20 January 2004


An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding

Sponsored by FAO and Cornell University


Clair H. Hershey, Editor





* Past issues of the Plant Breeding Newsletter are now available on the

web. The address is:




* Applications of Molecular Tools in Agricultural and Forestry Sciences

* Post Harvest Fruit: The Path to Success



* Breeding Coordinator for HarvestPlus (Biofortification Challenge Program)

* Trainee Plant Breeder: Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research



* IP Strategy Today



* 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

African Farmers

* Global Food Security: Challenges and Policies

* Cereal-Grain-Legume-Livestock Systems in the Dry Savanna of Africa

* 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 Africa

* Novel Sugar Transport System in Plants

* Genetic Improvement of Ash

* Crops for Better Nutrition in India

* Drought Tolerant Sorghum and Millet in Africa

* Cold-tolerant Hybrid Oil Palms Bear Fruit in Western Kenya

* Soybean Biotechnology  - Special Issue of AgBioForum

* Cassava: from Poor Farmer's Crop to Pacesetter of African Rural Development.




* E-mail Conference on Marker Assisted Selection

* OECD - Biotechnology statistics

* FAO Biotechnology News Webpage

* A Record of Negotiations of the Cartagena Protocol

* Liability and Redress in the Context of the Cartagena Protocol Workshop


* Ecocrop - an updated version.


* Plant Virology in Sub-Saharan Africa

* National Agricultural Library upgrades AGRICOLA Online Public Catalog






Plant Breeding News is an electronic forum for the exchange of information

and ideas about applied plant breeding and related fields. It is published

every four to six weeks throughout the year.


The newsletter is managed by the editor and an advisory group consisting of

Elcio Guimaraes (, Margaret Smith

(, and Anne Marie Thro ( The editor

will advise subscribers 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


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 We would especially like to see a broad

participation from developing country programs and from those working on

species outside the major food crops.


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* 9-12 February  2004: ISHS International Root and Tuber Crops Symposium:

"Food Down Under". Palmerston North (New Zealand). Info: Dr. M. Nichols,

INR, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Phone: (64)63505799 ext. 2614, Fax: (64)63505679, email: web:



* 9-20 February 2004. Molecular Markers Use in Plant Genetic Studies and

Improvement. Caracas, Venezuela.  A workshop organised by the Institute for

Advanced Studies, in Caracas, and the International Plant Genetic Resources

Institute, on behalf of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering

and Biotechnology. See


(site sometimes not available) or contact for more



* 19-24 February 2004. Plant Responses to Abiotic Stress, Keystone

Symposium. Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. Contact: Keystone Symposia, 221

Summit Place #272, Drawer 1630, Silverthorne, CO 80498, USA; Tel: +1 (970)

262 1230; Fax: +1 (970) 262 1525;

Email:; URL:



  * (NEW) 1-2 March 2004.  The 40th Illinois Corn Breeders School will be

held March 1-2, 2004 at the Holiday Inn in Urbana, IL.  This school is

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://  Questions can be

referred to


* 4-9 March 2004: Comparative Genomics of Plants (C6), Keystone Symposium.

New Mexico, USA. Contact: Keystone Symposia, 221 Summit Place #272, Drawer

1630, Silverthorne, CO 80498, USA; Tel: +1 (970) 262 1230; Fax: +1 (970)

262 1525;

Email:;  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                                              


* 21-24 March 2004: The 16th Biennial International Plant Resistance to

Insects Workshop/Conference. Baton Rouge, USA. Contact: Mike Stout. Email:


* 11-16 May 2004. 15th International Plant Protection Congress (IPPC),

Beijing, China. Contact: Wen Liping, 15th IPPC Secretariat Associate

Professor, Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural

Sciences, #2 West Yuanmingyuan Road, Beijing 100094, China; Tel: +86 (10)

6281 5913 or +86 (10) 6289 5451; Fax: +86 (10) 6289 5451; Email:;  URL:




* (NEW) 17-28 May 2004. International Course:  Applications of Molecular

Tools in Agricultural and Forestry Sciences, CATIE Central Headquarters,

Turrialba, Costa Rica (See complete course description at end of this section)


* 17-19 May 2004: 12th Meeting on Genetics and Breeding of Capsicum and

Eggplant.  Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands. Contact: Roeland Voorrips,

Plant Research International, P.O. Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, The

Netherlands; Tel: +31 (317) 477289; Fax: +31 (317) 418094; Email:;  URL:



* 24-25 May 2004: Workshop on Molecular Aspects of Germination and

Dormancy. Wageningen, The Netherlands. Contact: J Derek Bewley,  Email:;  URL:



  * 7-11 June 2004, Dijon France : Fifth European Conference on Grain

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. Brno,

Czech Republic. Contact: Lenka Nedomova, Agricultural Research Institute

Kromeriz Ltd., Havlickova 2787, CZ - 767 01 Kromeriz, Czech Republic; Tel:

+420 (5) 7331 7166; Fax: +420 (5) 7333 9725;

Email:;  URL: <<>>


* 5-8 July, 2004: Campinas-SP (Brazil): III International Symposium on

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,

Agronomical Sciences College, SP State University, Botucatu-SP 18.603-970,

Brazil. email:


* 12-17 July 2004:  Cucurbitaceae 2004, 8th Meeting on Cucurbit Genetics

and Breeding. Olomouc, Czech Republic. Contact: A. Lebeda, Palacky

University, Faculty of Sciences, Department of Botany, Slechtitelu 11,

CZ-783 71 Olomouc-Holice, Czech Republic; Tel: +420 (5) 8563 4800; Fax:

+420 (5) 8524 1027; Email:; 

URL: <<>>


* 18-22 July 2004: 7th International Oat Conference . Helsinki, Finland.

Contact: Mrs. Pirjo Peltonen-Sainio, MTT, Agrifood Research Finland, Plant

Production Research, FIN-31600 Jokioinen, Finland; Tel: +358 (3) 4188 2451;

Fax: +358 (3) 4188 2437;


URL: <<> >


* 18-23 July 2004: Plant Molecular Biology. Plymouth NH, USA .Contact:

Gordon Research Conferences, 3071 Route 138, Kingston, RI 02881, USA; Tel:

+1 (401) 783 4011; Fax: +1 (401) 783 7644; Email:;  URL: <<>>


* 6-9 September 2004): VIII International Symposium on Plum and Prune

Genetics, Breeding and Technology. Lofthus, Norway.  Info: Dr. Lars Sekse,

Plante Forsk - Norwegian Crops Research Institute, Ullensvang Research

Centre, 5781 Lofthus, Norway. Phone: (47)53671200, Fax: (47)53671201,

email: web:



* 8-11 September  2004. Eucarpia XVII General Triennial Congress, Vienna,

Austria. Contact: P. Ruckenbauer, IFA Tulln, Dept. Biotechnology in Plant

Production, Konrad-Lorenz Str. 20, A-3430 Tulln, Austria; Tel: +43 (2272)

66280 201; Fax: +43 (2272) 66280 203;

Email:;  URL:



* 12-17 September 2004: V International Symposium on In Vitro Culture and

Horticultural Breeding. Debrecen (Hungary): Info: Dr. Mikl, Szent - Gyorgyi

A u. 4, PO Box 411, 2101 Godollo, Hungary. Phone: (36)28330600, Fax:

(36)28330482, email: or, web:



* 27 September - 1 October 2004: 4th International Crop Science Congress.

Brisbane, Australia. Contact: PO Box 1280, Milton, QLD 4064, Australia;

Tel: +61 (7) 3858 5554; Fax: +61 (7) 3858 5583; Email:;

URL: <>


* 24-28 October, 2004: IV ISHS Symposium on Brassica and XIV Crucifer

Genetics Workshop. Daejon (Korea) Info: Prof. Dr. Yong Pyo Lim, Dept. of

Horticulture, Chungnam National University, Kung-Dong 220, Yusong-Gu,

Taejon 305-764, South Korea.  Phone: (82)428215739, Fax: (82)428231382,



* 31 October 4 November 2004: Annual Meetings, American Society of

Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America,

Seattle, WA, USA. Contact: ASA-CSSA-SSSA, 677 S. Segoe Rd., Madison WI

53711, USA; Tel: +1 (608) 273 8080; Fax: +1 (608) 273 2021;  URL:




* (NEW) 7-10 November 2004: International Conference: Post Harvest Fruit:

The Path to Success, Campus Lircay, Universidad de Talca, Talca, Chile.


<> (See complete

conference description at end of this section)




Applications of Molecular Tools in Agricultural and Forestry Sciences 17-28 May 2004 CATIE Central Headquarters, Turrialba, Costa Rica




CATIE and the University of Purdue, USA




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

QTL analyses.




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

Dr. Scott Jackson - Purdue University, USA

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, Ing.  CATIE, Costa Rica




16 April, 2004 - Deadline for receipt of applications

23 April, 2004 - Selection and notification of participants

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,

Central Headquarters, CATIE 7170, Turrialba, Costa Rica.


Tel: (506) 556-6021/5582433 Fax: (506) 556-0176



Submitted by "Lizz Johnson" <>






Post Harvest Fruit: The Path to Success

Date: Sunday 7th November 2004 to Wednesday 10th November 2004

Place: Campus Lircay, Universidad de Talca, Talca, Chile




Web page:




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





Opening Ceremony

Introductory Session

Session 1:   Improved Planting material

Session 2 :  Improved Growth

Sessions 3 & 4:  Harvest & Beyond

Growers Forum


Organising Committee

Dr. Peter D.S.Caligari

Dr. Ral Herrera

Dr. Mar`Alejandra Moya-Le"r>

Dr. Jorge Retamales

Dr. Jose Diaz


Invited speakers

Dr. James Hancock  (Michigan State University, USA)

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)

Post harvest


Crop protection (Pests diseases and weeds) or stress: biotic & abiotic Biochemistry and molecular biology Market and Economics Conservation & Biodiversity


Submitted by Peter Caligari <>







Breeding Coordinator for HarvestPlus (Biofortification Challenge Program)


The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) is seeking a

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

will be based at CIAT headquarters in Cali, Colombia.


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

between eight CGIAR Centers and a large number of partner institutions in

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

these fields.


10.  Basic command of Spanish, Portuguese and French.


CIAT, whose HQ are in Cali, Colombia is a non-profit organization with more

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

<> or

hard copy to Claudia Zuá, Biotecnologl A.A. 6713, Cali, Colombia.  Fax

(57-2) 445-0073, tel. (57-2) 445-0055.


Closing date: 28 February 2004.


For more information on CIAT and HarvestPlus, please visit our website at





Trainee Plant Breeder: Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research

(Ref:  2004/02)


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

understanding technical developments;  visiting trial sites in UK and

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:   Closing date: 20

February 2004


The BBSRC is an Equal Opportunities Employer.


Submitted by Dr Peter Wilkins

Plant Genetics and Breeding








Submitted by Anatole F Krattiger <>


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.

Cary Fowler.


IP Strategy Today No. 6-2003

The Future of Technology Transfer at a Major Land Grant University: Report

of the Cornell University Land Grant Panel on Technology Transfer.  Pp. 1-44. WR Coffman, JE Alexander, DJ BenDaniel, PL Carey, HG Craighead, CR Fay, PA

Gould, JS Gross, JE Hunter, WH Lesser, S Loker, JN MacLeod, JJ Mingle, NR

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.

Travis Lybbert


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.

Anatole Krattiger


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 <>







Member States Fail to Agree on New GM Authorisation


Member State representatives meeting at the EU standing committee on the

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

(GM) corn.


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.

Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK were all in

favour of approving the import of Bt-11, while Austria, Denmark, France,

Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal were opposed. Belgium, Germany and Italy

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

authorisation itself.


For further information on GMOs, please consult the following web address: <>


Cordis News


9 Dec 2003




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

GM crop.


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

by farmers to offset any adverse effects," says the ACRE report.


But it's not all good news for GM. Atrazine is currently being phased out

by the European Union. ACRE members say further work will need to be done

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.


The British government says that it will respond to ACRE's advice within

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

with interest by the rest of Europe.


Nature Science Update Highlights

19 January 2004




Genetically Engineered Crops Up 15% Worldwide


Genetically engineered crop plantings increased 15% last year despite

continued consumer resistance in Europe and elsewhere, according to a group

that promotes use of the technology in poor countries, reports the

Associated Press.


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.


Farmers in the Philippines grew nearly 50,000 acres of engineered corn in

2003, the first year altered crops were approved commercially there. India

nearly doubled its genetically engineered cotton output last year to

247,000 acres and China raised 6.9 million acres of biotech cotton, a 33%

increase over 2002.


Argentina, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Uruguay, Romania,

Spain, Germany, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Colombia, Honduras and Mexico all grew

genetically engineered crops last year, James said.


U.S. farmers grew 105.7 million acres of genetically engineered crops,

mostly corn, soy and cotton.


"I'm on board with genetically engineered crops because they reduce my use

of chemicals, fuel and labor," said Dixon farmer Eric Freese, who hopes to

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.


Residents of Mendocino County in Northern California are voting in March on

a ballot measure that would ban genetically engineered plants and animals

from the area.


Similar campaigns are underway in Vermont, Hawaii and elsewhere.


According to the AP, Biotechnology has met the most resistance in Europe,

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

a dispute that Washington charges violates world trade rules and

contributes to starvation in Africa.


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

engineered food.


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

they pose.


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 <> 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 Farmers


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

policy reforms.


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) <>




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

perceived before."


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 <<>> 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

North America.


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

commercial hybrids.


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

can flower.


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.


Madison, Wisconsin

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

when needed.


"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

cereal flowering.

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

International Development.

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

labor availability;


          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

ecosystem; and


          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

journal Science.

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:


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

rates .


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.


Submitted by

Gerry Douglas <>

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

increased protein.


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

20-year period.


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

that process.


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

disease-resistant groundnuts.


"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

also continue.


Soil fertility in most of southern Africa's communal areas is declining,

Heinrich notes.


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."


Bulawayo, Zinbabwe

January 5, 2004


By Wilson Johwa <> 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.


High-yielding, environment-friendly


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.


Cultivating tastes


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

Other articles:


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

Nicola Lindsey


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 <>

(Via Agnet)



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








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

available at


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 <>


contact 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 for more information or to comment on           

the site.




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 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 for

more information.




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

later use.




Plant Virology in Sub-Saharan Africa


A new e-pub. at



Submitted by "Ortiz, Rodomiro (IITA)" <>




National Agricultural Library upgrades AGRICOLA Online Public Catalog


Contact: Len Carey (301) 504-6778


BELTSVILLE, Md., December 8, 2003 - The National Agricultural Library (NAL)

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

available electronically.


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 Users visiting the former AGRICOLA98 address will be

automatically redirected to the new location.


The National Agricultural Library, located in Beltsville, Md., is part of

the Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's

chief scientific research agency. NAL is one of four U.S. national

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.