer the knowledge to
other tree fruit systems.
More on this research in the November issue of Agricultural Research
magazine, available online at:
From Crop Biotech Update electronic newsletter
Appropriate Biotechnologies for Africa
"Making biotechnology work for African agriculture would mean harnessing
the technology to address the socio-economic and agronomic constraints
faced by African smallholders, rather than relying on technologies
developed for other contexts. However, there is still a growing concern
that the futuristic possibilities of genetic engineering are diverting
attention - and resources from other promising technologies," says Dominic
Glover of the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex in
Brighton, United Kingdom.
He also suggests that laboratory researchers and end-users be linked
together for the successful adoption of technologies. Linkages between
these two stakeholders have been previously applied to developing-country
biotechnology programs in the past. In Africa's case, biotechnologies that
would be appropriate are those that are:
Affordable and would allow farmers to save and exchange seeds;
Manageable and appropriate for small plots of land in marginal areas;
Responsive to local livelihood contexts, including patterns of
Suitable for use with a varied cropping system, including a
number of different crops;
Focusing on traits like drought tolerance, nutrient-use
efficiency and disease resistance, rather than traits like herbicide
tolerance which require expensive inputs;
Suitable and acceptably safe for introduction into the local
Backed up by appropriate support, such as access to credit,
markers and extension services.
Glover added that some advocates of agricultural biotechnology say that
Africa should embrace the biotechnology revolution, particularly
genetically modified (GM) crops to improve their people's plight. Dominic Glover's paper entitled "Biotechnology for Africa?" can be downloaded at
From Crop Biotech Update electronic newsletter
Novel Sugar Transport System in Plants
Scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC) in the United Kingdom have found
a previously unknown sugar transport system within plants that explains
what plants do in the darkness. Lead researcher, Alison Smith, says it
gives a new insight into how plants control the use of the sugar that they
produce. It reveals for the first time the mechanisms inside leaves that
are responsible for converting millions of tons of starch to sugars each
night. The research is published in the January 2, 2004 issue of the
The researchers report the discovery of a previously unknown maltose
transporter, which is unrelated to known sugar transporter proteins. They
were able to identify a mutation in a single gene (MEX1) in Arabidopsis
that results in reduced starch breakdown and sucrose synthesis at night. The way that plants use the sugar they make during photosynthesis is of
enormous significance in agriculture. Plant breeders will be able to
develop crops in which more of the sugar goes into useful products in the
seeds, leaves and tubers of crops. This will increase agricultural
efficiency by increasing the proportion of useful material that crops produce. For more information, email Alison Smith at:
From Crop Biotech Update electronic newsletter
Genetic Improvement of Ash
Report on European Community Fifth Framework Project Improving Fraxinus
(Ash) productivity for European needs by testing, propagation and promotion
of improved genetic resources. ( RAP: Realising ashs potential)
Coordinator, G. Douglas e-mail: email@example.com
Web site :
This project has fifteen partners in nine countries, it is now in its third
year of a four year programme. The main objective is on genetic improvement
of ash ( Fraxinus excelsior). The work involves examining existing
provenances trials, establishing a European provenance trial in six
countries, improving the vegetative propagation of selected materials,
studying genetic diversity and hybridisation and defining effective means
to communicate the research results and market situation for ash to end users.
Growth data has been collected and the first analyses have shown
significant variation among provenances. First results have shown
significant differences between provenances for height and circumference
data and genotypic heritability varied between 0.32* and 0.76*** on the two
sites examined. The coefficient of phenotypic variation decreased with
time; it ranged from 15-19% for data collected in 1990 to 5-6% for data
collected in 2000. The analysis of data on stem form and crown form showed
very highly significant differences among provenances and heritability was
characterised as medium to very low (from 0.68 **** to 0.26
NS). Provenance effects were also very highly significant for frost damage
at two sites and genotypic heritability was good (from 0.60 *** to
0.72***). The genotypic hertabilities and gains were computed after a
multi site analysis of all characters measured. This showed that
provenance effect was highly significant for height growth but not for
height increment and stem girth. Height heritabilites were 0.78*** from
1990 growth data, decreasing to 0.53** for 2000 data. Provenance effect
was at least, significant for crown and stem form giving genotypic
heritabilities from 0.44* to 0.77***.
Ash seeds have being collected, distributed and stratified by the 7
partners who will establish the European provenance trial. Each partner
will test a core collection of 30 provenances collected in diverse
geographic regions within the natural European of ash. The plants are ready
for field planting by several partners in Spring 2004.
The first estimates of genetic diversity using microsatellites showed a
high level of diversity within populations. However, more detailed
analyses showed a deficiency in heterogyosity in some populations which may
indicate a higher level of inbreeding than previously expected.
A fine scale genetic structure was revealed in ash populations using
spatial autocorrelation tools and parentage analysis. It showed that two
trees separated by less than 100 m were genetically more similar than two
trees chosen at random in the same population. It means that gene flows by
pollen and seeds is restricted within the stand. The neighbourhood size
estimates showed that any given tree in the studied stand mates at random
with 178 individuals.
Five polymorphic microsatellite loci were used in a parentage analysis of
natural seedlings in four zones within a stand. It showed that the mean
distance of seed dispersal was about 80 meters and followed geographic
contours in two valley sites. This means a limited seed dispersal within
the stands which are significantly lower than the level expected by random
events. Estimates of gene flow from outside the ash stand was 58%, due to
dispersal by pollen.
Plus trees were identified among the trees in provenance trials. They were
conserved in the nursery by grafting. The best trees in the best
provenances were used to establish shoot cultures and to develop an
effective system for large scale micropropagation. Shoot cultures were
established successfully from diverse sources; dormant winter buds, shoots
from grafted plants and immature embryos. Viable shoot cultures were
established from 27 mature trees and from seeds collected from selected
trees (16 new cultures). Shoots have been micropropagated satisfactorily
on WPM medium with cytokinins giving a range of micropropagation rates of
1.0 to 3.1 per subculture, per genotype. Scale up of selected tree
production has been underway by two commercial laboratories with 1000
plants now at the rooting stage. Rooting experiments have started giving
50-90% rooting in microshoots and 80-90% survival of rooted plants in the
green house. Somatic embryogensis was demonstrated for the first time in F
. excelsior by using immature embryo as the primary explant culture on MS
medium with 2.0 m/L 2,4-D and 1.0 m/L BA. The somatic embryos continued to
develop to the maturation stage by further culturing. In addition,
adventitious shoot regeneration was recorded in the axes of cultured embryos.
Studies on flower induction showed that application of drought stresses to
grafted trees in the proceeding year increased tree flowering from 4 to 21%
and delayed flushing date. Paclobutrazol applications reduced shoot growth
and increased trunk diameter.
Cuttings from ash seedlings give 75-95% rooting. High rooting rates of 68%
to 95% were recorded in cuttings from four mature trees when the cuttings
were collected from micropropagated plants which had been transferred to
the glasshouse. This indicates that the micropropagation step restores
rooting competence to mature material. Monitoring of the levels of soluble
carbohydrate in ash cuttings indicated that a low initial level of mannitol
or a rapid decrease in the level of mannitol was indicative of high rooting
Methods to survey the end users of ash were determined in the context of
identifying the key players who will affect the adoption of any new
technologies (or germplasm) in relation to ash. The existing state of the
art in adoption models has been reviewed. Based on this, the methods were
developed to conduct the survey in relation to this project. The
participants who will constitute the Consultation Panel of end users have
been identified among the European partners in this project. They will act
as an important source of information in the market for ash as well as on
other aspects related to ash improvement.
Gerry Douglas <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Teagasc, Kinsealy Research Centre
Malahide Rd. Dublin 17
Crops for Better Nutrition in India
The Indian Government has announced details of a six-year plan to develop
new genetically engineered crops which will provide better nutrition.
Government scientists say this kind of research is urgently needed to
improve the health of the developing world.
India is currently self-sufficient in most foods but its population is
expanding very rapidly.
The Plant Genome Research Road Map, as it's called, was unveiled at the
Indian Science Congress in Chandigarh.
The government forecasts that in fifteen years' time it will need to import
substantial quantities of grain, pulses, rice, fruit and vegetables.
It is a situation common to many developing countries - increasing demand,
without increasing yields.
India has already developed a potato genetically modified to produce
Professor Asis Datta, director of the National Centre for Plant Genome
Research, says more crops with enhanced nutrition are needed - and he
believes industry will not provide them.
"At this point, really, we are looking for nutrition security. I can tell
you that companies will not be interested. I developed a potato which is
"When I give it to a farmer, he doesn't need to come back to me he can
Under the roadmap, government scientists will by the year 2010 have
developed other GM varieties aimed at boosting nutrition. Oilseed rape,
millet, pulses and sugar cane are among the crops to be investigated.
Not all experts believe that genetic modification is the way forward - some
point out that rather than enhancing the protein content of potatoes, the
government could simply ensure the availability of foods which are already
rich in protein, such as pulses.
But the Indian Government believes GM is necessary if its burgeoning
population is to be fed; and like other developing countries including
China, is prepared to invest in research it considers essential.
The plan also involves developing crops resistant to environmental
stresses, particularly drought and salinity.
January 6, 2004
Drought Tolerant Sorghum and Millet in Africa
Drought tolerant sorghum and millet could be key to food security in
semi-arid regions of southern Africa.
For many subsistence farmers in the semi-arid regions of southern Africa,
dependence on drought relief is tantamount to serving a death sentence.
About half of all farming seasons in the affected areas, which support
about 30 million households, are characterised by the early termination of
Many have been encouraged to expand their production of maize, which is the
dominant cereal crop in the 14-member Southern Africa Development Community
There is no doubt the cereal is popular. The problem with maize is that it
needs regular rainfall over a 90-day period.
And when seasonal downpours dissipate it is farmers who are most affected.
Dusty, dry furrows and failed crops mean they lack the grain necessary for
their own domestic requirements, let alone setting any aside for the next
In an effort to increase grain production many SADC governments implemented
technologies geared at expanding yields. But many of these were
inappropriate in semi-arid regions because they were originally designed
for higher rainfall zones.
Some scientists say improved varieties of millet and sorghum could hold the
key to regional food security, despite the smaller grains' blighted
reputation as "poor man's" crops.
Geoffrey Heinrich is the regional representative of the International Crop
Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). He says the institute
helped develop early-maturing varieties of sorghum and millet which, in
effect, cheat drought.
Tanzania is a case in point.
"They had several significant late season droughts," says Heinrich. "Most
of these materials (improved small grain varieties) are early maturing.
They yielded much better than the traditional varieties."
Based in Zimbabwe, which hosts one of ICRISAT's six centres on the
continent, Heinrich explains that Tanzania distributed two improved
varieties of sorghum six years ago. It did so with assistance from
ICRISAT's sorghum and millet improvement programme (SMIP).
Heinrich says the good reception of these early-maturing varieties
resulted, in one year, to a drop of US$17-million the country's food import
He admits that farmers may be reluctant, at first, because of the work
involved in protecting sorghum and millet from birds.
"People who are used to maize find it tedious," he adds, "but there is no
reason why it should be looked at as inferior."
With funding from the US development agency USAid, the SMIP was launched in
1983, by ICRISAT, at an invitation of SADC heads of state to help ease
persistent food deficits caused by drought. The programme was also to
ensure the establishment of a technological base for the region over a
While those two decades ended on December 31, Heinrich says components of
the programme will continue because of the region's recurring food shortages.
SMIP has acted as nucleus of a network of various national agricultural
research initiatives, including studies by universities and the private
sector. In particular, the programme resulted in the development, and
distribution, of 49 varieties of sorghum and pearl millet across Zimbabwe.
The programme has also led to the strengthening of seed systems.
"Just releasing a variety doesn't do any good," says Heinrich.
He adds that while maize has a "pretty good" rural retail market, the same
cannot be said for crops like sorghum, millet or groundnuts which, in his
view, are important for food security.
In addition many traders are reluctant to stock seed, or even fertiliser,
because agricultural inputs are periodically handed out, free of charge, as
part of relief efforts. Lack of demand, in turn, led to commercial seed
development and distribution lagging behind.
ICRISAT and its partners counteracted this by working through farmer-based
production systems and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in an attempt
to build rural retail markets for seed.
One of these systems, according to Heinrich, involves voucher programmes,
so that rural retailers stock the seed and instead of being given free
seed. Vulnerable households are actually provided with vouchers, which they
take to the retailer who remains in business and can make a profit from
Currently there's close to 30% coverage of improved varieties of sorghum in
the SADC, and about 35% for millet. Heinrich says more than 1.5 million
households have access to, and are utilising, improved seed.
Developing industrial demand, which is key if one wants to raise prices,
was a persistent challenge for the SMIP.
In Zimbabwe, however, there has been major success. Demand for the small
grains increased exceptionally, particularly from the stock feed industry.
Research methods employed by ICRISAT in improving the small grains have
relied on traditional scientific techniques. Bio-technology, or genetically
modified organism (GMO), has not been used, although Heinrich says ICRISAT
feels there are potential risk-free uses for some of these technologies.
He says such a possibility is being explored in developing
"But none of that would be released to any country that does not have
bio-safety regulations," he says.
With the exception of South Africa, which is much more advanced, the rest
of the SADC countries have no bio-safety regulations and so cannot benefit
from the selective application of GMO technology.
ICRISAT would like to work with SADC countries in developing these kinds of
policies," Heinrich says.
There are areas where the materials would be very safe, where they can
bring important benefits to farmers."
ICRISAT is also affiliated with an initiative called the "Challenge
Programme on Water and Food Consortium".
Chairman Frank Rijsberman, recently called on scientists to breed new
varieties of high-yielding crops that require less water.
Heinrich says this is another avenue ICRISAT will soon start exploring.
"The materials we have been looking at have, to a large extent, been
screening for drought tolerance. We have not been looking at water usage
efficiency but I think our programme is going to head that way."
He says the centre in Zimbabwe has been unaffected by the upheaval caused
by land reform programmes and is maintaining its presence in the country.
Its other core research activity -- natural resource management, especially
soil fertility and soil water management -- has become crucial and will
Soil fertility in most of southern Africa's communal areas is declining,
One reason is the non-application of both organic and inorganic fertilizers.
"There is a net outflow of nutrients," Heinrich says.
"If that trend is not reversed, ultimately the productive capacity of those
areas will be completely eroded."
January 5, 2004
By Wilson Johwa <http://www.mg.co.za/> Mail&Guardian
Cold-tolerant Hybrid Oil Palms Bear Fruit in Western Kenya
FAO project improves incomes and diets, and may reduce imports of food oil.
Genes from Africa return improved via Costa Rica.
A cold-tolerant, high-yielding oil palm being promoted by FAO in western
Kenya could be a boon to small-scale farmers and industrial producers
alike, increasing incomes improving diets, reducing imports of food oil and
providing much-needed crop diversification for local sugar growers.
Until the FAO project, which began in 1993, the only oil palm variety that
grew in cooler African climates was the dura type, which produces fruit
with a low volume of pulp and therefore low yields of edible oil.
FAO agronomists first noted the dura varietys cold tolerance in the
highlands of Tanzania and Cameroon, and seeing its potential, transferred
the material to Agricultural Services & Development (ASD), Costa Rica,
where it was crossed with precocious high-yielding tenera varieties. The
resultant hybrids were returned to several sub-Saharan East African
countries, including Kenya, for field trials.
The results were encouraging. After four years the Kenyan trees had fruited
successfully, even under poor husbandry. Hybrid seedlings are now being
grown in community nurseries in western Kenya and by the Mumias Sugar
Company, the regions largest sugar producer.
The climate in western Kenya is well-suited to oil palm cultivation when
using cold-tolerant hybrids and may even be better than that of Malaysia,
the worlds largest producer of palm oil, according to Peter Griffee, FAO
Senior Officer for Industrial Crops and one of the key technical officers
for the project.
It usually rains in the evening and is sunny during the day, says Griffee.
So while the rainfall is similar to that of Malaysia, there are longer
hours of sunshine, which is essential for oil development.
The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is one of the largest of the palm species
and produces more oil per hectare than any other oil crop. Palm oil is the
world's second major vegetable oil, after soybean, with annual production
of fresh fruit bunches approaching 100 million metric tonnes per year.
The potential of the hybrids is considerable. Fruit can be harvested from
three-year-old palms, and the palms reach maturity at about six years, if
well tended. Mature palms yield about 20 tonnes of fresh fruit bunches per
hectare a year (4 tonnes of oil). The palms productive life is about 25 years.
The cultivation of oil palms has ecological benefits as well.
Oil palm is environment-friendly, notes Griffee. It doesnt compete with
native vegetation or food crops in west Kenya. Theres no need to turn the
soil over every year, so theres less erosion and soil compaction.
After the oil has been extracted, empty fruit bunches can be used as mulch
to enhance moisture retention, soil nutrient content and soil organic matter.
In addition to stabilizing the soil, the trees harbor a great diversity of
From imports to local production
At present, Kenya's domestic production of edible oils covers about a third
of its annual demand, estimated at around 380,000 metric tonnes. The rest
is imported at a cost of around US140 million a year, making edible oil the
countrys second most important import after petroleum.
The hybrid palm provides opportunities for both small-scale and industrial
producers to help alleviate the country's edible oil deficit, while
providing local communities with an additional source of income in a region
where half the rural population lives in poverty.
The oil can be easily extracted by hand or with simple extractors and used
in crude form in the household to produce not only tasty dishes, but
products such as soap.
And the oil palm may fill a growing cash-crop vacuum. Kenya is increasingly
focusing on industrial agricultural production, as evidenced by foreign
investment and sales in relatively new sectors, such as cut flowers,
selected vegetables, pharmaceutical crops and others. There is strong
interest in diversification into new and alternative cash crops that show
potential. The oil palm fits nicely into this niche.
The Mumias Sugar Company, one of FAO's partners in the Kenya project, is
making plans to open a 500-hectare oil palm plantation. The company has an
outgrower network of some 60,000 farmers. Most of the farmers are
smallholders and many are part of FAO's Farmer Field Schools.
This project will have a big impact on these smallholders,says Griffee.
With sugar prices, continuing to drop, the company would have to get rid of
around 20,000 outgrowers if they didn't diversify.
A healthy choice
Palm oils benefits are not only economic. Red palm oils high level of
mono-unsaturated fats reduces levels of LDL - the so-called bad cholesterol
- while maintaining HDL, or good cholesterol, levels.
It is also an excellent source of vitamins A and E - much-needed dietary
supplements in the region. Spoonfuls of red palm oil are being given to
children at the Alupe Hospital in Kenya in place of vitamin A pills, and
the Ministry of Health is considering distributing the oil as a dietary
supplement throughout the region.
Another plus: red palm oil has a longer shelf-life than most other edible
oils due to its high level of anti-oxidants, which make it especially
resistant to rancidity.
One of the main supermarket chains in Kenya imports raw red palm oil from
West Africa for sale as a dietary supplement. As local production
increases, retailers will be able to turn to home-grown products.
As palm oil is largely unknown in traditional Kenyan cooking, efforts are
being made to court local tastes. The project is sending a nutritionist
from the region to Ghana to undergo a cooking and nutrition course on the
benefits and uses of red palm oil. She will use this training to produce a
cookbook for western Kenya, adapted to local tastes and ingredients.
Healthy and, if not wealthy, more secure
Around 10,000 trees have been planted to date, and 5000 more are
anticipated by the time the FAO project ends next August. The initiative
will continue under the direction of the Kenyan Agricultural Research
Institute and the Government.
FAO is currently producing an illustrated easy-to-use manual for farmers,
outlining the dos and don'ts of oil palm cultivation. The manual contains
information on the tools needed, how to select an appropriate site for
planting, as well as common problems and how to avoid them. The manual will
be translated into at least one local language and will be used in FAO's
Farmer Field Schools.
To help farm families in the region capitalize on other market
opportunities, the project has trained womens groups to make soap for sale
and home use from low grade palm oil and other local ingredients.
According to Griffee, ten palms per family is enough to make them
self-sufficient in cooking oil and give them a little extra income from
local sales of oil or soap.
Oil palms won't make people rich, but may keep them healthy and
economically stable,he says.
Contributed by Peter Griffee and Elcio Guimaraes (FAO-AGPC)
Soybean Biotechnology - Special Issue of AgBioForum
Special double issue, guest edited by Henry T. Nguyen and Gary Stacey
(University of Missouri-Columbia).
1. A Soybean Biotechnology Outlook -- John C. Gardner and Thomas L. Payne
2. The Status of Soybean Genomics and Its Role in the Development of
Soybean Biotechnologies -- Randy C. Shoemaker, Jessica A. Schlueter, Perry
Cregan, and Lila Vodkin
3. The Future of Biotechnology in Soybeans -- John Soper, Dennis Judd,
Daria Schmidt, and Steve Sullivan
4. Genetic Enhancement of Soybean Oil for Industrial Uses: Prospects and
Challenges -- Edgar B. Cahoon
5. Modifications in Soybean Seed Composition to Enhance Animal Feed Use and
Value: Moving From a Dietary Ingredient to a Functional Dietary Component
-- Monty S. Kerley and Gary L. Allee
6. Engineering Soybeans for Food and Health -- Anthony J. Kinney
7. The United Soybean Board's Better Bean Initiative: Building US Soybean
Competitiveness from the Inside Out -- David Durham
8. Role of Public and Private Soybean Breeding Programs in the Development
of Soybean Varieties Using Biotechnology -- D.A. Sleper and J.G. Shannon
9. The Dynamics of Biotechnology in the Soybean Marketplace Steven Sonka
10. Agronomics and Sustainability of Transgenic Cotton in Argentina @atin
Qaim, Eugenio J. Cap, and Alain de Janvry
11. Labeling Genetically Modified Foods: How Do US Consumers Want to See It
Done? -- Mario F. Teisl, Luke Garner, Brian Roe, and Michael E. Vayda
12. Climate Change for Biotechnology? UK Public Opinion 1991-2002 --George
Gaskell, Nick Allum, Martin Bauer, Jonathan Jackson, Susan Howard, and
13. Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods: Does it Really
Provide Consumer Choice? -- Colin A. Carter and Guillaume P. Grure
14. Research Prizes: A Mechanism to Reward Agricultural Innovation in
Low-Income Regions -- William A. Masters
15. Development and Marketing Strategies for Functional Foods Cecilia
16. Factors Affecting the Likelihood of Corn Rootworm Bt Seed Adoption
--James Payne, Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo, and Stan Daberkow
-December 30, 2003 <http://www.agbioforum.org/>
6 Jan 2004
Cassava: from Poor Farmer's Crop to Pacesetter of African Rural Development.
Dixon, A.G.O., R. Bandyopadhyay, D. Coyne, M. Ferguson, R.S.B. Ferris, R.
Hanna, J. Hughes, I. Ingelbrecht, J. Legg, N. Mahungu, V. Manyong, D. Mowbray, P. Neuenschwander, J. Whyte, P. Hartmann & R. Ortiz, 2003.
Chronica Horticulturae 43 (4), 8-15.
Cassava (Manihot esculenta), a root crop originating in Tropical America,
has been called Africa's food insurance but vital as that is, it has the
potential to be much more. Already, cassava provides more than half
of; the dietary calories for over 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa
(about half of the total population). It also contributes substantial
amounts of protein, minerals (iron; and calcium) and vitamins (A and C)
through leaf consumption though to a much smaller population at the present
6. ON THE WEB
Selected Items from Update 14-2003 of FAO-BiotechNews.
The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews, 15-12-2003
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
E-mail Conference on Marker Assisted Selection
The FAO e-mail conference entitled "Molecular marker assisted selection as
a potential tool for genetic improvement of crops, forest trees, livestock
and fish in developing countries" began on 17 November and finished on 14
December 2003. Roughly 630 people registered for this moderated conference,
and a total of 85 messages were posted, providing excellent considerations
on issues such as economic comparisons of marker assisted selection (MAS) and conventional breeding, the appropriateness of applying MAS in
developing countries, the role of research collaborations between
developing and developing countries and the factors that can enable
successful use of MAS in developing countries. Messages came from
participants in 26 different countries, with highest numbers coming from
people in India, Australia, United States, United Kingdom and Peru. 59% of
messages came from people living in developing countries. The messages are
or can be requested as a single e-mail (size 128 KB) from
OECD - Biotechnology statistics
As part of its STI Working Paper series, the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development (OECD) Directorate for Science, Technology and
Industry (STI) has just published "An overview of biotechnology statistics
in selected countries" by A. Devlin. The 74-page report provides an update
of the current state of the biotechnology industry based on primarily official statistical sources. It includes data on publicly funded
biotechnology R&D, the numbers of biotechnology firms (and the
biotechnologies in which they are involved), biotechnology patents, biotechnology venture capital, genetically modified crops and, finally,
biotechnology profiles of 26 OECD member and selected observer countries,
plus the European Union. See <http://www.olis.oecd.org/olis/2003doc.nsf/linkto/dsti-doc(2003)13>
contact email@example.com for more information.
Selected Items from Update 1-2004 of FAO-BiotechNews.
FAO Biotechnology News Webpage
Two years ago, FAO began providing regular, free updates of news and event
items relevant to applications of biotechnology in food and agriculture in
developing countries. The items focus on FAO's work and the work of its
main United Nations (UN) and non-UN partners, and cover crops, fish,
livestock, forest trees and agro-industry. In addition to being distributed
through e-mail newsletters in 3 languages, they are also posted on the FAO
Biotechnology website in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish. The
volume of material is now quite substantial, so the News webpage has been
re-designed for easier use. See
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to comment on
A Record of Negotiations of the Cartagena Protocol
In December 2003, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
(CBD) announced the publication of "The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety: A
record of the negotiations", which seeks to record the evolution of the
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity
from the initial provision in Article 19(3) of the Convention itself through to the final adoption of the text of the Protocol in January 2000. The
140-page paper was developed by the Foundation for International
Environmental Law and Development (FIELD) at the request of the Executive
Secretary of the CBD Secretariat. See
(1.2 MB) or contact email@example.com for more information or to
request a copy.
Liability and Redress in the Context of the Cartagena Protocol Workshop Report
In response to invitations by the Intergovernmental Committee for the
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the Government of Italy organised a
workshop on "Liability and redress in the context of the Cartagena Protocol
on Biosafety" on 2-4 December 2002 in Rome, Italy. The report of the workshop is available at
(document UNEP/CBD/BS/COP-MOP/1/INF/8, available in Arabic, Chinese,
English, French, Russian and Spanish) or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for
Ecocrop - an updated version.
With Ecocrop you can:
Identify a suitable crop for a specified environment -
Enter information about your local climate and soil conditions, such as
temperature, rainfall, light, soil texture, depth, pH, salinity and
fertility. Ecocrop then identifies plant species with key climate and soil
requirements that match the data you have entered. Obviously this is a
'rough guide' and once you have your list you need to look more closely at
local conditions, markets etc. When a species is chosen - there is a direct
link from the site to the EcoPort species record. This has much more
complete information - including fields for Genetic resources and Plant Breeding.
Identify a crop with a specific habit of growth (the new feature) -
Specify one or more characteristics of a plant, such as life form and span,
growth habit, crop category and form of cultivation. Ecocrop then
identifies plant species that match your data.
Identify a crop for a defined use -
Specify one or more use(s) and Ecocrop identifies, according to your choice
of plant, species for food, fodder or pasture, green manure, energy, fibre,
timber, paper pulp, shelter and shade, industrial purposes, erosion
control, ornamentals and many other uses.
Look up the environmental requirement and uses of a given crop -
Specify the plant species of your interest and use Ecocrop as a checklist
or library to look up its climate and soil requirements and uses.
Save and retrieve your search criteria -
Register to Ecocrop, and you can log in and save your search criteria for
Virology in Sub-Saharan
A new e-pub. at
Submitted by "Ortiz, Rodomiro (IITA)" <email@example.com>
National Agricultural Library upgrades AGRICOLA Online Public Catalog
Contact: Len Carey (301) 504-6778
has released a significant upgrade to its Web-based AGRICOLA catalog of
records for the materials in its collection. The new version of AGRICOLA
provides improved access--many new search and retrieval capabilities, with
daily updates--to over 4 million bibliographic records, the world's largest
compilation of agricultural information.
The new AGRICOLA catalog, which replaces AGRICOLA98, is one of several
modules implemented in NAL's migration to Endeavor's Voyager library
system. In addition to a search and retrieval engine for AGRICOLA, the new
Voyager system supports NAL's acquisitions, serials control, cataloging,
indexing, and circulation operations.
Other features of NAL's new AGRICOLA catalog include:
* Users may search the catalog of books, journals and non-print items;
search the catalog of article records for the journals indexed; or search
the two catalog databases combined.
* Users may choose either to display results of searches, or to e-mail
the search-results to themselves.
* Hotlinks enable users to obtain the full text of resources, where
Future enhancements to the new AGRICOLA will include user-initiated
requests for patrons who have document delivery and borrowing privileges.
The National Agricultural Library and Endeavor are working with Relais
International to develop a fully electronic request and delivery management
system linked to the AGRICOLA bibliographic and holdings records. NAL plans
to implement the document delivery system in late spring 2004
Access to the new AGRICOLA online public catalog is through
agricola.nal.usda.gov. Users visiting the former AGRICOLA98 address will be
automatically redirected to the new location.
National Agricultural Library, located in
Agricultural Research Service, the
scientific research agency. NAL is one of four
libraries, and is known for an expert staff, extensive AGRICOLA
bibliographic database, leadership in information services and technology
applications, and strong collections in agriculture and related sciences.