PLANT BREEDING NEWS
10 March 2004
An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding
Sponsored by FAO and Cornell University
Clair H. Hershey, Editor
1. NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
1.1 Yuan Longping and Steven D. Tanksley awarded 2004 Wolf Prize in Agriculture 1.2 Norman Borlaug Speaks out on International Agricultural Research 1.3 CGIAR Reforms to Feed the Poor 1.4 Global Funding to Boost Research in Poor Countries 1.5 Pakistan: Focus on Farmers_Battle with Cotton Leaf Curl 1.6 Have Seed Industry Changes Affected Research Effort? 1.7 Pooling Breeding Resources to Develop a Better Barley in Australia 1.8 New Genetic Research to Help Fight Leaf Rust of Wheat 1.9 Discovery of Disease-Resistance Genes to Help Bean Farmers in Central Mexico 1.10 Multinational Brassica Genome Project 1.11 African Farmers Increase Rice Harvests Due to "Nerica" 1.12 Scientists Develop Plant that Produces Potential Anit-Carcinogen 1.13 Global Crop Diversity Trust 1.14 Sugargeet Double Haploid Production Using Haploid Microshoots in Vitro 1.15 Genome of First Fungal Pathogen Unveiled 1.16 DNA-Based Methods in Sorghum Diversity Studies and Improvement 1.17 Cornell Plant Breeders Slice Through Onion's Sexual Barrier to Breed Disease Resistance into Crop 1.18 New Insights on Papaya Evolution 1.19 New Germplasm Promises Healthier Soybean Oils 1.20 Racing to Construct the Perfect Rice Plant 1.21 EMBRAPA Scientists Develop New GM Soybean 1.22 China Urged to Step up GM Efforts 1.23 Uganda Gives Cautious Approval to GM Food 1.24 Biosafety Protocol now Operational 1.25 Pew Initiative Releases New Issue Brief on World Hunger and Biotechnology 1.26 Can we Keep the Cap on Transgene Escape? 1.27 Despite confinement. Crop Genes can Spread Fast to Wild
2. ON THE WEB
2.1 The Sesame and Safflower newsletter 2003; The First Cyberspace Version of this Newsletter 2.2 HORTIVAR Database Developed by FAO 2.3 U.S. Regulatory Agencies Unified Biotechnology Website 2.4 Updates of FAO-Biotechnews 2.5 Conference 8 of the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture
3. POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT
Professor and Director, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II, Cornell University
4. GRANTS AVAILABLE
4.1 A Call for Grants from USAID
4.2 Biotechnology Biodiversity Interface Grants: Request for Applications
5. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS
6. EDITOR'S NOTES
* Past issues of the Plant Breeding Newsletter are now available on the web. Normally the newsletter will be posted a week or two after it is distributed to the listserve. The address is: http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc/services/pbn.html
(See additional notes at end of newsletter)
1. NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
1.1 YUAN LONGPING AND STEVEN D. TANKSLEY AWARDED 2004 WOLF PRICE IN AGRICULTURE
The 2004 Wolf Prize in Agriculture will be jointly awarded to Yuan Longping, of the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center (CNHRRDC) based at Changsha, Hunan Province, and to Steven D. Tanksley, of Cornell University, "for innovative development of hybrid rice and discovery of the genetic basis of heterosis in this important food staple."
Yuan Longping is a renowned hybrid rice breeder, and "one of the scientific giants in the history of modern agricultural research and has made dramatic impact on worldwide food production. Under his leadership, and after a decade of cooperative research efforts, among hundreds of rice scientists from numerous research institutes and universities, rice yields were generally enhanced by 20 percent, and China rice production, by 50 percent. To help increase world food supply, he has shared his knowledge, techniques, and breeding materials with scientists worldwide," added the Jury of the Israel-based Wolf Foundation.
Steven D. Tanksley, "is one of the world leaders in plant genomic research. He has contributed to the understanding of heterosis in rice by identifying genes in a wild ancestor that significantly increased yields." His research has led to the discovery of genetic basis of heterosis in rice, which well explains the advantages of hybrid rice over conventional rice in production.
The Wolf Prizes of $100,000 each have been awarded to four out of five fields by rotation each year since 1978, including Agriculture, Chemistry, Mathematics, Medicine and Physics, in addition to one prize to Arts. This prize was awarded to scientists and artists, "for achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples, irrespective of nationality, race, color, religion, sex or political view." To date, a total of 214 scientists and artists from 20 countries have been honored with the Wolf Prize. This year the awarding ceremony will be presented by the President of the State of Israel, at the Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem, on Sunday, May 4, 2004. More detail can be referred in the following links:
Contributed by Jiming Li, Dept. of Plant Breeding, Cornell University: "We, our plant breeding community, should be proud of this year's award because it comes back to the research field of plant breeding again!"
1.2 NORMAN BORLAUG SPEAKS OUT ON INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH
A new evaluation by the World Bank of the Consultative Group for International Research (CGIAR) and its 16 research centers has prompted me to give my views on the importance and contributions of international agricultural research and the confusion in which CGIAR now finds itself.
The World Bank reports that plant breeding research at CGIAR centers has declined 6.5% annually for the last decade. Moreover, growing restrictions have been placed on the funding the centers receive.
International agricultural research began in Mexico in 1943 and has grown into an international system of collaborative research, seed exchange, and training organizations that helped build many national agricultural research systems in developing countries.
In only 10 years, wheat and rice harvests in Asia doubled, hunger declined, and incomes improved. The international wheat, rice, and maize programs that had developed high-yielding technologies became the models for a collaborative international research network.
In 1971, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, the World Bank, FAO, UNDP, and USAID created CGIAR, a donors' club dedicated to funding an expanded international research system. Over the next 30 years, the number of research centers grew from 4 to 16, covering the major food crops and farming systems in food-deficit, low-income countries. The total budget increased 10-fold--to nearly US$400 million per year.
But somehow in this evolution, the CGIAR lost touch with its original purpose--to feed the hungry. It has become an unwieldy and uncoordinated beast, with too many masters and proliferating goals. Yet, a well-focused international agricultural research system that backstops and complements national agricultural research organizations and smallholder farmers is a vital component in a global research system.
CGIAR must return to its original purpose and to its greatest comparative advantage--developing improved food crop varieties, using a combination of conventional plant breeding techniques and new techniques of biotechnology, with complementary crop management practices, to address major production issues in both the favored and the more difficult marginal lands.
Another concern stems from the spilling over of the controversy about genetically modified (GM) varieties from industrialized into developing countries, which has paralyzed legislative action on GM crops. We should not underestimate the degree of resistance to GM crops in many countries, although it is heartening to see Argentina, Brazil, China, and India moving ahead with well-considered applications of biotechnology.
I am optimistic that multinational biotechnology companies are willing to devote more resources to solving the problems of poor farmers and consumers. Creative partnerships have been established between private and public research institutions--especially universities, but also CGIAR centers--with financial support provided by private Companies, governments, and private foundations. In addition, CGIAR, with seed collections representing much of the genetic diversity in the major food crops, is in a unique position to negotiate with the private sector to generate GM technology that benefits the poor, in return for access to its gene banks.
The World Bank is in a unique position, with its US$50 million of CGIAR funding (until recently completely unrestricted; it now assigns half its contribution to multicenter research initiatives called Challenge Programs), to work with other donors to expand unrestricted funding in the CGIAR, which will help greatly to rationalize priority setting. The Bank can also help refocus the CGIAR mission on raising smallholder agricultural productivity in the near term, rather than trying to be all things to all people.
Science, Vol 303, Issue 5661, 1137-1138
20 February 2004
Norman E. Borlaug
Texas A&M University,
College Station, TX 77843,
1.3 CGIAR REFORMS TO FEED THE POOR
The 16 centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) are international veterans in crop research facing a shake-up in funding and research priorities. Now the centres want to pool resources and expertise to boost small farmers' production round the world.
In this article, Dennis Normile relates how members of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) near Mexico City initiated the idea. The two centres propose a merger, leading to new genomics research labs in India and China, while the others are seeking likely areas ofcollaboration.
The venture faces problems: some national agricultural research in the developing world is outstripping CGIAR's, for instance. But the vital test is donor response, and coupling genomics research with the centres' existing germplasm banks to forge new crop traits could prove attractive.
27 February 2004
1.4 GLOBAL FUNDING TO BOOST RESEARCH IN POOR COUNTRIES
The InterAcademy Council, a coalition of 90 scientific academies worldwide, submitted to Kofi Annan, secretary-general, United Nations (UN), a report entitled "Inventing a Better Future: A Strategy for Building Worldwide Capacities in Science and technology," which calls for the establishment of two funds to boost research efforts in poor countries. Annan, however, stated that his top priority, if the said research funding will materialize, is the application of science and technology in agriculture.
The report recommends that a Global Institutional Fund be established to support the research efforts of 20 national or regional centers over a span of five to ten years. These centers will be selected based on the quality of their science, independence, management caliber, and relevance of their work to the needs of their respective regions. A second Global Program Fund would operate a competitive grant system, with international referees assessing proposed joint projects between laboratories in rich and poor countries.
Further, governments, foundations and existing international organizations are proposed to support these said funds - although the scale of their support is not yet specified.
The full story is available at http://rd.bcentral.com/?ID=1501646&s=48514244.
1.5 PAKISTAN: FOCUS ON FARMERS' BATTLE WITH COTTON LEAF CURL VIRUS
A silent battle being waged on agricultural lands in southern Punjab, famous for their high-quality cotton output, has just been forced into a higher gear after the re-emergence of a deadly virus that wrought havoc with cotton crops in the early nineties. Eastern Punjab produces about 80 percent of the crop for Pakistan and the virus could devastate the local economy.
The Cotton Leaf Curl Virus (CLCV) first appeared in cotton fields in the eastern part of Punjab province in the 1992-93 season after the previous season had seen yields reach record highs with 12.8 million bales. Researchers and scientists managed to defeat the virus by the mid-90s.
However, the reprieve was short-lived. In the summer of 2003-04, farmers reported the re-emergence of the leaf curl virus. Soon afterwards, laboratory tests revealed that it was a newer, more deadly strain of the virus.
After failing in previous attempts to create a breed of cotton resistant to the leaf curl virus, scientists were now toying with the possibility of cross-breeding the conventionally grown crop with a breed that has grown wild for centuries, Mahmood said.
"We are trying to test wild varieties of cotton to see if they are resistant. There is no need to sow it. It just grows by itself. We're taking DNA from the wild variety and trying to cross it with conventionally grown cotton. But it's a difficult process - both have different chromosome numbers so when we try and cross them, the results differ each time", he explained.
Agricultural scientists across the country were collaborating as they tested out new, sometimes genetically modified varieties of cotton against the virus, he explained. "The problem is that this virus mutates every time we try out a new kind of cotton breed. That means we have to keep on trying again and again until we manage to find a variety that can withstand the virus' infiltration," Shabab-ud-Din maintained.
For Pakistan's cotton crop, which is grown on 12-14 million acres with an average production of about 210 kg/ha and 500 kg/ha of oil seed, the leaf curl virus, therefore, represents a serious threat to its growth in the world's fourth-largest producer.
"We can only minimise the effects of the leaf curl virus at present. We can't hope to defeat it right now, so we're just looking at ways to minimise the damage it causes. Hopefully, we should be able to come up with a long-term solution thereafter," he stressed.
February 2, 2004
Source: IRIN News.org
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
2 Feb 2004
1.6 HAVE SEED INDUSTRY CHANGES AFFECTED RESARCH EFFORT?
Early in the 20th century, agricultural productivity growth came primarily from innovations in mechanical inputs that replaced farm labor. Starting in the 1930s, increases in land productivity were driven largely by high-yielding crop varieties in concert with fertilizers and chemical pesticides. Average U.S. corn yields rose sevenfold from 20 bushels per acre in 1930 to 140 bushels by the mid-1990s, while wheat, soybean, and cotton yields increased 2-4 times. This unprecedented growth in U.S. agricultural productivity owes much to a series of biological innovations embodied in major crop seeds_in particular corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat. Such innovations resulted from investments in crop variety research and development (R&D), including plant breeding. However, the seed sector has changed substantially in recent years, raising questions about whether the intensity of research effort on improved seeds and the contribution to productivity growth are being sustained.
Crop variety R&D over the past 30 years has moved from being predominantly public to predominantly private. Private sector firms have evolved from small operations to large integrated enterprises capable of variety development and seed production, conditioning, and marketing. Greater protection of intellectual property rights for crop-seed innovations through patents and certificates has spurred private investment in general and may increasingly stimulate private R&D, even on such crops as soybeans where farmers have often saved part of the current crop for use as seed the following year. Still, ERS analysis shows that consolidation in the private seed industry over the past decade may have dampened the intensity of private research undertaken on crop biotechnology relative to what would have occurred without consolidation, at least for corn, cotton, and soybeans.
Plant breeding, including genetic engineering and other biotechnology, constitutes the foundation of the modern seed industry. By using science to create a unique and marketable product, plant breeders develop varieties embodying such improvements as higher crop yields, better crop quality, greater resistance to disease and pests, or traits aligned with regional agroclimatic conditions. Because of high costs, large-scale research and development (R&D) is limited to a few large companies, Federal agencies, and land-grant colleges and universities. High R&D costs require that varieties developed by the private sector be commercially viable, highly competitive, and well protected by intellectual property rights. Given the size of their R&D investments, plant breeders seek a central role in managing seed production, distribution, and marketing. The result has been extensive vertical integration of the industry.
In addition to large integrated seed firms, the seed industry includes hundreds of companies operating under licenses and marketing agreements with the seed developers. Many firms are also involved in the production and distribution of public seed varieties. The absence of patents or plant variety protection (PVP) certificates on some seed varieties developed in the public domain allows individuals or firms to freely reproduce the seed.
Behind the growth in private R&D on crop varieties has been the legal protection of intellectual property rights in seed innovations. Two principal forms of legal protection are plant variety protection (PVP) certificates issued by the Plant Variety Protection Office of USDA and patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Both grant private crop breeders exclusive rights to multiply and market their newly developed varieties. However, patents provide more control since PVP certificates have a research exemption allowing others to borrow the new variety for research purposes.
Ag biotech patents, mostly dealing with some aspect of plant breeding, have outpaced the general upward trend in patenting throughout the U.S. economy. During the 1996-2000 period, 75 percent of over 4,200 new ag biotech patents went to private industry.
ERS analysis indicates that patent protection in particular increased private research during the 1990s on soybeans. However, patent protection seems to have been used less for hybrid corn and cotton, likely because firms perceive less need to protect their investments in these crops. Hybrid corn produces high yields with the first crop, but yields on homegrown seed decline quickly, discouraging use of crop output for seed. In the case of cotton, seeds are removed from the cotton lint at a mill and are not generally returned to farmers.
The number of PVP certificates issued has grown rapidly since the 1970 Plant Variety Protection Act, suggesting that certification has a positive effect on private sector crop variety R&D. Many of the certificates have been for genetically engineered (GE) varieties.
By the end of 2002, USDA had issued 2,584 PVP certificates (excluding certificates of foreign origin) for the four major field crops: 1,078 for soybeans, 648 for corn, 568 for wheat, and 290 for cotton. The private sector holds nearly all of the certificates for corn, 84-87 percent of those for cotton and soybeans, and two-thirds of those for wheat. In addition to new varieties protected by certificates, USDA and some land-grant universities have developed and released varieties that are freely available.
In the past two decades, U.S. companies embraced agricultural biotechnology research, as evidenced by the jump in USDA-approved applications for field testing of genetically engineered (GE) varieties. The number of applications received by USDA_s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for GE varieties increased from 9 in 1987 to a high of 1,206 in 1998. By mid-2001, over 7,600 applications had been received and 6,700 (88 percent) had been approved.
As of mid-2001, USDA had received 79 petitions for permission to produce and sell GE varieties and granted 53 (18 for corn, 12 for tomato, 5 for soybean, 5 for cotton, and 13 for other crops). Thirty-six percent of the released varieties have herbicide-tolerance traits, 20 percent have insect-resistance traits, and 19 percent have product-quality traits.
Adoption of GE varieties in the U.S. has occurred rapidly despite consumer resistance in some other countries. Farmers planted herbicide tolerant
(HT) soybeans on 75 percent of U.S. soybean acres in 2002, up from 17 percent in 1997. HT cotton, at 58 percent of planted acres in 2002, was up from 10 percent in 1997. Use of insect resistant Bt cotton expanded from 15 percent of cotton acreage in 1996 to 35 percent in 2002. In contrast, adoption of GE corn varieties has been much slower: farmers planted HT corn on only about 10 percent of corn acreage in 2002 and Bt corn on 24 percent.
The U.S. commercial seed market totaled $5.7 billion in 1997, making it the world_s largest, followed by China_s ($3 billion) and Japan_s ($2.5 billion). Moreover, the U.S. seed market is growing, mainly from farmers increasing purchases of seed from seed firms and reducing the planting of homegrown seed.
The share of U.S. seed sales controlled by the four largest firms providing seed of each crop reached 92 percent for cotton, 69 percent for corn, and 47 percent for soybeans in 1997. One contrast to this general trend was wheat, with more than 70 percent of the planted wheat in 1997 coming from varieties developed in the public sector. However, herbicide-tolerant varieties of wheat developed by the private sector are on the horizon, so the private proportion could increase.
An indicator of research output (as opposed to expenditures, which is an input measure) is the number of applications to USDA for field testing of GE crop varieties. All newly developed GE crop varieties have to go through USDA-authorized field trials and receive USDA permission before being produced and sold. The annual number of field-trial applications for GE crops increased from 9 in 1987 to 1,206 in 1998. Dividing the annual number of field-trial applications from private firms by private industry sales of seed for each major crop provides a measure of research intensity (applications per million dollars of sales) comparable across crops.
Calculations for corn, soybeans, and cotton indicate that as the seed industry became more concentrated during the late 1990s, private research intensity dropped or slowed. Was there a connection between the concentrating industry and the slowing intensity? Further ERS analysis, using econometric methods, found a simultaneous self-reinforcing relationship. Those companies that survived seed industry consolidation appear to be sponsoring less research relative to the size of their individual markets than when more companies were involved. This finding runs counter to the hypothesis that dominant firms in consolidatedindustries conduct more new product research than they otherwise would in order to expand the size of their markets (because of less risk of being outcompeted during the long time periods required to bring new products to market). Also, fewer companies developing crops and marketing seeds may translate into fewer varieties offered. On the other hand, some multinational firms have recently spun off their agricultural divisions, in effect creating smaller new firms doing agricultural research. This reduction in concentration, after a time lag, could offset some of the prior dampening of research intensity.
Total spending on crop variety R&D will continue to increase and to contribute to agricultural productivity growth, but possibly dampened relative to what might otherwise exist in the absence of seed industry consolidation. One factor that could offset the dampening is additional public investment in crop variety R&D. ERS analysis indicates that public research on corn, soybeans, and cotton has a stimulative effect on private biotech research. Thus, increasing public research on these crops would not only sustain the oft-documented high rates of return to public research, but could also promote additional private research.
This article is drawn from:
The Seed Industry in U.S. Agriculture, by Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo, with contributions from Jonathan Keller, David Spielman, Mohinder Gill, John King, and Paul Heisey, AIB-786, USDA/ERS, January 2004.
The Impact of Seed Industry Concentration on Innovation: A Study of U.S. Biotech Market Leaders,_by David E. Schimmelpfennig, Carl E. Pray, and Margaret F. Brennan, in Agricultural Economics [in press].
Agricultural Research and Productivity Briefing Room
by Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo and David Schimmelpfennig
USDA Amber Waves
(Condensed by the editor)
3 Feb 2004
1.7 POOLING BREEDING RESOURCES TO DEVELOP A BETTER BARLEY IN AUSTRALIA
Western and South Australia will link their barley breeding resources to quicken the development of superior varieties.
The Western Australia Department of Agriculture, University of Adelaide, South Australia Research and Development Institute and the Grains Research and Development Corporation have agreed to consolidate behind one breeding entity.
Consultation has begun with farming groups, grain handlers and marketers to direct the organisation's focus. Other states have been encouraged to contribute to the process. Barley breeding is especially challenging because besides agronomic, disease and pest considerations, new varieties must satisfy 35 other quality traits to qualify for malting grade.
22 January 2004
1.8 NEW GENETIC RESEARCH TO HELP FIGHT LEAF RUST OF WHEAT
Leaf rust caused by Puccinia triticina is one of the most important and widespread diseases of wheat. Growing resistant varieties is the most cost-effective means of managing leaf rust and has no negative impact on the environment. Breeders have developed resistant wheat varieties by incorporating genes for resistance, but the pathogen population has the ability to overcome all of the resistance genes that have been used. Combining more than one resistance gene in varieties is more effective than using the genes singly.
The objective of this research was to determine which genes for leaf rust resistance are in 116 contemporary soft red winter wheat varieties and breeding lines. Fourteen resistance genes and 44 different combinations of these genes were identified among the 116 lines. Genes Lr3, 10, and 11 were the most frequent and present in 23.3, 25.8, and 34.5% of the lines, respectively. Only four lines had a combination of three genes (Lr9, 24, and 26) that conferred resistance to all isolates of the pathogen used in the study.
Knowing which genes are in each of the lines provides an understanding of the genetic basis for leaf rust resistance in soft red winter wheat and will allow breeders to develop new varieties with more effective combinations of resistance genes.
The American Phytopathological Society
Seedling Resistance Genes to Leaf Rust in Soft Red Winter Wheat Yeshi A. Wamishe and Eugene A. Milus, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville 72701. Plant Dis. D-2003-1119-03R, 2004 (online).
1.9 DISCOVERY OF DISEASE-RESISTANCE GENES TO HELP BEAN FARMERS IN CENTRAL MEXICO
Anthracnose of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) caused by Colletotrichum lindemuthianum is widespread throughout the world and can cause partial or total loss of susceptible crops. The objectives of this research were to determine the pathotypes of isolates of C. lindemuthianum obtained from the central region of Mexico, to establish the genetic relationships between isolates from this region and isolates from other regions of Mexico, and to evaluate the resistance present in the National Research Institute for Forestry, Agriculture, and Animal Husbandry (INIFAP) elite collection of germ plasm of P. vulgaris to five different pathotypes of C. lindemuthianum found in Mexico. The pathotypes of 17 isolates of C. lindemuthianum from the central region of Mexico were determined. Eight pathotypes were identified, including pathotype 292, which is reported for the first time in Mexico. The lack of isolates infecting P. vulgaris cultivar TU carrying the Co-5 resistance gene suggests that this cultivar is a useful source of resistance.
Analysis of five different pathotypes of C. lindemuthianum on 21 elite genotypes of P. vulgaris identified four genotypes from different races of P. vulgaris that were resistant to all five pathotypes. This information will allow breeders and farmers to select the resistant genotypes most suited to their needs.
The American Phytopathological Society
Plant Dis. D-2003-1124-02R, 2004 (online).
1.10 MULTINATIONAL BRASSICA GENOME PROJECT
With the exponential growth of both computational power and genomics information combined with the ability to exchange information country to country in a matter of seconds, research projects are taking on an international approach as with the Multinational Brassica Genome Project (MBGP).
At the recent Plant and Animal Genome XII (PAG XII) Conference in San Diego, Dr. Graham King, Research Leader at the Horticulture Research International, UK, introduced this new project. Initially in 2002, a website _www.brassica.info - was established to gather and exchange information as it pertains to Brassica genomics and genetics. From there, an International Steering Committee for the MBGP was established.
Committee members include scientists from nine different countries: Australia, Canada, China, France, Poland, Germany, South Korea, United Kingdom and the United States.
"Genetic information from fixed populations is valuable but very expensive to generate and maintain. By having a single port to accumulate and update data over time provides a valuable avenue to capture the complexity of comparative genomics in the Brassica species," said Dr. King. "Its value is even more enhanced by its international usage"._
The steering committee, representing the international Brassica research community, has taken on the role of promoting international cooperation.
They met for the first time last year at the PAG XI conference to outline their specific goals. At this years PAG XII conference, this committee met again on an expanded level to review their achievements and plan for their future direction. With an ultimate goal to promote international cooperation, the website provides an excellent portal to start this collaboration. The website details and links to a wide range of currently available experimental resources including plant and genomic resources, clone libraries and genetic markers, and an ever accumulating resource of background information. Perhaps most importantly, a brassica.info e-mail list has been established to encourage communication and discussion among the international Brassica research community.
The project will sequence the 500 Mb genome of Brassica rapa subspecies pekinensis or chinese cabbage by its common name. Brassica genomes demonstrate extensive collinearity, although not perfect, at both thechromosome and gene-to-gene level. Therefore, the complete genome sequence of one Brassica species is required. This sequence can then be used to compare with partial physical maps of other species, as well as for the preparation of microarrays to analyze the transcriptome or design specific markers for marker selected breeding programs.
Sequences from the ends of bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones provide highly specific markers. They will be used, at least initially, to produce a fully oriented, ordered sequence. This Brassica _A_genome sequence can then be used in a comparative physical map to identify related genome sequences of other Brassica species such as B. napus and B. oleracea and finally all three can be compared to Arabidopsis thaliana, a relative of the Brassicas. The initial stages of this work has already begun in the lab of Ian Bancroft, John Innes Centre, UK.
Here at the Saskatoon Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Derek Lydiate_s lab is working on sequencing the Brassica napus genome to elucidate the molecular and genetic structure and function. Homologous regions of the B. napus genome are being compared to the Arabidopsis genome through the Brassica/Arabidopsis Comparative Genome Browser (BioViz). Currently there are more that 70,000 3_and 5_Brassica napus EST (expressed sequence tags) sequences available in the browser, but future plans are to include Microarray and SAGE expression data.
The success of the Multinational Brassica Genome Project depends on the level of support and contributions from the international Brassica research community. For more information, I encourage you to check the website at: www.brassica.info
Multinational Brassica Genomics Project website: www.brassica.info Brassica/Arabidopsis Genomics Initiative, Christopher Lewis, Canola Genomics Newsletter, Issue 2, January 2004 AgBiotech Bulletin - Volume 12, Issue 2
From AgBiotech Bulletin - Volume 12, Issue 2 (February 2004) Published by Ag-West Biotech Inc.
3 Feb 2004
1.11 AFRICAN FARMERS INCREASE RICE HARVESTS DUE TO "NERICA"
Farmers in nearly a dozen countries in West and Central Africa are currently experiencing bountiful rice harvests. They are growing enough rice to feed their families, and have surpluses to sell in the markets. All these benefits are now taking place due to the "Nerica" - a new rice variety that is a cross between an ancient, hardy African rice variety, and a high-yielding Asian variety.
The Nerica, which was developed originally by the scientists of the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA), combines the features of both of its parent plants. Developed thru tissue culture technology, the Nerica is resistant to drought and pest, have higher yields even with little irrigation or fertilizer, and has more protein as compared to the other rice varieties.
In an interview with Africa Recovery, the WARDA Director-General Kanayo Nwanze said that the adoption of the Nerica would mean "more food on each household's table and more money in the (African) farmers' pockets." Nwanze added that this would also help women farmers, whose total labor input in rice production (about 40% to 60%) is spent in weeding. Due to the Nerica's ability to reduce weed growth, women now spend less time weeding.
6 February 2004
1.12 SCIENTISTS DEVELOP PLANT THAT PRODUCES POTENTIAL ANTI-CARCINOGEN
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University researcher has successfully engineered plants that may not only lead to the production of anti-carcinogenic nutritional supplements, but also may be used to remove excess selenium from agricultural fields.
By introducing a gene that makes plants tolerate selenium, David Salt, professor of plant molecular physiology, has developed plants capable of building up in their tissues unusually high levels of a selenium compound. His interest in selenium stems in part from recent research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health showing that selenium can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer by 60 percent. "We now know how to genetically modify plants so they will make this anti-carcinogenic selenium compound," Salt said. "This research gives us the genetic means to manipulate the amount of this material that's produced in any plant."
By inserting the gene responsible for this conversion into Arabidopsis thaliana, a model lab plant that does not tolerate selenium, Salt and his colleagues produced plants that not only thrive in a selenium-enriched environment but also amass high levels of the selenium-containing MSC in their tissues.
However, he said the effectiveness of MSC in humans has not yet been tested, because to date there hasn't been a good commercial source of it that could be used in human trials.
"We would be very interested in knowing the efficacy of MSC in humans, clearly. The problem has been there's no material to run such an experiment, and that will be an important piece of this story down the road."
Writer: Jennifer Cutraro, (765) 496-2050, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: David Salt, (765) 496-2114, email@example.com
3 Feb 2004
1.13 GLOBAL CROP DIVERSITY TRUST
The Global Crop Diversity Trust, an international fund charged with securing long-term funding for the support of genebanks and crop diversity collections around the world, has obtained the commitments of Dupont and Syngenta for its program. The two companies pledged $1 M each.
Formed in 2002 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the 16 Future Harvest Centers of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research, the Trust has been charged with raising a $260 million endowment to maintain the world's most critical germplasm for agricultural and industrial crops as well as support struggling collections especially those in developing countries.
The crop diversity collections, holding millions of plant samples housed in gene banks, provide the raw material necessary for plant breeders to develop reliable, hardier, more productive and nutritious food crops for farmers.
More information on the Trust is available at http://startwithaseed.org.
1.14 SUGARBEET DOUBLE HAPLOID PRODUCTION USING HAPLOID MICROSHOOTS IN VITRO
Tissue Culture Lab, Sugar Beet Seed Institute, Karaj-Iran
Double haploid plants are produced by diploidisation of plants obtained from anther or ovule culture in vitro. These are homozygous lines and excellent breeding material produced only in one generation. Colchicine treatment is an essential and critical step of the double haploid production program. This substance is a carcinogenic and expensive alkaloid extracted from Colchicum automnale, used for its antimitotic effect . In vitro colchicine treatment of haploid plants is being used in order to reduce the concentration of toxic substance, its handling risks and the costs of the program..
A study conducted on doubling haploid sugarbeet tissues in vitro showed that reduced concentrations of colchicine are effective in diploidisation of haploid microshoots at multiplication phase. Treatment dose of 0.1% and for 24 hours of culture resulted in diploidisation of sugarbeet microshoots after their transfer onto hormone free medium.
Contributed by Nasrin Yavari
March 6 2004
1.15 GENOME OF FIRST FUNGAL PATHOGEN UNVEILED
Geneticists at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy (IGSP) and the University of Basel have unveiled the complete genome sequence of the pathogenic plant fungus Ashbya gossypii, which infects agricultural crops including cotton and citrus fruits in the tropics. The fungus has the smallest genome yet characterized among free-living eukaryotes. Eukaryotes are the single-celled and multicellular organisms that include fungi, plants and animals.
The team -- led by Fred Dietrich, Ph.D., of the IGSP's Center for Genome Technology, and Peter Phillipsen, Ph.D., of the University of Basel -- reported its findings online in the March 4, 2004, Science Express, the online version of the journal Science. The work was completed with the funding and collaboration of Novartis (now Syngenta) in Research Triangle Park, N.C. The researchers have no financial ties to Novartis or Syngenta.
The sequencing of the fungal genome has already shed light on the evolution of Saccharomyces cerevisiae -- the single-celled baker's yeast that scientists rely on for the study of many basic questions in cell biology. Furthermore, understanding the infectious microbe's genetic instructions might allow scientists to tease out the fundamental features responsible for some fungi's ability to cause disease, the researchers said.
4 March 2004
1.16 DNA-BASED METHODS IN SORGHUM DIVERSITY STUDIES AND IMPROVEMENT
Diversity studies have been carried out in the Ethiopia/Eritrea area, which, like most areas, is threatened by loss of landraces due to introduction of improved varieties from elsewhere. Evaluating germplasm diversity can help to identify landraces with the greatest novelty and thus are most suitable for rescue or incorporation into crop improvementprograms. Genetic distance estimates determined by molecular markers help identify suitable germplasm for incorporation into plant breeding stocks. The greatest potential for markers perhaps is their potential to accelerate the rate of gain from selection for desirable genotypes and in the manipulation of quantitative trait loci (QTLs). Researchers at Purdue conducted experiments on QTL analysis of drought tolerance in sorghum and identified regions of the sorghum genome that condition the expression of drought.
A set of 15 SSRs has been developed for sorghum. Compared to other markers, SSRs exhibit uniform genome coverage, high levels of polymorphism and co-dominance. They are detected by specific PCR-based assays and can be used for pedigree analysis because they represent single loci and can uniquely define genotypes. Agrama and Tuinstra at Kansas State University recently compared SSRs with RAPDs. Their results indicated that SSRs were highly polymorphic compared to RAPDs (which had nearly 40% monomorphic fragments). Earlier, Ghebru et al. also reported genetic diversity of Eritrean sorghum landraces using SSRs.
Together, marker assisted selection and genetic transformation will help improvement of sorghum both as a food crop and as an industrial crop. An important development has been the Sorghum Genomics Project, Texas A & M University http://sorghumgenome.tamu.edu). The project was initiated out of a realization that sorghum could be a key species for comparative analysis of grass genomes, as well as a source of beneficial genes for agriculture. A comparison of rice, a C3 plant that is well adapted to wet environments, and sorghum, a C4 plant adapted to arid environments, may elucidate the combination of genetic traits required for adaptation to each of these extremes of agriculture.
Genetic mapping studies have revealed that genes for various traits are found on the same place on the chromosomes of similar organisms. For example, the genes for traits such as digestibility, dwarfism, and waxy skin (which protects a plant during times of drought) are found in the same approximate location on cereal grains such as wheat, maize, sorghum, and rice. Maize, however, has about three times as much genetic material as sorghum. Therefore, it should be easier to locate a desired trait in sorghum and then find the gene in maize, than it is to search through maize's entire genetic library. Information derived from such an initiative will be of relevance both to crop improvement by transgenesis and plant biology in general.
Plant Biotechnology Center
Ohio State University
(Condensed by the editor)
ISB News Report
1.17 CORNELL PLANT BREEDERS SLICE THROUGH ONION'S SEXUAL BARRIER TO BREED DISEASE RESISTANCE INTO CROP
For onion growers battling botrytis leaf blight, a crop-decimating disease, relief is on the way. Cornell University plant scientists have breached the plant's tough sexual barrier to cross two species and develop a first draft of a botrytis-resistant onion. The way is now paved for scientists to bring the onion to commercial quality and, perhaps, make it resistant to other diseases as well.
Martha Mutschler, Cornell professor of plant breeding, will unveil her research team's results Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. at the 2004 Empire State Fruit and Vegetable Expo in the Riverside Convention Center's Bausch Room, Rochester, N.Y. Her research collaborators were Jim Lorbeer, Cornell professor of plant pathology; research associate Edward Cobb; and graduate student Pablo A. Goldschmied.
Mutschler's team obtained the resistance from A. roylei, a wild plant species related to the onion and held at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's germ plasm cold-storage facility at Fort Collins, Colorado. She describes this rock-garden plant as a "treasure trove of resistances." The major obstacle was breaking down the onion's sexual barriers to cross the two species. Strong sexual barriers reduced the onion plant's fertility and seed quantity. "Without seeds, a breeding program is stuck," she says.
In 2001 Mutschler and her colleagues concentrated on obtaining seed from
botrytis- resistant back-cross plants, their progeny and other resistant plants, but sexual barriers limited seed production from zero to 20 seeds per plant. However, three back-crossed plants produced more than 100 seeds. "This segregation for superior seed production shows that the sexual barriers are under genetic control and that fecundity is probably a recessive trait derived from the onion parent," she says.
By the summer of 2002, more than half of the back-crossed plants yielded resistance, and more than 94 percent produced onion like bulbs. Last spring a total of 112 resistant onion plants sprouted. Mutschler says bulbs were retested for botrytis resistance, evaluated for pollen production and used in seed production. About 20 of the botrytis-resistant, back-crossed plants had adequate pollen fertility and produced good seed levels.
"To put these results in perspective, we produced considerably more seed from botrytis- resistant plants in one year than we had produced in all prior years on the project combined," says Mutschler. "This is evidence that the inter-specific barriers between onions and A. roylei have been fully overcome in some of our selections and that completion of the transfer of the dominant botrytis resistance to the onion should proceed far more readily."
The seed will be grown in 2004 and screened for resistance. Mutschler says that with greater availability of seed, greater selection for plant type also should be possible, accelerating completion of the transfer. Over the next growing season, she hopes to improve the onion's firmness, size and number of centers. Botrytis-resistant onions could be ready within a few years.
The research was funded by the New York State Onion Growers Association's check-off program, administered through the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Ithaca, New York
February 9, 2004
1.18 NEW INSIGHTS ON PAPAYA EVOLUTION
Scientists led by a team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) report the first direct evidence that papaya sex chromosomes are evolving from other chromosomes. This discovery may help scientists understand inheritance or traits responsible for the size, shape, and quality of the fruit. Papaya trees inherit a specific combination of genes on their sex chromosomes that produce fruit with the desired shape that consumers refer.
Genetic material from more than 2,000 fresh papayas were analyzed. Scientists found a chromosome with a small region of genes for male traits. This comprises only about 10% of the chromosome's length which actually determines sex in papaya.
The full article is available in the journal Nature but a short article from ARS can be viewed at http://www.ars.usda.gov/news.
1.19 NEW GERMPLASM PROMISES HEALTHIER SOYBEAN OILS
USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists have developed a new germplasm that could pave the way in producing oils that have heart healthy levels of monounsaturated fats and could shortly become a strong contender of olive oil. The new germplasm, called N98-4445A, was developed through traditional breeding methods by scientists from the ARS Soybean and Nitrogen Fixation Research Laboratory in Raleigh, North Carolina. Led by agronomist Joseph W. Burton, the research team considers the new germplasm as an invaluable genetic resource for producing mid-oleic soybean varieties suitable for different growing regions. Oil from N98-4445A contains augmented levels of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat stable enough for use in salad dressings or frying oils without undergoing hydrogenation.
Increased oleic acid levels also translate to a decrease in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). PUFAs are liquid fats (e.g. linolenic and linoleic acids) that are known to produce undesirable odors and break down when oxidized during aging or frying. Moreover, the new line of oils has only 3 percent PUFA as compared to commercial soy oils that contain 7 percent linolenic acid. These new oils also fall below a critical cut-off point under which no hydrogenation is necessary.
By 2006, U.S. Food and Drug Administration would require food manufacturers to state the amount of trans fatty acids in processed foods. The processed-food industry uses tons of vegetable oils annually and about half of all vegetable oils produced are from soybeans. The full story is available at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/feb04/soy0204.htm
Source: CropBiotech Update
27 February 2004
1.20 RACING TO CONSTRUCT THE PERFECT RICE PLANT
Rice, a crop that feeds half the world's people and supplies income for a billion more, will have to keep pace with surging demand using far fewer resources, a goal for which many scientists believe biotechnology will be indispensable. Even as public investments into the staple crop fall off, the cultural and economic importance of rice is gaining prominence. In its first-ever endorsement of a commodity, the United Nations declared 2004 _The Year of Rice_, in hopes of promoting research and addressing the problem of dwindling production growth.
Until 1960, the rate of production increase was four percent per year; today, it is stagnating at one percent, adds the United Nations.
With this in mind, scientists from around the world gathered in Rome earlier this month for a U.N.-sponsored rice conference to consider how to meet an estimated 40 percent jump in demand for the crop by 2025 _with less land, less water, less labour and fewer chemicals.
If they fail, desperate farmers will be forced to expand into fragile areas such as hillsides and wetlands, with dire consequences for wildlife and watersheds.
Many hopes are pinned on exploiting technological advancements like the decoding of the rice genome, announced simultaneously in January 2002 by Swiss agricultural giant Syngenta and a team of Chinese scientists from the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), working independently of each other.
Having revealed the DNA sequence of every rice gene, scientists are now focusing on _marking_the traits that each gene expresses in the plant, such as whether the grain's consistency is sticky or smooth.
_The most direct use of the sequence information for improvement of rice and other cereals is the genetic tagging of important phenotypes by DNA markers,_said Dr. Takuji Sasaki of the Japanese National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences.
_The next idea is to identify genes and their characteristics for physical roles,_he told IPS.
_These results must be transferred to the actual improvement of main staples,_Sasaki explained. _It will take time because the growth of plants takes time, (as does) investigating the target species._
While many of the benefits lie years away, progress is already being made. In India, scientists have engineered a strain of samba masuri rice able to withstand bacterial leaf blight, which destroys about 15 percent of the local crop every year.
Using DNA markers greatly accelerated the process of developing the pest-resistant rice to less than three years, compared to conventional breeding techniques that can take up to six years.
The new strain will be tested in large-scale field trials beginning with the next growing season.
Other recent advances include rice varieties enriched with vitamins and minerals, others that grow with less water or in salty soil -- key in light of Asia's looming water crisis -- and high-yield hybrids.
A key player in much of this research is the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which presides over a gene bank of more than 100,000 rice varieties that it distributes free to researchers with the understanding that the resulting products will not be patented for profit.
_At IRRI, we use (the genome) to pinpoint candidate genes for conferring disease resistance, tolerance for submergence and phosphorus deficiency and heightened micro-nutrient content,_Hei Leung, who leads the Institute's functional genomics activities, told IPS.
_As our biological understanding of such complex traits as drought-tolerance improves, the sequence information will facilitate identifying the genes involved._
But the advent of new strains of ''biotech'' rice will inevitably bring controversy in the context of the highly polarised debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Golden Rice, a variety enriched with vitamin A to help stave off blindness in poor countries, was hailed as a miracle food when it was first announced in 1999. But its safety and nutritional potency were quickly challenged by prominent environmental groups.
Once a supporter of Golden Rice, IRRI now says it will start field trials this year to test numerous uncertainties it has about the crop, such as yields, resistance to various pests and palatability, but it would be at least four to six years before the rice was market-ready.
_Use of the products of transformation breeding requires acceptance of GMOs in the food chain,_said N.M. Upadhyaya, principal research scientist of the Rice Functional Genomics Group of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia.
_Unless this occurs, full benefits of transformation breeding will not flow to the common farmer nor reduce hunger._
_Alternatively, the knowledge can be effectively used in speeding up classical breeding,_he added.
_Quite often a subtle variation in the gene sequences can make a big difference in its effectiveness. Once we identify such variations and their effects on plant growth and productivity, they can be used as 'molecular markers' in classical breeding_, said Upadhyaya.
Prominent environmental group Greenpeace International disagrees that GMOs are necessary in the food chain but does not reject genetic research to improve crop yield.
_We are not opposed to biotechnology research and are certainly not opposed to scientific advances such as molecular-assisted selection/breeding, which use knowledge of plant genomes for plant breeding, without resorting to GE (genetic engineering) techniques,_said Steve Sawyer, head of the group's political and business unit, in a Feb.
23 article in 'The Age' newspaper.
The data derived from rice research is a useful model for an array of other economically important grains, such as corn, wheat, sorghum and barley, because nearly all the genes present in these species are likely to have homologues, or similarities, in rice.
The rice genome is also shorter and thus easier to sequence -- six times smaller than that of corn and 37 times smaller than that of wheat.
But with a recent surge in patents on gene products associated with rice, some scientists are wary that future research could end up dominated by a handful of private agri-business concerns.
_It is important to make these tools and resources publicly available,_Upadhyaya stressed.
_I sincerely hope that multinational companies will pour funds into rice research without excessive strings attached. A pledge from everyone concerned to make rice an 'IP (intellectual property)-free zone' will definitely accelerate progress and boost yields for small farmers without production cost blowouts._
March 1, 2004
By Katherine Stapp
IPS-Inter Press Service via Checkbiotech.org
1.21 EMBRAPA SCIENTISTS DEVELOP NEW GM SOYBEAN
Brazil's crop research agency, Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa), has developed a new genetically modified soybean, which if approved for sale could end Monsanto's monopoly in the country, according to scientists.
The new GMO soybean works in a similar way to Roundup Ready (RR) Soybeans, whose technology was patented by Monsanto Co. and is the only GMO soybean used in Brazil.
"This could help improve public opinion about transgenic soy in Brazil because many people say that we should not legalize GMO soy because Monsanto would have a monopoly," said Joao Veloso Silva, assistant head of research at Embrapa.
Brazil banned GMO food and crops until early 2003 when the government granted amnesty to producers illegally planting GMO soy acquired on a widespread black market.
Illegal GMO soy has been reproduced on the local market clandestinely but was originally smuggled into Brazil from Argentina and Paraguay where RR soy is widely planted.
Embrapa's new GMO soy is resistant to Imidazolinone-based herbicides, which would kill other soybeans that have not had a certain enzyme altered genetically. Monsanto's RR soy has been genetically altered in a similar way to resist herbicides of the Glyphosate family.
"The new (GMO) soy has been adapted to various types of Brazilian soy and has performed very well in early tests," Carlos Arias, genetic researcher at Embrapa, said on the sidelines of the World Soybean Research Conference. "This will give the market options but the price of Imidazolinone is still costly, at least twice as expensive as Glyphosate."
Silva said Imidazolinone herbicides had already been approved for commercial use in Brazil but the new GMO soy was still in the lengthy approval phase for public use. "The research demands are strict and there is no date projected for approval for commercial use yet," said Silva.
3 March 2004
1.22 CHINA URGED TO STEP UP GM EFFORTS
The Chinese government is coming under pressure to boost its efforts to allow the commercial use of food crops that have been genetically modified to withstand insects, diseases and herbicides. The main source of the pressure is a group of senior Chinese biotech scientists who have recently released a report urging the government to allow such planting to take place as soon as possible. Chinese researchers have developed several GM rice varieties, with field trials showing boosted yields and less chemical use. The scientists say that if GM rice was widely used by farmers, it would have an even greater impact than GM cotton.
GM cotton has become the 'miracle crop' of China since its commercial growth was first permitted in 1996, and more than a half of China's cotton is now GM. One of the main reasons for this success, say its advocates, it that it has both helped farmers to cut their production costs by an average of almost 30 per cent, and reduce their exposure to chemicals.
Huang Jikun, an agricultural economist with the Agricultural Policy Research Centre, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and one of the group urging that GM efforts should be stepped up, says that the Chinese government should invest US$100 million a year from 2005 to support the commercial use of GM food, and carry out research into such use.
But the ministry of agriculture says the funding has not been finalised. China awarded its first formal safety certificates for imported GM crops _which allow foreign exporters to ship their GM products to China _last week. Huang says that this shows that the country's decision makers are becoming more receptive to GM technologies. Five strains developed by the US-based biotech giant Monsanto, including Roundup Ready soybeans and corn, YieldGard Corn Borer, Bollgard cotton and Roundup Ready cotton, received certificates.
Strict measures adopted in recent years to tighten control over imports of GM soybean have failed to stop the growth rate of GM imports. Last year, China imported more than 20 million tons of soybean worth US$4.8 billion, a rise of 100 per cent over the previous year. More than 70 per cent of China's imported soybeans are genetically modified.
The Chinese government is, however, increasing its efforts to develop the country's own GM rice varieties, says Huang Danian, a scientist with the Hangzhou-based China National Rice Research Institute.
His institute has launched several projects to test how well GM rice withstands diseases and herbicides, while another institute in China's Fujian Province is expanding the range of trial areas of insect-resistant GM rice. China's best strategy would be to develop its own low-cost GM technologies, especially rice, Huang Jikun says.
5 March 2004
1.23 UGANDA GIVES CAUTIOUS APPROVAL TO GM FOOD
The Ugandan government has announced that genetically modified GM) foods can be imported into the country _but that they should be used strictly for consumption", and not for cultivation. n a statement released last month, the government's National Agricultural esearch Organisation (NARO) says that the government "recognises the controversial nature of this subject and has therefore decided to proceed ith caution, building consensus at all stages."
The statement, signed by NARO director-general George Otim-Nape adds that "policy decisions should not adversely affect the development of science." _an Acknowledgement that some scientific questions about the potential environmental risks of GM crops remain open. This is the first time that the Ugandan government has declared an explicit policy on GM foods. However, the issue has been rising rapidly up the country's political agenda in recent months.
Last year, President Yoweri Museveni launched a biotechnology laboratory, which is now carrying out tissue culture of bananas, coffee and other crops (see Banana lab opens in Uganda). Scientists are preparing to carry out experiments involving genetic modification at the laboratory, emphasising that at present this is being done purely for research purposes.
At the same time, a draft law that would regulate both research into GM crops and the release of GM organisms has been submitted to the cabinet, prior to being voted on in parliament. According to Otim-Nape, the position of the Ugandan government is that GM foods can be considered safe for human consumption until proved otherwise. At the same time, he says, given that long-term risks cannot be entirely ruled out, Uganda will continue to "build capacity to understand, assess, evaluate and manage potential risks and benefits of biotechnology".
Many scientists in Uganda have welcomed the statement. Edward Kakonge, a professor of biochemistry at Makerere University, Kampala, for example, says that as long as GM foods are imported strictly for consumption and not for planting, then the risks will be minimal. But he urges caution on the cultivation of GM crops, citing concerns that genes may be transferred to other species. "The long-term outcomes are unpredictable," he says. "These things can start off well, then problems emerge later."
In contrast, the government's stance has been criticised by several non-governmental organisations, which argue against the import or local production of GM crops. John Bigyemano, a consumer activist, says that the government's position is unwise. "We will oppose the government's stand," he says. "Our position is that GM foods should be considered as dangerous until proved otherwise."
Bigyemano also complains that certain GM-based products, such as breakfast cereals and cooking oil processed from GM foodstuffs, are already being sold in Uganda without this being revealed on their label. This, he says, violates consumers' rights to choice, information and protection from harmful products.
2 March 2004
1.24 BIOSAFETY PROTOCOL NOW OPERATIONAL
The 87 member states of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety have adopted documentation requirements and other procedures for promoting the safety of international trade in living or genetically modified organisms (LMOS/GMOs). This was agreed in a meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The Convention on Biological Diversity said that under the new system, all bulk shipments of GM crops intended for food, feed or processing (such as soybeans and corn) are to be identified as may contain LMOs. The accompanying documentation should also indicate the contact details of the importer, exporter or other appropriate authority.
Hamdallah Zedah, the Protocols Executive Secretary, notes that with an operational system for identifying and labeling GMO exports, "countries can enjoy the benefits of biotechnology with greater confidence while avoiding the potential risks."
More detailed documentation was also agreed to be required for those GMOs (such as genetically engineered seeds and fish) that are meant to be introduced directly to the environment. These shipments should be clearly identified as "destined for contained use." The common, scientific and commercial names of the modified organism, the transformation event code or unique identifier code, any handling and storage requirements, contact details in the case of emergency, and how the GMO is to be used, should be specified in the accompanying documents.
The meeting also adopted procedures and mechanisms for promoting compliance with the Protocol and assisting countries in cases of non-compliance. It established a 15-member compliance committee that will submit regular reports and recommendations to the governing body of the Protocol. A negotiating group of legal and technical experts on liability and redress for damages resulting from transboundary movements of GMOs was also launched. Likewise, the Biosafety Clearing House (which enables governments to share information on GMOs, national legislation, and other critical matters) was made fully functional.
View online the Convention on Biological Diversitys news release at http://www.biodiv.org/doc/press/2004/pr-2004-02-27-bs-en.pdf. For more information, contact Michael Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org. Crop Biotech Update, isaaa.org
6 March 2004
1.25 PEW INITIATIVE RELEASES NEW ISSUE BRIEF ON WORLD HUNGER AND BIOTECHNOLOGY
The role of agricultural biotechnology in addressing world hunger has been n important part of the global debate about genetically modified (GM) crops since they were introduced in the mid-1990s. Some believe that biotech crops are an important part of the solution to world hunger while others take the position that biotech crops will have little impact. To provide a better understanding of these respective points of view, the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology has released an issue brief which summarizes the arguments made on both sides of the debate.
The brief, titled _Feeding the World: A Look at Biotechnology and World Hunger,_examines both the potential for agricultural biotechnology to boost food production and quality for poor farmers in developing countries as well as some of the possible concerns about and limitations of agricultural biotechnology. While not a comprehensive review of all pertinent factors contributing to the problem of global hunger, the brief illuminates key policy issues relevant to the discussion. The new issue brief provides an overview of:
* The constraints to further increases in food production in developing nations.
* The status of GM crops worldwide and the role of conventional breeding in international food development.
* The potential benefits of genetic engineering to increase food production; reduce crop losses from disease, insects and drought; and improve the nutritional content of traditional foods.
* The unique perspective developing countries have on the potential environmental and food safety risks of GM crops.
* The risk management and socioeconomic issues that GM crops present for developing countries.
The full issue brief can be viewed at http://pewagbiotech.org/resources/issuebriefs/feedtheworld.pdf.
March 3, 2004
1.26 CAN WE KEEP THE CAP ON TRANSGENE ESCAPE?
Molecular strategies are being developed to impede the escape of transgenes from transgenic crops into wild relatives, which might become invasive upon acquiring transgenic traits such as resistance to pests or herbicides. For example, to impede escape through pollen, a transgene could be inserted into chloroplast DNA, which in many crops is transmitted mostly through ovules, not pollen. Any of these strategies would be leaky to some extent.
In a paper appearing soon in Ecology Letters, Haygood, Ives, and Andow mathematically analyze how the probability of escape within any given period of time depends on several factors, including a leakage parameter characteristic of the strategy. They find that even when the average escape time is fairly long, there is substantial probability of escape much sooner.
Even with a leakage parameter as small as one in a thousand, the probability of escape within as few as ten generations could be appreciable.
1.27 DESPITE CONFINEMENT, CROP GENES CAN SPREAD FAST TO WILD
With the slim chance that farmers will stop planting crops containing genes from other organisms, researchers have started to develop strategies that trap these foreign genes, reducing the risk that they'll spread to wild relatives. But an investigation by scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota-St. Paul shows that these containment strategies can quickly fail. Using mathematical models, the team of scientists explored the effectiveness of proposed containment strategies to inhibit the escape of transgenes - genetic information from other organisms that's artificially inserted into crop plants to make them more resistant to pests, herbicides or climate conditions. The findings, published in the March issue of Ecology Letters, show a high probability that leakage can occur much sooner than expected.
"Lots of people are worried about gene flow from cultivated crops to wild relatives," says Ralph Haygood, a UW-Madison postdoctoral fellow and the lead author of paper. Transgene escape - when artificially inserted genes flow from crops to nearby wild populations and become a permanent feature of their genomes - is worrisome, he says, because it can change the genetic make-up of wild populations, sometimes eliminating genes that could be used to improve crops, and possibly turning these wild populations into aggressive weeds.
The goal, then, is to develop strategies to prevent transgene escape. "Environmentalists say we should stop planting transgenic crops, but that's not going to happen," says the Wisconsin researcher. "Aside from not growing transgenic crops near sexually-compatible wild relatives, we need to investigate ways to reduce the risk."
Strategies currently being developed involve gene containment, where the artificially inserted genes are confined and, theoretically, inhibited from escaping or being favored in wild populations. For example, the technique called the "exorcist" induces certain chemical reactions inside the plant cell that pulls out and eliminates the transgene once the plant no longer needs it. Another technique involves inserting the artificial gene near a gene that's bad for the plant under wild conditions, making it unlikely that the transgene, should it escape, will spread in the wild population.
The gene-confinement strategy closest to commercialization, says Haygood, involves inserting genetic information into the DNA of the chloroplast, a part of the plant cell that contains its own genome. An advantage of this strategy is that chloroplast DNA - and any artificial genetic information it includes - is rarely transmitted through the plant's pollen, the main vehicle for transporting genetic information to nearby wild relatives.
"This technique is being greeted as a panacea that could make the whole problem of transgene escape go away," says Haygood. But, as he points out,"it has been shown that chloroplast DNA transmission through pollen can occur at a low rate." He asks, "How much does that matter?" Given that this gene containment strategy is not failsafe _suggesting that transgene escape is inevitable, given enough time - the researchers investigated the rate at which artificially inserted genes, confined by some of the strategies mentioned above, could reach and become fixed in wild populations.
"For each strategy, there is the possibility of transgene leakage," explains Haygood. "The question shouldn't be whether or not transgene escape will happen. It should be how long will it take."
To answer this question, Haygood, Anthony Ives from UW-Madison and David Andow from the University of Minnesota-St. Paul developed a mathematical model based on factors controlling gene flow from crop plants to wild relatives. The factors include the rate of transgene leakage, the rate of pollen flow, the size of the wild population and the effects of the transgene under wild conditions.
By considering these factors, the researchers not only could calculate the probability of genes spreading to wild populations, but also the probability that they will be passed on to future generations. Successful transgene escape, notes Haygood, depends on the survival of the gene.
With the model, the team estimated how many growing seasons it would take for artificially inserted genetic information that's been confined to fix itself in wild populations.
"This is a situation where you have chance after chance for something to happen," explains Haygood, adding, "There's a certain chance in every generation for escape."
Because the rates of pollen flow and leakage are low, he says one would expect a long time to pass before a transgene escapes into a wild population. However, findings from the model suggest that even when the average time is as long as 100 growing seasons, the chances are that transgene escape can occur much sooner, regardless of the containment strategy.
The results show, for example, that a leakage rate of 2.5 percent _the actual value found by Hungarian scientists in the 1980s who studied the probability of chloroplast DNA transmission through the pollen of tobacco plants - could result in transgene escape within just 22 generations. Similarly, a leakage rate as low as one-tenth of 1 percent, along with plausible values for the other parameters, leaves a 60 percent chance of transgene escape within the first 10 generations.
The situation, says Haygood, is worsened when one considers that a transgenic crop is likely to be planted on more than one field, increasing the probability of escape. "Imagine that it's planted not on one field, but 100. That would substantially aggravate the problem," he says.
Although the model does has some limitations, the researchers say it includes all the essential elements for predicting gene flow and can be tweaked to take into account different scenarios. "The abstract structure of the model," explains Haygood, "will be the same."
One of the key messages of the research paper, the researchers emphasize, is that scientists will need to develop containment strategies with the smallest possible leakage rate to minimize the chances of transgene escape within short periods of time. David Andow adds, "We really need to study the failure rates of gene confinement with levels of precision perhaps on the magnitude of one out of every 10,000."
He and his colleagues from UW-Madison say that they hope this paper provides the impetus for other scientists and regulatory officials to evaluate the true effectiveness of gene containment strategies on specific crops.
24 February 2004
2. ON THE WEB
2.1 THE SESAME AND SAFFLOWER NEWSLETTER 2003; THE FIRST CYBERSPACE VERSION OF THIS NEWSLETTER
The Sesame and Safflower Newsletter is published and distributed annually by the Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (IAS), CSIC, Apartado 4084 - C/ba, Spain with the help of funds from the Crop and Grassland Service (AGPC), Plant Production and Protection Division, Agriculture Department, FAO. Peter Griffee (AGPC) collates the articles and, if suitable, forwards them to the Editor - Jos_ern¤ez Mart¥z of IAS for decision on publication, revision and formatting. For the first time the newsletter is available in cyberspace; prepared in EcoPort by Peter Griffee.
This URL will take you straight to the cover page and contents: http://www.ecoport.org/EP.exe$PassCheckStart?ID=E188
Newsletter 18 - 2003 has 123 pp + vi. There is a foreword by the editor, notices for readers and there are 27 contributions: 17 on sesame and 10 on safflower. At the end is an up-date to previous editions on a directory of sesame and safflower workers.
Sesame: (Sesamum indicum) has 10 papers on breeding and genetics, 5 on agronomy and 2 on diseases and pests.
Breeding and genetics:
Combining Ability Studies; Identification of Heterotic Crosses Involving Cytoplasmic-Genic Male Sterile Lines; Heterosis For Yield and Yield Components; Genetic Divergence Analysis; Interpretation of Genotype by Environment Interaction Effect on Yield; Inheritance Studies for Seed Yield; Influence of Gamma-ray and Sodium Azide on Germination and Seedling Growing; Induced Chlorophyll Mutation Studies; Development of Male Sterility System, and Morphological and Biochemical Characterization.
Contribution of Production Factors in Growth, Yield and Economics; Adaptation Potential of a Sesame Germplasm Collection in the Cotton Belt of Turkey; Effect of Plant Growth Regulators and Micronutrients on Yield Attributes; Nutrient management for Seed Yield Maximisation; Response of Sesame to Plant Population, and Nitrogen Fertilizer in North-Central Zimbabwe.
Diseases and pests:
Seasonal Occurrence of Sesame Shoot Webber (Antigastra catalaunalis Dup.), and Resistance of White-seeded Sesame Cultivars Against Charcoal Rot (Macrophomina phaseolina) in Venezuela.
Safflower: (Carthamus tinctorius) has 10 papers dealing with breeding and selection, country reports, agronomy practices and irrigation and entomology.
Breeding and selection:
NARI-NH-1: The First Non-spiny Hybrid Released in India, and Negative Associations Between Important Quantitative Traits.
Production Strategy in India.
Agronomy practices and irrigation:
Characterization of Germplasm for Physiological traits; Assessment of an in-vitro Method for Screening Genotypes for Salt Tolerance; Efficacy of Cyclic Mode of Pond and Saline Water Irrigations on Yield; Optimizing Irrigation in Relation to Phosphorus Nutrition, and Optimal Sowing Date for Rainfed Safflower in the High Elevation Bekaa Valley of Lebanon.
Usefulness of Peripheral Pesticidal Application for Management of Safflower Aphid (Uroleucon compositae Theobald).
Submitted by Peter Griffee (AGPC) Peter.Griffee@fao.org
2.2 HORTIVAR DATABASE DEVELOPED BY FAO
HORTIVAR, available at http://www.fao.org/hortivar is a tool for safeguarding and retrieval of information on the agronomic performance of horticultural cultivars in relation to agro-ecological conditions, cultivation practices, the occurrence of pests and diseases and timing of the production. It is suitable for recording data obtained producers and by public, private sector, seed companies and horticultural research centers around the world that conduct field trials to assess the performance of horticultural crop cultivars in different agro-climatic and agro-economic environments. It is also a portal to foster communication among all the stakeholders of the horticulture industry, worldwide.
HORTIVAR serves as:
* A tool for easy and quick retrieval of information related to horticulture cultivars all over the world
* A standard methodology for data recording of current and future cultivar trials
* A source for data analysis and extrapolation (GIS applications)
* A template for educational purposes in colleges and universities
* A lively interface between scientists and growers
HORTIVAR covers six categories of horticultural crops: fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers, ornamentals, mushrooms, herbs & condiments. The data registered in the database are "site specific" and geo-referenced and suitable for GIS applications.
HORTIVAR has two primary functions which are interdependent: Data retrieval and data entry. Access to the HORTIVAR database in free of charge. Data are retrieved by searching according to various parameters such as species; cultivar, country, geographical references, resistance to pest and diseases, ecozone, and production system. For data entry, interested partners have to register and obtain their personalised username and password from the HORTIVAR Desk Office at FAO Headquarters by sending an e-mail to email@example.com or applying directly online.
The structure of the HORTIVAR database has the following essential elements:
1. General Information (site and geo-references, seed supplier and contact
2. Cultivar (standard cultivar descriptor and the actual characteristics observed under local field conditions) 3. Basic Cropping and Yield data (target plant product, production system, data recording environment, planting density, total fresh yield, crop
4. Source (origin of data, publication reference if any, data originator, country and species gatekeepers and their e-mail contacts) 5. Additional data (inter alia climate information, target product destination and use, nursery practices, field operations and practices including substrate, irrigation, fertilization, plant protection,
HORTIVAR also facilitates access to other databases as well as websites of partner institutions or individuals in relation to horticultural science (examples include ISHS/Acta Horticulturae, the World List of Seed Sources, Ecoport, and CABI coming soon). The database is accessible through internet at the following website: http://www.fao.org/hortivar A standalone CD version is also available on request as well as copies of data entry forms to be filled and returned to the Hortivar Desk in Rome.
For further information, please contact the Hortivar Desk at FAO e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Jozef Van Assche
Executive Director, ISHS
Submitted by Ted Carey (email@example.com)
2.3 U.S. REGULATORY AGENCIES UNIFIED BIOTECHNOLOGY WEBSITE
The Federal Government of the United States of America has a coordinated, risk-based system to ensure new biotechnology products are safe for the environment and human and animal health. Established as a formal policy in 1986, the Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology describes the Federal system for evaluating products developed using modern biotechnology. The Coordinated Framework is based upon health and safety laws developed to address specific product classes. The U.S. government has written new regulations, policies and guidance to implement these laws for biotechnology as products developed. This framework has allowed the United States to build upon agency experience with organisms and products developed using conventional techniques.
This website focuses on the agricultural products of modern biotechnology. At this time, the searchable database available on this site only covers genetically engineered crop plants intended for food or feed that have completed all recommended or required reviews for food, feed or planting use in the United States.
The U.S. Government agencies responsible for oversight of the products of agricultural modern biotechnology are the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Health and Human Services' Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Depending on its characteristics, a product may be subject to review by one or more of these agencies.
20 Feb 2004
2.4 UPDATES OF FAO-BIOTECHNEWS
We welcome your feedback and encourage you to tell your colleagues or contacts about this e-mail newsletter. Instructions for subscribing (and
unsubscribing) are given at the end of the Update. In addition, instructions for subscribing to FAO-BiotechNews-Fr and FAO-BiotechNews-Esp, the French and Spanish versions of FAO-BiotechNews respectively, are also given at the end.
The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews, 2-3-2004
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) E-mail address: mailto:FAO-Biotech-News@fao.org FAO website http://www.fao.org FAO Biotechnology website http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish)
UPDATE 2-2004 (Selected Items)
FAO book - Bread wheat
As part of the FAO Plant Production and Protection Series, FAO's Crop and Grassland Service has just published "Bread wheat: Improvement and production" on the web. The book, edited by B.C. Curtis, S. Rajaram and H. Gómez Macpherson, provides extensive information from a number of international experts on the current status of research on wheat improvement and production, as well as on other aspects, from its evolutionary origins to seed production technologies. Of the 29 chapters, 9 deal with genetics and breeding (including, for example, one on "The application of biotechnology to wheat improvement"), 11 with pests and diseases and 5 with management. See http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/006/Y4011E/Y4011E00.HTM or contact
firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy.
IPRs and sustainable development
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) have been implementing the Capacity Building Project on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and Sustainable Development. The project's aim is to improve the understanding of TRIPS-related issues among developing countries and to assist them in building their capacity for ongoing as well as future negotiations on IPRs. A series of documents from the project are now available, some directly or indirectly relevant to biotechnology. They include the "Resource book on TRIPS and development" (providing a practical guide to the WTO's agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)), a policy discussion paper and, finally, a number of publications (currently 13) comprising both case studies and "research tools". See http://www.iprsonline.org/unctadictsd/description.htm or contact email@example.com for more information.
Bioprospecting - Trends and international policies
The United Nations University's Institute of Advanced Studies, in Tokyo, Japan, has published a report entitled "The international regime for
bioprospecting: Existing policies and emerging issues for Antarctica", by D. Lohan and S. Johnston. Reviewing bioprospecting activities in Antarctica, the 25-page report gives an overview of these trends elsewhere (discussing the role of the biotechnology industry), as well as international policies governing bioprospecting activities. See http://www.ias.unu.edu/publications/details.cfm/ArticleID/431 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
UPDATE 3-2004 (Selected Items)
FAO Rice Conference
The UN General Assembly has designated 2004 as the International Year of Rice (IYR). As part of facilitating IYR implementation, FAO convened a Rice Conference on 12-13 February 2004 in Rome, Italy, that brought together leading experts from around the world to present their perspectives on latest trends and industry developments. Some of the papers presented dealt partly or fully with the topic of biotechnology, such as "Potentials and limitations of biotechnology in rice" by R. Coffman, S.R. McCouch and R.W. Herdt. See http://www.fao.org/rice2004/en/e-001.htm or contact email@example.com for more information.
FAO Documents webpage
The annotated list of on-line documents available on the FAO Biotechnology website has recently been updated. It currently provides web links to 90 articles, books, meeting reports, proceedings and studies published by FAO, or prepared in collaboration with FAO, in recent years concerning biotechnology in food and agriculture. The webpage
(http://www.fao.org/biotech/doc.asp) is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish and many of the documents are available in several languages. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAO/IAEA Plant Breeding and Genetics Newsletter
Plant Breeding and Genetics Newsletter No. 12 (January 2004) has now been published by the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture and the FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratory. The 24-page newsletter, issued twice a year, gives an overview of their past and upcoming events (meetings, training courses etc.), ongoing projects and publications. See http://www.iaea.org/programmes/nafa/d2/public/pbg-nl-12.pdf (1.1 MB) or contact email@example.com for further information.
COP-MOP 1 meeting
The 1st meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 1) took place on 23-27 February 2004 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It concluded with the adoption of decisions on: decision procedures; information sharing and the Biosafety Clearing-House; capacity-building; handling, transport, packaging and identification of living modified organisms (LMOs); compliance procedures and mechanisms; a process to elaborate rules and procedures for liability and redress; monitoring and reporting; the programme budget; guidance to the financial mechanism (i.e. the Global Environment Facility); and the medium term programme of work for the period between the second and fifth meeting of COP-MOP. See daily updates and press reports at http://www.biodiv.org/meetings/mop-01/press/default.asp; official documents (available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and
Spanish) and information documents (mostly in English only) at http://www.biodiv.org/meetings/mop-01/docs.aspx; or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
COP 7 meeting
The 7th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 7) took place on 9-20 February 2004 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A wide range of issues were dealt with, some related directly or indirectly to agricultural biotechnology. Daily updates and press reports are available at http://www.biodiv.org/meetings/cop-07/press; official documents, including draft decisions, (almost all available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) and information documents (mostly in English
only) at http://www.biodiv.org/meetings/cop-07/docs.aspx; or contact email@example.com for further information.
Patenting of wild rice gene - Mali
A pre-publication version of the study by A.K. Gupta entitled "The role of intellectual property rights in the sharing of benefits arising from the use of biological resources and traditional knowledge", commissioned by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was presented at COP 7, held on 9-20 February 2004 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Three case studies are considered in the publication, including a 35-page study of the patenting of the gene Xa21 of wild rice from Mali, conferring resistance to bacterial rice blight. See http://www.wipo.int/edocs/prdocs/en/2004/wipo_pr_2004_373.html (press release, available in English, French and Spanish, linking to the study) or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Millennium Development Goals
The Millennium Project is the independent advisory body to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that is commissioned with recommending, by June 2005, operational strategies for meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Ten task forces carry out the bulk of the Millennium Project's analytical work. The mandate of task force 2 (on Hunger) is to produce a plan for humanity to reduce the proportion of hungry and malnourished people in half by the year 2015. Task force 10 (on Science, Technology and Innovation) is to develop operational strategies on how science, technology and innovation can help achieve the MDGs. The task forces recently released their interim reports for public discussion (both about 200 pages). See http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/html/interim_reports.shtm. Comments are welcome and should be sent to email@example.com (task force 2) or to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com (task force 10).
Ex situ genebanks
As part of the IFPRI "Research at a Glance" series, which aims to provide concise, comprehensive information on complex research issues to researchers and policy analysts, a series of six briefs on biotechnology and genetic resource policies, dealing with issues related to the ex situ genebank and its collection, has been published. See http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/rag/br1002.htm or contact the series editors (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) for more information.
2.5 CONFERENCE 8 OF THE FAO ELECTRONIC FORUM ON BIOTECHNOLOGY IN FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
(Editor's note: only the Executive Summary is given here. Visit the website for full document)
Here is the Summary Document of the e-mail conference "What should be the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research agendas of developing countries?". It ran from 13 November to 16 December 2002.
The aim of the 14-page document is to provide a summary of the main arguments and concerns discussed during the moderated e-mail conference, based on the messages posted by the participants. During the 5-week conference, 347 people subscribed and 128 messages were posted, about 60% from people living in developing countries.
The document comprises an Executive Summary, an Introduction, information on conference participation and, the main part, a section providing a summary of the main discussions grouped under the following seven themes:
1. Bottom-up approach to agricultural research
2. How much of the limited resources available for agricultural research should be devoted to biotechnology? 3. What should be the priorities for biotechnology research in developing countries? 4. Focusing research towards the small farmer 5. National, regional and international research collaborations 6. Should developing countries adapt existing biotechnology products and techniques or develop their own? 7. Intellectual property rights and biotechnology research in developing countries
Since it was established four years ago, the FAO Biotechnology Forum has been providing a neutral platform enabling a wide range of parties to come together and openly discuss and exchange views and experiences about specific issues concerning biotechnology in food and agriculture for developing countries. We strongly encourage you, as Forum Members, to widely disseminate this Summary Document so that the voices of people that participated in the conference can be heard.
Any comments on the document are welcome.
Finally, a very special thanks to all of you who participated in the conference.
John Ruane, PhD
FAO website http://www.fao.org
Forum website http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp
FAO Biotechnology website http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp
p.s. The FAO Biotechnology Forum is planning to host two conferences in the year 2004. More details will be provided later.
p.p.s. If you want to remove yourself from the Forum, send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org leaving the subject blank and putting the following one-line message: unsubscribe BIOTECH-L
p.p.p.s. If any of your colleagues wish to join the Forum, they should do the same as above, but the one-line message should read subscribe BIOTECH-L
The agricultural research agenda should be defined using a "bottom-up" approach, based on the needs of local communities in developing countries. The needs and realities of small farmers in developing countries require special attention in the research agenda. Research is very important for developing country agriculture and more public funding of biotechnology research is needed. There is general agreement about the positive role that non-GMO biotechnology research can play in developing countries but opinions are divided about use of scarce agricultural research resources for GMO research. Biotechnology research can and should complement research into conventional technologies. Research collaboration, both within and between countries, is essential for developing countries but there are some reservations about public-private sector collaborations. Intellectual property rights are an issue of concern for biotechnology research in developing countries. With reduced national research budgets, regional collaborations have special importance. Opinions are divided on whether developing countries should develop their own biotechnology products and techniques or whether they should adapt those developed elsewhere. These were some of the outcomes of a moderated e-mail conference, entitled "What should be the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research agendas of developing countries?", hosted by the FAO Biotechnology Forum from 13 November to 16 December 2002. During the 5-week conference, 347 people subscribed and 128 messages were posted, about 60% from people living in developing countries. Most were from people working in research centres/organisations (35%), universities (25%) and NGOs (20%), with the remainder coming from independent consultants
(10%) or people working in government agencies or FAO.
3. POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Ithaca, NY USA
POSITION: Professor and Director, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II
Department Open; Tenure Track Possible
STARTING DATEL: July 1, 2004 or as negotiated
LOCATION: Department Open; International Programs
New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-1901
Direct the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP) II, a worldwide research and training support project with an approximate annual abudget of $5M (from USAID and its Missions) with the goal of building capacity in developing countries to achieve commercial approval of bioengineered crops. Lead a team of 14 staff members based at Cornell, Michigan State University and regional and country offices in Ghana, Uganda, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Indonesia. Liase with USAID in regard to ABSPII. Plan, develop, direct, and administer research and training programs with an eye toward an integrated, demand-driven approach to boost food security, economic growth, nutrition, and environmental quality in developing countries through agricultural biotechnology. Contribute to specialized modules, seminars, and team-taught courses and to graduate training.
PhD in biology, communication, economics or related fields; experience in leading a major research program related to agricultural development; an understanding of agricultural biotechnology product development; proven ability to lead a major project with multiple stakeholders; superior communications, computing and organizational skills; knowledge of foreign languages desirable; international experience highly desirable.
Competitive and commensurate with background and experience. An attractive fringe benefits package is available.
APPLICATION PROCEDURE: Nominations, expressions of interest, or direct applications are welcome. To apply, send a letter of application and complete resume to: Ronnie Coffman, Chair, Plant Breeding, 241 Emerson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-1901 and have three letters of reference sent to the same address. Inquiries about the position may be directed to Miguelina Tabar, 402 Bradfield Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-1901; email@example.com; 607-255-6357; 607-255-6683 (fax). Review of applicants will begin May 1, 2004.
Cornell University is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity Employer
4. GRANTS AVAILABLE
4.1 A CALL FOR GRANTS FROM USAID
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has issued a call for grant applications for research projects on the effects of agricultural biotechnology on biodiversity in developing countries. The projects will be funded through USAID's Biotechnology Biodiversity Interface (BBI) program. According to the press release issued by the USAID, genetically modified (GM) crops, livestock, and fish have potential benefits, however the safety concerns and their supposed effects on human health and biodiversity are also major issues that should be addressed.
Further, the USAID stressed that although GM food safety studies conducted in the USA, Europe, and other developing countries are being conducted, studies on the interaction between the environment and GM crops should be dealt with on a case-to case basis since different countries have varied crop systems and species with which crops interact with.
In line with this, the BBI program is giving grants for research on:
* GM crop and animal outcrossing and other unintended environmental effects;
* Risk assessment, risk management, and post-commercialization monitoring for GM crops and animals; and
* Possible risks associated with animal vaccines
The program is a component of USAID's Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS), and is part of a broader effort "to support science-based decision-making and policy development." Grants, amounting to US$1.3 million, will be awarded for three- to four-year-long research programs. Grant proposals will be accepted until April 15, 2004.
For more information about USAIDE28099s activities, visit their website at http://www.usaid.gov/.
February 20, 2004, Crop Biotech Update, www.isaaa.org/kc
4.2 BIOTECHNOLOGY BIODIVERSITY INTERFACE GRANTS: REQUEST FOR APPLICATIONS
The Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) is pleased to announce a request for applications for research projects funded by the Biotechnology Biodiversity Interface Grants program. The funding for these research grants is intended to enhance the capacity of developing countries in Asia and Africa to make regulatory decisions concerning the environmental impact of transgenic crops, genetically engineered livestock and fish, and recombinant livestock vaccines.
By funding research focused on the needs of developing countries, PBS hopes to support science-based decision making and policy development in those countries. The deadline for applications is April 15, 2004.
To access the RFA, please navigate to http://www.isb.vt.edu/grants/PBS_rfp.pdf. Applications are welcome from our developing country partners, SROs, crop research networks, IARCs, and U.S. universities, among others.
PBS contact: Dr. Hector Quemada, BBI Program Manager. Program for Biosafety Systems, Department of Biological Sciences, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-1903; (269) 387-5869; Fax: (269) 387-5609; firstname.lastname@example.org
ISB News Report (Via Agnet) http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2004/news04.mar.html
6 March 2004
5. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS
* 21-24 March 2004: The 16th Biennial International Plant Resistance to Insects Workshop/Conference. Baton Rouge, USA. Contact: Mike Stout. Email: email@example.com
* 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: firstname.lastname@example.org; URL: <http://www.ipmchina.net/ipm/ipm_e.html>
*(NEW) 7-10 April 2004. Crop Functional Genomics 2004, Jeju, Korea.
Contact: Dr Ingyu Hwang. Email: email@example.com; URL: http://www.cfg2004.org/
*(NEW) 8-10 April 2004. Seeds of Change: Intellectual Property Protection for Agricultural Biotechnology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. Contact: Jay Kesan, University of Illinois, College of Law, 504 East Pennsylvania Avenue, Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA. Tel:
+1 (217) 333 7887. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. URL:
*(NEW) 19-23 April 2004: Introduction to Biosafety and Risk Assessment for the Environmental Release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): Theoretical Approach and Scientific Background, Workshop Trieste, Italy.
Contact: Programme and Training Unit, ICGEB, Padriciano 99, I-34012. Trieste, Italy; Tel: +39 (040) 3757 333; Fax: +39 (040) 226 555; Email: email@example.com; URL: http://www.icgeb.org/~bsafesrv/bsfn0309.htm#anchor442802
*(NEW) 26 April - 7 May 2004.Management of Diversity On-Farm and in Genebank Collections, Training Course. Wageningen, Netherlands. Contact: International Agricultural Centre (IAC), PO Box 88, 6700 AB. Wageningen, The Netherlands; Tel: + 31 (317) 495 495; Fax: + 31 (317) 495395; Email: Training.iac@wur.NL; URL: www.iac.wur.nl
* 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: Roeland.Voorrips@wur.nl; URL: <http://www.eucarpiacapsicum.nl/>
* 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 in January 2004
*(NEW) 22-25 May 2004. International Triticeae Mapping Initiative Summer Workshop, Minneapolis, USA. Contact: ITMI Management Office, Scottish Crop Research Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, Scotland, UK; Tel: +44 (1)382 568 512; Fax: +44 (1)382 568 590; URL: http://www.scri.sari.ac.uk/ITMI/Default.htm
* 24-25 May 2004: Workshop on Molecular Aspects of Germination and Dormancy. Wageningen, The Netherlands. Contact: J Derek Bewley, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org); URL: <http://www.css.cornell.edu/ISSS/isss.htm>
* (NEW) 24 May - 4 June 2004. Molecular Markers in Plant Breeding, Training Course Wageningen, Netherlands. Contact: International Agricultural Centre (IAC), PO Box 88, 6700 AB. Wageningen, The Netherlands; Tel: + 31 (317) 495 495; Fax: + 31 (317) 495 395; Email: Training.iac@wur.NL; URL: www.iac.wur.nl
* 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". http://www.grainlegumes.com/default.asp?id_biblio=213>
*(NEW) 14-16 June 2004. Yields of Farmed Species: Constraints and Opportunities in the 21st Century. Sutton Bonington, UK. Contact: Prof Roger Sylvester-Bradley, ADAS Boxworth, Boxworth, Cambridge, CB3 8NN, UK;
Tel: +44 (0)1954 268 253; Fax: +44 (0)1954 267 659; Email: email@example.com; URL: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/biosciences/ah/yield_conf/index.html
* 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: firstname.lastname@example.org;
* 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: email@example.com
* 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: firstname.lastname@example.org; 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; Email: email@example.com; URL: <http://www.ioc2004.org/>
* 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:
* 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: firstname.lastname@example.org web: <http://www.planteforsk.no/>
* 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: email@example.com; URL: <http://www.eucarpia.org/>
* 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: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, web: <http://www.ivchb2004.org/>
*(NEW) 19-23 September 2004: 16th Annual Meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Industrial Crops (AAIC) and New Uses Council, Minneapolis, MN, USA. Theme 'Industrial Crops and Uses To Diversify Agriculture'. For more information visit meetings section of the AAIC web site at www.aaic.org or contact Dr. Russ Gesch Tel: 320-589-3411 ext. 132 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org." (Submitted by Dr. Terry A. Coffelt, Research Geneticist, USDA-ARS-USWCL E-mail email@example.com)
* 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: firstname.lastname@example.org;
* 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,
*(NEW) 26-30 September 2004. 8th International Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms. Montpellier, France. Contact: Sophie Masliah, Lab. of Plant Cell and Molecular Biology, INRA. Versailles, 78026 Versailles Cedex, France; Tel: +33 (1) 3083 3730; Fax: +33 (1) 3087 3728;
Email: email@example.com; URL: http://www.inra.fr/gmobiosafety/index.php
* 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;
* 7-10 November 2004: International Conference: Post Harvest Fruit: The Path to Success, Campus Lircay, Universidad de Talca, Talca, Chile <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> <http://www.utalca.cl/congreso/postharvestfruit/index.htm> (See complete conference description in January 2004 newsletter)
*(NEW) 8-10 December 2004. ASTA's 34th Soybean Seed and 59th Corn & Sorghum Seed Conferences. Chicago, IL, USA Contact: 225, Reinekers Lane, Suite 650, Alexandria, VA, USA; Tel: +1 (703) 837 8140; Fax: +1 (703) 837 9365; URL: http://www.amseed.com/
*(NEW) 4 - 9 May 2005. 11th International Lupin Conference, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. 1st Circular is available at: http://www.cucba.udg.mx/eventos/lupinus/lupinus.html. Contact: email@example.com. (Submitted by George D. Hill, Secretary/Treasurer International Lupin Association (firstname.lastname@example.org) "At our meetings we have usually had a substantial number of submissions from Plant Breeders. I would expect that it will be the same at this meeting.")
6. EDITOR'S NOTES
Plant Breeding News is an electronic forum for the exchange of information and ideas about applied plant breeding and related fields. It is published every four to six weeks throughout the year.
The newsletter is managed by the editor and an advisory group consisting of Elcio Guimaraes (email@example.com), Margaret Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Anne Marie Thro (email@example.com). The editor will advise subscribers one to two weeks ahead of each edition, in order to set deadlines for contributions.
REVIEW PAST NEWSLETTERS ON THE WEB: Past issues of the Plant Breeding Newsletter are now available on the web. The address is: <http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc/services/pbn.html>
We will continue to improve the organization of archival issues of the newsletter. Readers who have suggestions about features they wish to see should contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subscribers are encouraged to take an active part in making the newsletter a useful communications tool. Contributions may be in such areas as: technical communications on key plant breeding issues; announcements of meetings, courses and electronic conferences; book announcements and reviews; web sites of special relevance to plant breeding; announcements of funding opportunities; requests to other readers for information and collaboration; and feature articles or discussion issues brought by subscribers. Suggestions on format and content are always welcome by the editor, at email@example.com. We would especially like to see a broad participation from developing country programs and from those working on species outside the major food crops.
Messages with attached files are not distributed on PBN-L for two important reasons. The first is that computer viruses and worms can be distributed in this manner. The second reason is that attached files cause problems for some e-mail systems.
PLEASE NOTE: Every month many newsletters are returned because they are undeliverable, for any one of a number of reasons. We try to keep the mailing list up to date, and also to avoid deleting addresses that are only temporarily inaccessible. If you miss a newsletter, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will re-send it.
To subscribe to PBN-L: Send an e-mail message to email@example.com. Leave the subject line blank and write SUBSCRIBE PBN-L (Important: use ALL CAPS). To unsubscribe: Send an e-mail message as above with the message UNSUBSCRIBE PBN-L. Lists of potential new subscribers are welcome. The editor will contact these persons; no one will be subscribed without their explicit permission.