11 July 2004

An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding
Sponsored by FAO and Cornell University

Clair H. Hershey, Editor


1.01 New report on African agriculture
1.02 African farmers to reap benefits of technology transfer
1.03 The ACCI breeding program of African cereals at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
1.04 Global warming 'threatens rice yields'
1.05 Family matters for world's crops
1.06 New program aims to boost conservation and use of wild relatives of some of the world's key crops
1.07 A standard panel of gossypium genotypes established for systematic characterization of cotton microsatellite markers
1.08 New JapanCIMMYT project hunts for genes to fight disease
1.09 U.S.$3 million for Cornell University Crop Genomics Center added to US House of Representatives bill
1.10 New rice genetic stock from ARS
1.11 Suntory unveils genetically modified blue rose
1.12 Frost tolerance breakthrough in barley
1.13 Abiotic stress tolerance in crops
1.14 Winter wheat breeding improvements polish off rust
1.15 Dissecting the maize genome by using chromosome addition and radiation hybrid lines
1.16 New wheat gene keeps growers one step ahead of common bunt
1.17  Iowa State University bred experimental corn gets OK in Colorado
1.18 Towards switchable crops: beyond the green revolution
1.19 Canada sows further doubt on GM seed patents
1.20 Plant breeder, bureaucrats spar over Canadian regulations
1.21 Government of Kenya authorizes use of genetically modified food
1.22 Government of the Philippines to expand hybrid rice planting
1.23 Farmers are defying government to grow GM cotton in northern India
1.24  ViaLactia, Orion Genomics provide proprietary ryegrass sequence data to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to enable annotation of public plant sequences
1.25  Scientists urge shift of farming to non-food crops
1.26 FAO response to open letter from NGOs
1.27  A vital step towards global food security
1.28  Plants for the future: a 2025 vision for European plant biotechnology

2.01  Crop diversity continues thanks to modern, traditional practices
2.02  Catalogue of boro rice (Oryza sativa L.) germplasm from
Uttar Pradesh, India

3.01 The Sesame and Safflower Newsletter
3.02  A chronology of corn's migration

4.01 Scholarhip offers from the Asian Rice Foundation USA
4.02  IAEA research proposals invited: Improving crop tolerance to salinity and drought





1.01 New report on African agriculture
The InterAcademy Council recently published a report entitled Realising the Promise and Potential of African Agriculturewherein scientists urged African countries and international donor agencies to implement science- and technology-based initiatives to answer the continent's food needs. However, the same experts warned that it is far-fetched to believe that a green revolution,similar to that of
Asia during the 1970's and 1980's, would similarly take place due to the ecological and climatological diversity of conditions.

The 18-person panel, most of whom came from Africa, was co-chaired by Speciosa Wadnira Kazibwe, former minister of agriculture, animal industry, and fisheries in Uganda; Rudy Rabbinge, dean of Wageningen Graduate School in the Netherlands; and M. S. Swaminathan, past president of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences. The panel's report is based on a series of workshops and expert analyses, and illustrates the elements of science and technology strategies that are needed to achieve long-term improvement in agricultural productivity and food security in

Specifically, the recommended measures include the following:

  • Creation of a network of centers of research excellence across Africa;
  • Prevent the brain drain of newly-qualified agricultural scientists;  
  • Provide an 'enabling environment' in which agricultural research can flourish;
  • Increase significantly the amount of money allocated to agricultural research in Africa, and double the current level of expenditure on this sector.  
  • Use genetically modified (GM) crops as an essential element to develop foodstuffs that can be productively grown in less hospitable conditions of the continent.

The full report is available at

2 July 2004

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1.02   African farmers to reap benefits of technology transfer
Researchers from across the African continent will be able to develop new crops and make them cheaply available to small-scale farmers, thanks to a new initiative by scientists at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation. The programme relies on the transfer of technologies generated by global research activities. African farmers are able to take advantage of these technologies normally protected by intellectual property rules because of the AATF negotiates special access to them.

In this article, Victor Bwire describes the way that the new initiative uses the knowledge, contacts and best practices developed by several national and regional agricultural research institutes for the benefit of the African farmer. African researchers also use technologies developed by private agricultural companies, mostly from the industrialised countries, to develop local agricultural products in local laboratories after determining what is the right technology for each specific country.

The programme has already proved that it can produce high crop yields and pest and weed-resistance in maize, rice, cowpeas, cassava and bananas.

Link to full article in The Daily Nation*

2 July 2004

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1.03  The ACCI breeding program of African cereals at the University of KwaZulu-Natal

W.A.J. de Milliano¹ and B.A. John¹

¹African Center for Crop Improvement (ACCI), Plant Pathology, University of KwaZulu-Natal Private, P. Bag X01, Scottsville, (Pietermaritzburg), 3209, South Africa.,  E-mail:

(De Milliano et al., 2003), distinct from the programs of  individual ACCI PhD students  but complementary to them, was initiated in November 2002. It aims to develop special African cereal products with value added over that of the existing commodities by means of breeding and supporting technologies. In addition, opportunities for frequent cycling are being identified. The African cereals worked with are: sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, and African rice.

Staff, together with the ACCI students, are describing and comparing South African landraces and introductions of sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet after growing them in young plant productions and planting them at different densities and drought levels at the University farm near Pietermaritzburg (30º 25longitude, 29º 40latitude, 785 m a.s.l.). In particular, drought tolerance and resistance, and high susceptibility to locally important pests and diseases are being determined as traits to enhance food security. Differences in drought tolerance appear to be present in sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet. Shattering of the grain has been found to be a problem in South African pearl millet landraces. Severe susceptibility to shoot fly has been observed in all finger millet accessions and in the 32 South African sorghum land races that were tested. Rust resistance has been identified in sorghum and pearl millet accessions.

Lines are being developed to establish an assortment of sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet, all with white grain. Orange and yellow grain lines are also being developed out of South African pearl millet landraces and populations, combining high yield with earliness and cold tolerance. Cold tolerance has been identified in Ethiopian introductions, and these sorghums produced seed during late July and August 2003 at Pietermaritzburg. These traits may possibly increase the period of production for these cereals.

A study is ongoing to identify sweet stem sorghums with a high yield of sweet plant material. Brix values above 10 occur in the juice of sorghum stems, and this indicates that it may be possible to identify appropriate genotypes for sweet plant material.  Sweet sorghums may be of use to small scale farmers in fodder, for home industry products, for the sugar industry as a supplementary sugar source, as a new source of different sugars, and even as a source of bio-energy.

Different breeding methods are being practiced and protocols for crossing are being developed with the students. Protocols for the use of male gametocides are also being developed. Genetic and cytoplasmatic male sterility have been introduced and are also used to test combining ability and heterosis.

Protocols are being developed for the use of young plants. There are good indications that the use of young plants secures a higher and earlier yield than direct sowing.

Opportunities for frequent cycling are being studied. The production of four cycles of sorghum and six cycles of pearl millet in two years is being attempted. Thus protocols are being developed for year-round crop production and improvement of the speed-to-market for breeding products. To date, the third growing cycle of sorghum and the fourth cycle of pearl millet is being grown.

The program already supports projects in Kenya (hybrid sorghum, finger millet), Mali (drought tolerance in African rice, photoperiod sensitive pearl millet hybrids), and South Africa (pearl millet disease resistance, finger millet drought tolerance).

Commercial partners or joined venture partners are being identified.

The ACCI breeding program is thus providing not only opportunities for the practical development and honing of necessary plant breeding skills in its graduate students, but is also making its own distinctive contribution to enhancing African crops and providing opportunities for the ACCI to work in partnership with others for mutual benefit.

De Milliano, W.A.J., John, B.A., and Laing, M.D. 2003. The African Center for Crop Improvement (ACCI). Plant Breeding News Nr. 137. 2 pp.

Contributed by Beulah Ann John
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Pietermaritzburg, Republic of South Africa

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1.04  Global warming 'threatens rice yields'
Global temperature increases could cause significant reductions in yields of rice the staple food for over half of the world's population according to research released this week.

Scientists have published 'direct evidence' that increased night-time temperatures associated with global warming can cause rice yields to fall. The study, conducted at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, used local climate data from 1979 to 2003 and data on Philippine rice yields from the last 12 years.

The research found that rice yields had decreased by more than ten per cent while the night-time temperatures in the dry season rose by 1.1 º Celsius three times the increase in average maximum temperature over the same period. This trend in nocturnal temperatures is consistent with data from elsewhere and is linked to increasing concentrations of 'greenhouse gases'.

By looking at the potential influence of other factors, such as solar radiation, weeds, diseases and insect pests, the researchers were able to determine that night-time temperatures were the most likely cause for the declining rice yields.

Globally, temperatures are projected to rise by 1.5 to 4.5 ºC in the coming century three to nine times more than in the past century.

Kenneth Cassman, one of the study's authors, told SciDev.Net, "It appears that where rice is grown in the lowland tropics and subtropics of Asia, which account for more than 50 per cent of global rice supply, rice yields would be negatively affected by increasing temperatures associated with global warming."

The scientists still don't know what causes the reduced yields and this limits their ability to propose a solution. They suspect that rice plants need to spend more energy to keep growing in the warmer nights. But the changing relationship between day and night temperatures may be having a range of effects on the plants' physiology.

According to Cassman, the trend will be difficult to overcome if it is caused by higher energy demands. Alternatively, if developmental processes are being affected, genetic improvement and crop management may combine to reduce the impacts of increasing temperatures, he says. But he warns that even these options are limited in the intensive, lowland rice systems that currently produce two or three crops each year.

Cassman points out that many interacting variables affect rice yields, which have been stagnating in countries such as China, Indonesia and the Philippines. But, he says, "It is not possible to link this stagnation to climate change because of the other interacting factors that affect yield."

According to IRRI, in Asia where 90 per cent of all rice is grown and eaten more than two billion people obtain 60-70 per cent of their calories from rice.

Reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 101, 9971 (2004)

Source: SciDev.Net
29 June 2004

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1.05  Family matters for world's crops
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), together with the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) and six other national and international partners have launched a new programme that aims to boost the conservation and use of the wild relatives of some of the world's key crops.

As part of the project, called 'In situ conservation of crop wild relatives through enhanced management and field application', Armenia, Bolivia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan will work with the international agencies to determine how to best conserve their rich genetic resources.

The programme will link data and information held in dispersed locations, and create a network for scientists and breeders to exchange knowledge and identify promising traits for improving crop production.

Wild relatives of key crops are useful for breeding purposes allowing development of new varieties with higher yields, greater disease resistance and higher nutritional values. For instance, scientists are breeding a cross between cultivated broccoli and a wild Sicilian relative. The result is a variety that contains 100 times 'normal' levels of the cancer fighting chemical sulforaphane, an antioxidant that destroys compounds that can damage DNA.

The new programme will determine the conservation status of crop relatives, both in the field and in gene banks, and create national inventories of biodiversity. And it will develop an information access and management system that can be used worldwide.

Procedures for identifying conservation priorities will be also developed and tested. Using them, the participating countries will decide on necessary conservation actions and work with local communities, helping them protect the wild crop relatives and understand their benefits and uses.

The project will build on existing conservation measures. For instance, while Sri Lanka has taken steps to conserve crop relatives, it has no national strategy. Armenia and Uzbekistan have made some effort to conserve wild crop relatives by creating limited protected areas, and Bolivia and Madagascar need to extend surveys to determine where wild crop relatives are found and also to create protected areas.

According to the UNEP and the IPGRI, it is estimated that between 1976 and 1980, wild relatives contributed approximately US$340 million per year in yield and disease resistance to the farm economy of the United States alone.

Source: SciDev.Net
29 June 2004

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1.06  New program aims to boost conservation and use of wild relatives of some of the world's key crops
A project aimed at boosting the conservation and use of the wild relatives of some of the worlds key crops is being launched today.

The project, bringing together the biologically rich countries of Armenia, Bolivia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan, aims to improve key features of traditional crops ranging from their economic and nutritional value to their ability to naturally fight disease.
The importance of conserving wild crop relatives as future sources of novel traits is highlighted by recent developments with the tomato. An increase of 0.1 per cent in the solid content of this fruit is worth around US$ 10 million a year to processors in California.

One wild living tomato has allowed plant breeders to boost, by 2.4 per cent or $250 million annually, the level of solids in commercial varieties.

Meanwhile, three different wild peanuts have been used to breed commercial varieties resistant to root knot nematodes. It is helping to save peanut growers around the world an estimated $100 million a year.

Researchers believe the new project, which is co-funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), will play its part in fighting hunger and improving the livelihoods of farmers across the globe.

The project, called In Situ Conservation of Crop Wild Relatives Through Enhanced Management and Field Application, is being launched today in Colombo, Sir Lanka, by the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and national and international partners*.

It comes at a time of increasing concern over the loss of these precious genetic resources. For example more than one in 20 of the species of Poaceae , the botanical family that includes cereal crops such as wheat, maize, barley and millet, are threatened with extinction from deforestation, habitat loss and intensive agriculture.

Forests are rich in wild plants that may be new sources of novel genetic traits for improved crops including coffee, mango and rubber. During the 1990s, 94 million hectares or 2.4 per cent of total forest cover, was lost.

The new scheme will pool existing information from a wide variety of sources on crop wild relatives in each of the five countries. An information exchange network will be set up allowing scientists and breeders to pinpoint promising traits for improving crop production.

The project will pin point ways on how to best conserve the rich genetic resources of the countries concerned.

The project will enhance conservation measures already undertaken and make available resources in order to build upon these. For example, Sri Lanka has carried out several actions to conserve crop wild relatives and raise awareness of their importance, but has no national strategy.

Armenia and Uzbekistan have surveyed their crop wild relatives and created limited protected areas at least partly to conserve these plants. For example Armenias Erebuni Reserve is one of the few in the world deliberately established to conserve the wild living relatives of a key crop, in this case wild wheats.

Bolivia and Madagascar need to extend surveys of where wild living crop relatives may be found and establish areas to protect them.


Some examples of the value of crop wild relatives

Crop wild relatives make a huge contribution to plant breeding. It is estimated that between 1976 and 1980, wild relatives contributed approximately US$340 million per year in yield and disease resistance to the farm economy of the United States alone.

In addition, improvements in molecular technology have made it easier and quicker to identify useful traits in wild relatives and to develop new and improved varieties.

Wild relatives have increased the productivity of globally important crops such as barley, maize, oats, potatoes, rice and wheat.

Breeders have also used them to boost the nutritional value of foods. For example, the high anti-cancer properties found in some varieties of broccoli originated in a Sicilian wild relative.

Wild relatives have provided traits such as disease resistance, tolerance to extreme temperatures, tolerance to salinity (from a wild relative growing in the Galapagos Islands) and resistance to drought. They have also helped increase the nutritional value of the cultivated tomato by providing more Vitamin C and beta-carotene. One wild relative has made it possible to increase the solids content of the tomato by 2.4% worth US$ 250 million a year in the state of California alone.

Nutritional value

By crossing cultivated broccoli with a wild Sicilian relative, scientists are breeding a variety that contain higher levels of the cancer fighting chemical, sulforaphane, an anti-oxidant that destroys compounds that can damage DNA. The new variety of broccoli contains 100 times more sulforaphane.

Wheat is the staple food for approximately one in three of the worlds population. But diets based solely on cereals lack important nutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamin A.

A wild relative of wheat, Triticum turgidum var dicoccoides, from the Eastern Mediterranean was used to increase the protein content of bread and durum wheat. The International Center for the Improvement of Wheat and Maize (CIMMYT) has shown that other wild relatives of wheat have up to 1.8 times more zinc and 1.5 times more iron in their grains than ordinary wheat and could be used to improve levels of these minerals in wheat varieties.

Disease resistance

In the 1970s an outbreak of grassy stunt virus devastated the rice fields of millions of farmers in South and Southeast Asia. The virus, transmitted by the brown plant hopper, prevents the rice plant from producing flowers and grain.

Scientists from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) screened more than 17,000 cultivated and wild rice samples for resistance to the disease.

A wild relative of rice, Oryza nivara, growing in the wild in Uttar Pradesh was found to have one single gene for resistance to the grassy stunt virus. This gene is now routinely incorporated in all new varieties of rice grown across more than 100 000 km2 of Asian rice fields.

* Apart from UNEP, GEF and the IPGRI, the other agencies involved are the Botanic Gardens Conservation International, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, IUCN-the World Conservation Union, UNEPs World Conservation Monitoring Centre and ZADI, the German Centre for Documentation and Information in Agriculture.

June 28, 2004
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1.07  A standard panel of gossypium genotypes established for systematic characterization of cotton microsatellite markers
Cotton Incorporated (CI) has organized and currently is supporting a cotton breeding and genetics research initiative across the U.S. Cotton Belt.  Among the funded projects are those on developing and utilizing PCR-based DNA markers including microsatellite or simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers that seem to be abundant in the cotton genome (Gossypium spp.).  The source materials for cotton SSR discovery include large insert BAC clones or physical contigs, random enriched small genomic clones, and expressed sequence tags (ESTs).  To make significant and timely advances in the genetic improvement of cotton, many thousands of portable DNA markers are needed for the tetraploid genome of cultivated cottons.  Such new markers need to be characterized systematically prior to various applications.  After consultation and discussion with many cotton researchers, a manageable panel of 12 diverse genotypes is selected from cultivated and exotic cottons.  The cotton genotype panel consists of G. hirsutum (AD1) TM-1, the genetic standard, and, Acala Maxxa, DPL 458BR, PM 1218BR, FM 832, and Stoneville 4892BR, cultivars; G. barbadense (AD2) 3-79, the genetic standard, and Pima S-6, a cultivar; G. arboreum (A2-8); G. raimondii (D5-3); G. tomentosum (AD3); and G. mustelinum (AD4).  This panel represents a balanced diversity of the core Gossypium germplasm that includes genetic standards, base mapping parents, BAC donors, subgenome representatives, unique breeding lines, exotic introgression sources, and four contemporary Upland cottons each with significant acreage.  Three to five individual plants are maintained for each of 12 cotton genotypes in a USDA-ARS greenhouse in College Station, Texas.  Only one single plant for each genotype is flagged for tissue harvest and DNA extraction, and standard protocols are followed for DNA purification and evaluation, providing the best uniformity of DNA stocks for cotton researchers with ongoing SSR marker development.  Polymorphism arising from easily assayed variation in SSR numbers show great utility in crop genetic mapping and other applications.  With this standard genotype panel, cotton SSR markers derived from different sources or groups can be evaluated in a systematic way to minimize the potential redundancy and to determine the markersPolymorphic Information Content (PIC) values for ready applications.  The standardized information on the clones, sequences, primers, amplification conditions in addition to the PIC values will be placed in the public domain via Cotton Microsatellite Database (CMD) (, a dedicated database that is being set up at Clemson University.  An Advisory Committee is formed to guide the development of CMD and to coordinate it with CottonDB (, a comprehensive cotton genome database that serves the international cotton research community (

Contributed by John Z. Yu
Research Geneticist
College Station, TX

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1.08  New JapanCIMMYT project hunts for genes to fight disease
No single strain of wheat, barley, or related species completely withstands Fusarium Head Blight, a disease that is making increasing inroads on health and harvests worldwide. A new project offers better methods and broader gene pools for finding genes to ward off the disease.

Fusarium Head Blight (FHB), one of the most destructive wheat diseases in warm and humid regions, seriously threatens wheat and barley production around the world. Even worse, the toxins produced by Fusarium fungus cause acute food poisoning in people and harm animals that eat infected grain.

A new five-year-long collaborative project between CIMMYT and the government of Japan aims to discover genes that control FHB resistance, identify wheat germplasm that can be used in FHB resistance breeding programs, and develop FHB resistant wheat by using DNA markers.

Scientists in Japan began conducting genetic and breeding studies on FHB resistance in the 1960s, after an epidemic swept across more than 400,000 hectares in 1963 and caused estimated yield losses of more than 50%. More recent epidemics in 1996 and 1998 affected about 26% of the land in Japan. Developing countries also suffer losses from FHB, and CIMMYT started its own breeding program on FHB resistance about 20 years ago.

In the United States, FHB is the worst plant disease to emerge since the 1950s, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. In the 1990s, epidemics in seven US states caused more than US$ 1 billion in crop losses. Partly due to climate changes caused by global warming and the increased use of reduced tillage practices, FHB has become more widespread in recent years.

Sources of resistance to the disease have been elusive. Researchers have never found an accession of wheat, barley, or their wild relatives that is completely immune to FHB, according to Tomohiro Ban, a scientist at Japan International Research Center for Agriculture Sciences. A lack of good sources of resistance and good methods for finding them prompted the government of Japan to fund the new project with CIMMYT, which Ban is now leading at CIMMYT-Mexico.

The genetic constitution and chromosomal location of FHB resistance genes are not well known, but current research suggests that several quantitative trait loci or minor genes control resistance. DNA markers could identify and evaluate these genes. It is hoped that the projects search for resistance genes will also advance because of access to CIMMYTs genebank, which has one of the worlds largest collections of wheat and its wild relatives. Researchers will be able to screen materials from a great diversity of gene pools and environments.

We are going to use the untapped potential of these diverse genetic resources and find new sources of resistance,says CIMMYT Director General Masa Iwanaga. Even more important, the program could become the focus for a more organized worldwide effort to combat the disease. We would like to facilitate a platform for international collaboration, because this is a global problem,comments Iwanaga.

2 July 2004
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1.09  U.S.$3 million for Cornell University Crop Genomics Center added to US House of Representatives bill
Cornell University could receive $3 million for the construction of its Center for Health Based Crop Genomics, in addition to $10.6 million in other agricultural genetics funding, under a $16.7 billion agriculture bill expected to be approved by the US House of Representatives later this summer, a local Ithaca, New York press report said.

The Center for Health Based Crop Genomics, to be built on the Ithaca Campus, has been in development some time, and the university has been recruiting faculty for the Center since last year.

This slew of proposed funding was added to the agriculture bill by US Congressman Jim Walsh, who represents the area of New York State where Cornell is located. It also includes $3 million for construction of the Center for Grape Genetics Researech at the Cornell Agricultural and Food Technology Park; $250,000 additional funds for grape genetics research at the Agriculture Research Service facility in Geneva; $2,400,00 un additional viticulture research; and %510,000 for research on the bacterial disease Apple fireblight, according to Congressman Walsh's website.

The US House is slated to vote on the funding sometime after it returns from the Independence Day recess July 6, according to the report in the Ithaca Journal.

5 July 2004

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1.10  New rice genetic stock from ARS
The rice genetic stock, called Guichao 2 eui, is the latest discovery by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the chief scientific research agency of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). This discovery marks the first time a gene for a key trait, called elongated uppermost internode (eui), has been found in an indica rice - a type of rice grown worldwide.
The "eui" trait is said to be beneficial for better pollen transfer in hybrid rice seed production because it produces taller male line panicles (the plant's flowering heads). Likewise, this trait can also be used to raise the female panicles and make them more available for pollination.
The Guichao 2 eui is the 11th addition to the new rice collection repository, called "Genetic Stocks-Oryza" (GSOR) found at the ARS Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Arkansas, USA. This genetic stock collection helps preserve germplasm, and has characteristics which breeders can use to create new lines.
Seeds are available upon request through the ARS Germplasm Resources Information Network at: or through the GSOR repository at

Contributed by Margaret Smith, Dept. of Plant Breeding
Cornell University

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1.11  Suntory unveils genetically modified blue rose
Major Japanese brewer Suntory unveiled the world's first genetically modified blue rose which it hopes will hit markets within four years, reports the Agence France Presse (AFP).

After 14 years of research, Suntory created the blue rose by implanting the gene that leads to the synthesis of blue pigment in pansies.

The color of the new rose comes entirely from the pigment Delphinidin, which does not exist in natural roses, Suntory said.

"The creation of the blue rose was once believed to be impossible. But we have continued our work to produce (it)," Suntory president Nobutada Saji told a news conference.

Conventional breeding technology can create "blue" roses, which commonly appear purple and gray, rather than striking blue.

Their colors come from red or orange pigments and the flowers do not contain Delphinidin.

Suntory's rose also appears to be more violet than blue, with company officials admitting more work was necessary to create roses with bright sky blue colors, says AFP.

"More research is needed to create roses with sky blue. We know we need to add chemical compounds to create brighter blue colors," said Takaharu Tanaka, head of the Institute for Advanced Technology of Suntory that conducts research for biotech business.

"Technologically, we are absolutely successful in creating a blue rose because of the blue pigment in the flower. But for our rose to be recognized by everyone to be blue, maybe we are only a half way there," Tanaka said.

Suntory, also a major whiskey distiller, has spent three billion yen (US$27.8 million) to create the blue rose, blue carnations and other genetically modified blue flowers.

In 1990 Suntory teamed up with Calgene Pacific, an Australian biotech venture, for the project and bought the firm in 2003, renaming it Florigene Ltd.

Once the blue rose is deemed safe for breeding, Suntory hopes to grow the global market for the genetically modified blue flowers to be worth 30 billion yen.

Suntory officials said it would take at least two and a half years for testing and inspections before the genetically modified plant is deemed safe to breed for the environment.

Suntory hopes to merchandise the blue rose in 2007 or 2008.

1 July 2004

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1.12  Frost tolerance breakthrough in barley
Spring radiation frost causes significant economic losses for farmers throughout the southern and western wheat belts, as most growers will attest in recent seasons.

Frost events that occur close to flowering cause sterility, significantly reducing yield. Subsequent frost events during grain filling can increase the percentage of screenings, and result in a downgrade of grain quality.

It has been estimated that in Victoria and South Australia, the annual cost of frost damage to the barley industry alone is $9.2m from direct yield losses, $22.5m from indirect yield losses and $1.9m from quality downgrading.

In a significant step forward in cereals research, scientists from the University of Adelaide have identified the genes responsible for frost tolerance in barley.

The scientists, conducting a project supported by grain growers and the Australian Government through the Grains Research and Development Corporation, have subjected barley varieties from around to world to frost conditions in a screening nursery based at Loxton, South Australia. The scientists found marked differences in frost-induced grain sterility between varieties. Several Japanese varieties recorded particularly low rates of frost-induced sterility compared with commercial Australian varieties.

For example, two Japanese varieties, Haruna Nijo and Amagi Nijo, had frost-induced sterility at rates of 4.5 percent and 5.4 percent, compared with Schooner at 79.1 percent, Arapiles 27.2 per cent, and Galleon 40.3 per cent.

Unfortunately the Japanese varieties are poorly adapted to growing conditions in frost-prone grain production areas of Australia. However, the identification of genetic variation for reproductive frost tolerance and the genetic location of the major genes involved, means there is potential to incorporate frost tolerance into locally adapted varieties.

The new information about the genetics of frost tolerance means that plant breeders can use fast breeding strategies such as Marker Assisted Selection. Crosses can be made between the Japanese frost tolerant varieties and locally-adapted varieties.

The lines resulting from the crosses can be assessed using the marker technology and undesirable progeny quickly discarded from the breeding program. Plant breeders are able to screen large populations for the trait, previously an impossible task with field-based screening methods. Marker Assisted Selection also reduces the error associated with field methods as selection is based on the genes controlling the trait, without potential confusion caused by environmental effects.

The marker technology, combined with the new information on the genetics of frost tolerance could reduce the development time of a plant variety by several years. The release of frost-tolerant Australian barley varieties - malting and feed - is looking promising. This research should significantly reduce the risk and cost of frost damage for barley growers.

Based on the exciting results of this project, GRDC has commissioned further research with the University of Adelaide to apply the successful strategies to improving frost tolerance in wheat and triticale.

For more information please contact Jason Eglinton, University of Adelaide, on (08) 8303 6553.

29 June 2004

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1.13  Abiotic stress tolerance in crops
The Secretariat of the Science Council of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has just published "Applications of molecular biology and genomics to genetic enhancement of crop tolerance to abiotic stress - A discussion document" by M. Gale. It also includes an annex on "Status of breeding for tolerance of abiotic stresses and prospects for use of molecular techniques" by J. Bennett and on "Genetic engineering for abiotic stress tolerance in plants" by H. Uchimiya. The Secretariat is based in FAO Headquarters, Rome. See or contact to request a copy.

Extracted from: Update 6-2004 of FAO-BiotechNews. 10-6-2004 The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) E-mail address: FAO website FAO Biotechnology website (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish)  (

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1.14  Winter wheat breeding improvements polish off rust
Twenty years of breeding improvement has produced a series of top winter wheat varieties showing good resistance to common rust diseases, says a well-known University of Saskatchewan (U of S) breeder.

"Farmers today certainly have access to several cultivars with more than adequate levels of rust resistance," says Dr. Brian Fowler, a winter wheat breeder at the U of S Crop Development Centre (CDC) in Saskatoon. "We can't let our guard down, but it is one disease issue we have under control." Prairie winter wheat breeding programs are funded in part by the Wheat Check-Off Fund, administered by the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF).

Five of the newest hard red winter wheat varieties are rated as either IR or R (Intermediate Resistance or Resistant) to both stem and leaf rust. The selection gives producers of the estimated 700,000 acres of winter wheat a good line of defence against the disease, which can take a heavy toll on the crop if left unchecked.

Newer varieties such as CDC Buteo, CDC Falcon, CDC Raptor and CDC Harrier, all developed in Fowler's breeding program, along with McClintock from Dr. Anita Brûlé-Babel's breeding program at the University of Manitoba (U of M), have good rust resistance.

Other new varieties such as CDC Osprey, as well as AC Bellatrix and AC Radiant developed by Dr. Rob Graf at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Lethbridge Research Centre (LRC), provide good agronomic performance and grain quality, but are suited for the non-rust hazard area of the Prairies.

At one time, stem and leaf rust were considered the most serious diseases, respectively, affecting the Canadian wheat crop. Varieties registered before the 1990s had decent agronomics and yields, but little rust resistance. Breeding over the past 25 years has dramatically reversed the situation in winter wheat varieties.

While both diseases can have a significant economic impact on the crop, stem rust poses the greatest threat to the Prairie winter wheat crop, says Fowler. Both diseases over-winter in Mexico and the southern United States - with spores carried on prevailing winds into Western Canada in early summer.

Because of winter wheat's early production cycle, leaves of the crop are usually past their prime point of susceptibility by the time leaf rust disease spores reach Canada, usually in July. But the crop is more susceptible to stem rust, says Fowler.

"Crops without rust resistance are especially vulnerable if producers aren't using best management practices," he says. "The crop can get hammered the next year if it is seeded late or gets a slow start due to poor seedbed moisture." He points to examples where susceptible crops seeded in early September went on to yield about 50 bushels per acre, while a neighbouring field seeded 15 days later, only yielded 18 bushels per acre in the severe rust year of 1986. He adds, "With only that much difference in time, stem rust can do a lot of damage."

Selecting lines with good rust resistance is one of the main criteria in breeding, says Brûlé-Babel, who runs a leaf and stem rust nursery as part of the wheat breeding program at the U of M. She screens about 6,000 lines of winter wheat annually, for rust resistance.

"Nothing gets through our breeding program without rust resistance," she says. "If a line moves forward, it's because it shows resistance to the disease." Similar to Fowler's approach in Saskatoon, potential lines are inoculated with the disease to see how they perform.

Along with their own material, the U of M and U of S nurseries screen lines for the central and western co-op variety trails for Dr. Don Salmon, plant breeder with Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development's Field Crop Development Centre in Lacombe and for Dr. Rob Graf at LRC.

The producer-funded Wheat Check-off Fund, administered by WGRF, allocates more than $3 million annually to wheat breeding programs in Western Canada.

June 17, 2004

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1.15  Dissecting the maize genome by using chromosome addition and radiation hybrid lines

Ralf G. Kynast, Ron J. Okagaki, Mark W. Galatowitsch, Shannon R. Granath, Morrison S. Jacobs, Adrian O. Stec, Howard W. Rines, and Ronald L. Phillips
Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics and Center for Microbial and Plant Genomics, University of Minnesota, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108; and Plant Science Research Unit, Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, St. Paul, MN 55108
PNAS published 14 June 2004, 10.1073/pnas.0403421101

We have developed from crosses of oat (Avena sativa L.) and maize (Zea mays L.) 50 fertile lines that are disomic additions of individual maize chromosomes 1-9 and chromosome 10 as a short-arm telosome. The whole chromosome 10 addition is available only in haploid oat background. Most of the maize chromosome disomic addition lines have regular transmission; however, chromosome 5 showed diminished paternal transmission, and chromosome 10 is transmitted to offspring only as a short-arm telosome. To further dissect the maize genome, we irradiated monosomic additions with  gamma rays and recovered radiation hybrid (RH) lines providing low- to medium-resolution mapping for most of the maize chromosomes. For maize chromosome 1, mapping 45 simple-sequence repeat markers delineated 10 groups of RH plants reflecting different chromosome breaks. The present chromosome 1 RH panel dissects this chromosome into eight physical segments defined by the 10 groups of RH lines. Genomic in situ hybridization revealed the physical size of a distal region, which is represented by six of the eight physical segments, as being ~20% of the length of the short arm, representing ~one-third of the genetic chromosome 1 map. The distal ~20% of the physical length of the long arm of maize chromosome 1 is represented by a single group of RH lines that spans >23% of the total genetic map. These oat-maize RH lines provide valuable tools for physical mapping of the complex highly duplicated maize genome and for unique studies of interspecific gene interactions.

June 15, 2004

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1.16 New wheat gene keeps growers one step ahead of common bunt

Plant breeding has taken a "be prepared" stance in developing a new Canadian Prairie Spring (CPS) wheat variety that carries a new gene for disease resistance even before it's needed, says an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) researcher in Swift Current.

The as yet unnamed HY476, which was recommended for registration earlier this year, carries the gene BT8, a new source of genetic resistance to common bunt. Resistance to common bunt in current wheat varieties is based on a single gene, BT10, which is still effective in Western Canada, but is expected to wear down over the next several years, says Dr. Ron Knox, a biotechnologist at the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre (SPARC) in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

"We know it is just a matter of time before we see a mutation in the disease pathogen and the old resistance no longer does the job," he says. "It's important in the breeding process, if possible, to have more than one line of resistance waiting in the wings." The AAFC Swift Current wheat breeding program is funded in part by the Wheat Check-off Fund administered by Western Grains Research Foundation.

Prairie plant breeders have done such a good job over the past 25 years in developing spring wheat varieties with common bunt resistance that the disease is rarely an issue for producers, says Knox. Because the variety registration system has, for years, placed emphasis on bunt resistance, the disease has been suppressed to the point "where it is almost undetectable," he says. "But, it is still out there and we need to maintain resistance to prevent it from becoming a problem."

Common bunt, caused by fungi, can attack spring and winter wheat crops. Prior to the development of chemical treatments and genetic resistance, it was regarded as one of the most devastating diseases of wheat in Canada and other countries.

Because the disease favours cool, moist growing conditions, it is more often found in Prairie winter wheat crops, says Knox. The disease infects the seed head, replacing the seed with a mass of brownish spores, and it affects both yield and quality. These spore clumps or bunt balls also produce an odour. Heavily infected fields and samples have often been described as having a fishy odour, says Knox.

While seed treatments are available to control bunt, plant breeders have recognized the long-term value of developing resistant varieties. AAFC breeders Dr. Ron DePauw and Dr. Julian Thomas began work in the mid '80s to backcross resistant genes into CPS and hard red spring lines. Their efforts over the years eventually led to the development of wheat varieties such as AC Carma and AC Foremost, which carry the BT10 resistance, and now HY476, which carries the new gene resistance.

"Incorporating resistance is a slow process," says Knox. "We have to put new lines out in the field, inoculate seeds with the disease and then check the progeny to see if the disease shows up. It's a matter of crossing and re-crossing lines to get material that not only has good quality and agronomics, but also carries the resistance."

The genetic resistance for common bunt was actually discovered by wheat geneticists in the Pacific Northwest Region of the U.S. more than 30 years ago. The BT10 and BT8 genes, for example, have been the prime sources of bunt resistance in wheat crops across Idaho, Washington and Oregon. However, because the cooler, wetter growing conditions in those states are prime for disease development, the turnover of bunt resistance is much faster. Breeders there need to develop varieties with new lines of resistance to stay ahead of the disease.

The disease cycle in Western Canada is much slower because of warmer, drier growing conditions, and common bunt is a good example, says Knox. While BT10 is no longer effective for U.S. growers, it has controlled the disease on the Canadian Prairies for the past 10 years and continues to do so.

Knox is also working with other common bunt resistance genes such as BT12 and BT11 for future wheat varieties. Researchers also plan to investigate the potential of pyramiding or stacking genes such as BT8 and BT10 in a single variety, which would extend the life of both genes.

The Wheat and Barley Check-off Funds, administered by the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), allocate more than $4 million annually to wheat and barley breeding programs.

15 June 2004

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1.17 Iowa State University bred experimental corn gets OK in Colorado
Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Ament has given his approval to a U.S. Department of Agriculture permit to grow an experimental corn crop in northeast Colorado this summer.

Researchers at Iowa State University sought the USDA permit to experiment with producing what may eventually become a vaccine to prevent human or animal diarrhea, a disease responsible for thousands of childhood deaths each year in developing countries.

Kan Wang, the ISU researcher who sought the permit, said the goal is to develop a safer and more effective system for production of vaccines for humans and animals.

Last year, a French company, working with the Colorado Corn Growers, sought to grow an experimental corn crop to produce lipase, a naturally occurring enzyme that breaks down fats. It was aimed at helping people with cystic fibrosis who don't naturally produce the enzyme and can get it only through pharmaceuticals.

That permit came too late to plant the test plot and the company did not come back to renew the permit this year.

The newest permit has possibilities, Ament said.

"This is exciting and very promising technology. While we are receptive to growing experimental crops such as this, we will only endorse projects that are well designed and do not present a threat to our markets for food or feed crops," he said.

Ament noted that his agency will monitor the site to make certain that the permittee and USDA "follow the book" as the project develops.

"If experimental biotech crops are going to be grown in Colorado, it's going to be done right," he said.

There is no cornfield within five miles of the plot, according to the USDA permit.

Wang is a researcher for the Center for Plant Transformation at Iowa State University. Wang sought out the isolated, 3,600 square foot plot in eastern Colorado after learning that her plot in Iowa was not available this year.

June 3, 2004

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1.18 Towards switchable crops: beyond the green revolution
The green revolution of the 1960s introduced the production of short-stemmed wheat and rice varieties that were higher yielding compared to their taller counterparts. This development transformed agriculture, and perhaps signaled the realization of genetic crop improvement. Since then, scientists have continued working to understand crop genetics and physiology in order to refine strategies of manipulating crop growth. It is known that the green revolution wheat varieties are short because they respond abnormally to the plant growth hormone gibberellin (GA), an endogenous regulator of plant growth1. GA signaling is mediated by a class of proteins called DELLA proteins, characterized by a region of 17 amino acids known as the DELLA domain. The best understood of these proteins are GAI and RGA. DELLA proteins repress growth, and their activity is opposed by GA.

Most of what we know about the role of these proteins in plant growth regulation comes from Nicholas Harberd and his research group at the John Innes Center in the UK, who have been investigating DELLA proteins for a number of years. In 1997, Harberd's group reported cloning the Arabidopsis GAI (Arabidopsis Gibberellin Insensitive) gene, encoding the first described member of the DELLA protein family2. The gai gene encodes a mutant protein, gai, lacking the DELLA domain. Deletion of this domain causes reduced GA responses and dwarfism. Knowing the dwarf varieties of the green revolution were due to alterations in GA-mediated plant growth regulation, led to the realization that gai can be used to control crop plant architecture. This effect was demonstrated in rice3 in which transgenic plants containing a mutant GAI allele gave reduced responses to gibberellin and were dwarfed, indicating that mutant GAI orthologues could be used to increase yield in a wide range of crop species.

The constitutive expression of gai, however, could likely confer some undesirable phenotypes, and thus may not be desirable for crop improvement. For example, the rice obtained from the transgenic expression of GAI3 had a reduced ability to extrude the rice panicles completely from the surrounding leaf sheaths. This result might negatively affect yield, counteracting the benefits of the shorter stem size. An alternative mechanism is required for controlling growth when temporal and spatial regulation is needed; that is, imagine the ability to walk into a cornfield and turn off a growth switch so that the plant ceases to grow tall at a particular developmental stage.
In a recent publication in the Plant Biotechnology journal4, Harberd's group report ethanol inducible gai expression, using the ethanol inducible promoter AlcA. The "switch" in this case is ethanol and the repression of growth is dose-responsive. The dose-response effect means that instead of an on and off switch, the researchers have use of something akin to the volume knob on a radio. Therefore, they not only can ask the plant to dwarf or not to dwarf, but when to dwarf and by how much. Using Arabidopsis as their model, Harberd's team showed that the growth of plants transformed with the AlcA:gai construct was restrained by ethanol treatment, with the growth restraint due to the inhibition of GA response. They propose that this system could be used to tailor the growth properties of a variety of different crops to increase harvest index.

DELLA proteins have also been found in plants other than Arabidopsis, and they have been shown to mediate GA-responses in all the plants that contain them. In this system, the gai protein can be induced to act as a growth repressor at various stages of growth of AlcA:gai plants, and the effect on plant form depends on the developmental stage at which induction (by addition of ethanol) is effected. This suggests that gai affects plant parts that are actively growing at the time of induction, an observation consistent with the fact that GA regulates plant growth by affecting cell proliferation in young expanding organs. This and preceding work on these proteins have also provided further evidence for conservation of gene function from dicots to monocots, because the Arabidopsis dwarf gai gene transformed into rice confers the dwarf phenotype.

"Switchable" expression systems may obviate some of the environmental concerns regarding genetically modified crops. They allow researchers to regulate gene expression at a particular developmental stage, in a specific tissue or organ, and for a specified duration. Ethanol is also viewed as an environmentally-friendly "green inducer." Other chemically-inducible systems include tetracycline-, steroid-, copper-, and insecticide-inducible systems. Outside agriculture, these systems are helping to answer major questions in biology and evolution. A common method used in searching for primary targets of a transcription factor is to fuse it to something such as the glucocorticoid receptor, which can be induced with dexamethasone or cyclohexamide to suppress de novo protein synthesis.

1. Peng J et al. (1999) `Green revolution' genes encode mutant gibberellin response modulators. Nature 400: 256-261.

2. Peng J et al. (1997) The Arabidopsis GAI gene defines a signaling pathway that negatively regulates gibberellin responses. Genes Dev. 11: 3194-3205.

3. Fu X et al. (2001) Expression of Arabidopsis GAI in transgenic rice represses multiple gibberellin responses. Plant Cell 13: 1791-1802.

4. Ait-ali T, Rands C, and Harberd NP. (2003) Flexible control of plant architecture and yield via switchable expression of Arabidopsis gai. Plant Biotechnology Journal  1(5): 337-343.

Tawanda Zidenga
Plant Biotechnology Center
Ohio State University

June 2004

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1.19 Canada sows further doubt on GM seed patents
A ruling by Canada's Supreme Court that a company's patent on a gene covers the use of all products containing that gene may have reduced legal uncertainty about GM crops. But it has highlighted and heightened the political conflict over them.

Ever since scientists first developed the ability to give organisms new characteristics by inserting foreign genes into them, three issues have dominated discussion of whether a genetically modified (GM) organism could be called an 'invention', and therefore be subject to patent protection.

Two have essentially been seen as legal arguments. The first has been the question of whether living organisms could be patented at all, genetically modified or otherwise. For much of the biotechnology industry, this was resolved by the US Supreme Court in the early 1980s when, in a landmark decision, it ruled that an oil-spill cleaning bacterium developed by an engineer, Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty, working for the General Electric Corporation could be covered by a patent claim. The ruling was based largely on the judgement that there was nothing in the US Constitution that prevented such 'inventions' from being covered by patent legislation.

Two years ago, however, the issue was thrown open again by the equivalent body in neighbouring Canada, which refused to grant a patent on Harvard University's 'oncomouse' a mouse genetically engineered for use in cancer research on the grounds that such a patent would go beyond what was ethically, and hence legally, acceptable in Canada. The result is that there is no longer a clear international consensus on the issue.

The second aspect of GM patents has also found itself in front of Canada's Supreme Court. In this case, however, the court appeared to point in a different direction, namely to extending rather than restricting the scope of patents on DNA sequences and the organisms that contain them. In a decision reached ten days ago, it confirmed that any product that contained a patented component was itself covered by the provisions of that patent if its owner tried to sell it. And that this applied to a living organism that contained a gene that had been patented.

Political acceptability
The latter case which could prove an equally landmark ruling to the original Chakrabarty decision centres on a case brought by the agribiotech multinational Monsanto against a Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeiser, who, the company argued, had been growing its patented canola seed without its consent.

The court's decision ten days ago to uphold the company's claim is being seen as the first time that a high court has ruled on the degree of control that a company can exercise on a farmer's use of its GM seeds and plants. And it is therefore not surprising that Monsanto's victory has focused the spotlight on the third dimension of the debate around GM patents, namely whether the current legal structure supporting such patents remains politically acceptable, given the extent to which it appears to operate primarily in the interests of large corporations.  

Schmeiser defended himself against Monsanto on the basis that he had only used seeds that he had harvested himself, and that the GM seed must have come from plants that had propagated themselves from seeds blown in from neighbouring farms. Furthermore, as he did not himself use the herbicide Round-Up, to which the seeds were tolerant (allowing them to survive being sprayed), he was not benefiting from the 'invented' gene conferring the herbicide resistance.

But the company claimed and the court agreed that he had been deliberately avoiding the payment that Monsanto requires from any farmer who chooses to take and subsequently 'use' seed from its patented canola crops. Schmeiser was order to pay more than US$100,000 in costs and penalties, his only consolation being that the Supreme Court disagreed with a lower court's ruling that he had made money out of his action, and therefore overturned an order to pay his US$14,000 profit on the crop to the company.

Finely balanced

As with the Chakrabarty ruling, the legal decision was a close one, with the judges finely split. Four out of the nine supported Schmeiser's case, in particular by referring to the earlier Canadian ruling that organisms as such (including plants) cannot be patented, and that Monsanto was therefore not permitted to claim royalties on seeds that Schmeiser rather than the company had produced.

They were outnumbered, however, by the five others, who focused on whether Schmeiser could be said to have 'used' the company's invention merely by selling it in a product (namely the canola) that he had produced. They concluded that he had, that he had not sought the company's permission (or paid the required royalties), that the earlier Supreme Court ruling was irrelevant (as Monsanto's patent had focused on the gene rather than the modified plant), and that Monsanto's case against Schmeiser was therefore legitimate.

The company has, predictably, welcomed the decision. A spokesman for Monsanto, for example, said that the ruling would give agricultural companies a clear legal framework to work within Canada, and that the court's message was that "Canada continues to be a very good place to invest for the benefit of the farmer". Schmeiser's supporters, in contrast, claim that they may have lost the battle, but not the war, and are determined to lobby the country's parliament for a change in its patent laws.

Opening up debate

They have a case, certainly, for opening up the political debate on GM patents. Although much of the opposition to GM crops around the world has focused on the potential health and environmental consequences, lurking close to the surface has always been uneasiness with the fact that the agribiotech industry is dominated by a few large multinational companies. And that the patent system as it currently operates provides the mechanism through which these companies can exert massive control over what the world's farmers can and cannot plant, and how much it costs them to do so.

Patents have an important role to play, both in promoting investment in the necessary research, and in ensuring that those who take on the risks of innovation are able to benefit appropriately from having done so. The problem lies in the way that the patent system is used. In the case of pharmaceuticals, many argue that the profits sought by patent-owning companies operating in developing countries are too high. In the case of GM crops, the issue is a different but no less contentious one, namely that the patent-owning seed companies are becoming too powerful.

The courts should not be expected to resolve such issues. Indeed, an easy resolution is unlikely to emerge. Rather it is important that individual countries address the political issues raised, and determine in a democratic manner how they should be addressed in national legislation. The implementation of international agreements on patent rights such as the Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property of the World Trade Organisation should remain flexible enough to allow this debate to take place. It should also ensure that both the economic and political interests of poor farmers, who often see the world in a very different way to multinational seed producers, are adequately expressed. Too frequently they are not.
1 June 2004

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1.20  Plant breeder, bureaucrats spar over Canadian regulations
University of Saskatchewan Crop Development Centre breeder Bert Vandenberg was cited as saying that Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations are stifling innovation in plant breeding programs and that he will quit his job if something isn't done to fix regulations governing plants with novel traits, adding, "I will either stop doing anything novel, or I will leave my profession because I cannot live with the idea that what I'm doing is not innovative. That's the whole reason for doing plant breeding. I'm serious. I feel that strongly about it. I do not want to be associated with a profession that is going to be tied up with this kind of bad logic. I'll leave it."

Western Producer via Agnet June 18/04

June 18, 2004

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1.21  Government of Kenya authorizes use of genetically modified food
The Kenyan government has given its nod to the use of genetically modified food in the country. President Mwai Kibaki said increased incidents of drought and diseases demanded the use of modern methods of farming to increase yields. He noted that Kenya was losing Shs. 6 billion annually in corn stocks from stem borer, which accounts for over 15 percent of total annual corn output.

The President spoke at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) while commissioning the Level 2 Biosafety Greenhouse Complex, one of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa for biotechnology research. The facility was developed with support from the International Center for Maize and Wheat Research (CIMMYT) and the Kenya government through KARI. The facility allows Kenya to conduct biotech research that conforms to international biosafety standards.

My government is committed to improving agricultural performance through the adoption of modern technologies. Agricultural biotechnology is one of the modern innovative approaches that can make us overcome these constraints by ensuring that losses are minimized, explained Kibaki.

The President said that he is well aware of the debates surrounding biotechnology but reiterated Kenya's resolve to apply modern biotechnology in line with existing biosafety framework, national statutes and international obligations. He said the new facility symbolizes the government's commitment to improve agricultural productivity and will allow Kenyan scientists and those in the region to exploit scientific opportunities from biotechnology.

The Kenya Biotechnology Information Centre (KBIC) is at

June 25, 2004

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1.22  Government of the Philippines to expand hybrid rice planting

The government is determined to plant more hybrid rice variety within the next six years to raise adequate food supply for the growing population and create more livelihood opportunities to combat poverty.

"Our ability to produce more rice translates to more livelihood opportunities and ultimately, to an adequately fed population - key elements in the eradication of poverty and in the attainment of economic development and lasting peace within our shores," said agriculture secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. in a statement.

He underscored these points at a seminar, with the theme "Rice and the Filipinos: The Last 100 Years," held at the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) compound along Visayas Avenue in Quezon City.

The seminar is the first in a series of eight seminars being jointly sponsored by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), in collaboration with the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, and the Leyte State University.

The series of seminars highlights observance in the country of the International Year of Rice 2004 that was declared last year by the United Nations General Assembly. The Philippines was among its main sponsors.

Lorenzo said that some 2.5 million hectares have been planted to rice by over two million Filipino farmers and another one million landless workers, all of whom derive 80 percent of their income from palay harvest.

With introduction of the Gloria Rice hybrid program, which could double or triple rice production of farmers, he said, rice farming has again emerged as an attractive livelihood option and a dependable source of sustenance for our rapidly growing population.

"In a country that has doubled or more than doubled its population in 30 years with smaller land and less water resources, we have to look at technology as a solution," Lorenzo said.

The government would continue to maintain the hybrid rice program in the next three to six years, plus the possible introduction of some genetically modified varieties from PhilRice.

According to a 2001 PhilRice study, the country's actual yield amount to an average of only three tons per hectare compared to its potential of 12 tons per hectare.

The 130,000 hectares already planted with hybrid rice could be expanded to one million hectares next year.

Lorenzo said that success stories in the last three years, particularly on the use of hybrid rice, are indicative of the tremendous opportunities open to farmers and entrepreneurs in the countryside, including the possibility of developing rice hulls into an alternative source of energy.

June 21, 2004

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1.23  Farmers are defying government to grow GM cotton in northern India
Farmers are defying the government to grow genetically modified cotton in northern India, where authorities have barred it from being planted, the federal textile minister said.

Authorities have not yet allowed companies to sell seeds of modified cotton - called Bt cotton - in the northern agricultural states such as Punjab and Haryana.

So farmers there have found ways around it, Shankarsinh Vaghela told reporters in the southern city of Bangalore, reports the Associated Press.

"Farmers in Punjab and Haryana also want to grow Bt cotton. They go all the way to Gujarat to buy the seeds," Vaghela said, referring to the western desert state. "I don't know if it is illegal. You have to ask the agriculture ministry."

Bt stands for bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium whose gene is injected to cotton seeds to give them resistance against bollworms, a major concern for farmers in India, where the economy is driven by agriculture.

Bt cotton developed by agricultural biotech giant Monsanto Co., based in St. Louis, is the only bioengineered crop allowed in India. But so far, it is permitted only in six southern and western states.

The fertile plains of the north that include Punjab and Haryana have been kept out of genetic engineering. Last year, the government's regulatory body for the sector, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, refused a strain of Bt cotton for use in the north, finding that it was vulnerable to another pest, known as the leaf-curl virus.

Advocates of genetic modification say it helps fight plant diseases, increase yield and improves nutritive value of food crops.

Critics counter that the adverse effects of the technology have not been studied adequately. They say genetically modified seeds are environmentally hazardous and could contaminate the genes of native varieties through cross pollination, eventually making farmers poorer.

Environmental group Greenpeace said Bt cotton cultivation in unapproved regions is an indication that genetic modification in agriculture cannot be regulated effectively.

"One problem is the government's inaction and inability to regulate the cultivation of BT cotton," said Divya Raghunandan, a Greenpeace campaigner in Bangalore. "The other problem is the inherent nature of the technology, which cannot be regulated. It keeps spreading across fields."

Meanwhile, Monsanto said Bt cotton cultivation in the north was beyond the company's control, reports AP.

"We do not sell the seeds there. If somebody buys from where it is approved and takes it to the north, it is not in our control," Ranjana Smetacek, Monsanto's Indian spokeswoman, said from Bombay.

June 17, 2004

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1.24  ViaLactia, Orion Genomics provide proprietary ryegrass sequence data to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to enable annotation of public plant sequences
ViaLactia Biosciences (NZ) Ltd., a genomics subsidiary of Fonterra Co-Operative Group Limited, and Orion Genomics, LLC, (St. Louis, MO), today announced that proprietary sequence data resulting from their 2001 research alliance to characterize the gene sequence of ryegrass will be provided to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory researchers (CSHL, New York). CSHL researchers will use the data to annotate publicly available plant sequences with the aim of improving forage and cereal crops for traits such as greater nutritive value and higher yield. Results will be made available to the international research community through the renowned Gramene database (, a genomics resource for scientists and breeders working on grasses worldwide.

"Due to the research we have conducted with Orion, ryegrass is among the best-characterised plants at a genomic level,said Dr Kieran Elborough, Chief Scientist of the Forage Genomics program at ViaLactia. The database of proprietary genomic information we are providing to CSHL is an enormous collection of gene sequences gathered in partnership with Orion Genomics using their GeneThresher® gene enrichment technology. This data has already been extensively studied using specifically-developed bioinformatic tools, and the transcriptional profiles of the ryegrass genes in different field conditions have been fully characterised using SAGE" technology.

We are pleased to provide the ViaLactia/Orion ryegrass sequence to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where it will complement the world class annotation of plant DNA sequence in the Gramene database hosted by CSHLs Lincoln Stein, Ph.D., and Doreen Ware, Ph.D.,said Nathan Lakey, President and Chief Executive Officer of Orion Genomics.

The world's most important agricultural crops are grasses. Knowledge of the genomes of grasses such as ryegrass enable scientists to use 'comparative genomics' to make improvements to most cereal and forage grass crops. Modern biotechnologies such as marker-assisted breeding can then be used to bring research results to the paddock and the dinner table,ViaLactia CEO Dr. Colin South said.

Dr. South added, "The proprietary data we are releasing to CSHL will benefit grass and cereal researchers in New Zealand and around the world. This information will enable crop genome maps to be annotated at every position where there is a match with ryegrass, and also every place where we have found a gene that has changed in its expression.

7 July 2004

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1.25 Scientists urge shift of farming to non-food crops
Farmers of the world must shift quickly to growing plants for industrial uses such as oils and plastics to replace petrochemicals as the climate warms and crude supplies run out, British scientists said Monday.

"In the next 20 to 50 years we have to reverse our dependency on fossil fuels," said Alison Smith of Britain's John Innes plant research center. "We must breed for sustainability."

At a news conference, she complained that in the past there had been a lack of coherent thinking, but that was now changing in the face of the looming crisis.

Ian Crute, director of the Rothamsted plant-breeding center in Hertfordshire, said it was not a matter of switching wholesale out of growing crops for food but of correcting the balance.

"We have an opportunity here ... to substitute our dependency on fossil fuels," he added at the introduction of a report by private scientists on nonfood crops titled "Growing the Future."

Not only is oil running out, but the world's population is predicted to grow sharply over the next half-century and has to be fed. This will put huge strains on the world's economy.

"We have to get more productivity out of less land," he said.

The report noted that plants could produce plastics, fuels, oils, medicinal drugs, insulators, fibers, and fabrics, many of which are currently made from crude oil.

Smith said it was not just a matter of genetic manipulation of existing crops although that too had a place but of making better use of plants currently grown for food.

Plants could also be bred for specific uses such as special types of oils or fibers. They could in effect be used as "green factories" to produce whatever humankind needed in the future, she said.

Farmer and businessman Clifford Spencer who grows crops for industrial uses said some research suggested that between one-quarter and one-third of the farmland in Britain could switch to such uses.

He said that while their arguments were not new, the science to make it happen was, and businesses around the world were waking up to the urgency and the possibilities.

June 22, 2004
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1.26  FAO response to open letter from NGOs
Director-General Jacques Diouf outlines his views on use of biotechnology

- UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 16 June 2004

FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf has sent the following letter to
NGOs in response to their criticism of FAO's recent State of Food and
Agriculture report.

It has come to my attention that an open letter addressed to me is
circulating on the internet for signature by NGOs and other members of
civil society. This open letter appears to be in response to misleading
press headlines and a mistaken interpretation of FAO's recent report,
"Agricultural biotechnology: meeting the needs of the poor?" in the
2003-04 issue of The State of Food and Agriculture.

Those of you who have seen this open letter are urged to read my speech
introducing the report and the report itself, rather than relying on
secondary interpretations of this very important and complex subject.
Therefore, I am transmitting to you the full text of my speech. The full
report is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish at Readers are further asked to
consider that while this report emphasizes biotechnology, it is not meant
to represent all components of FAO's broad mandate and commitment to
promote agricultural development and alleviate hunger.

The open letter mentions several points that require clarification
regarding FAO's working methods and our position on agricultural
biotechnology, particularly transgenic crops.

1. The State of Food and Agriculture has been published every year since
1947. The report examines key developments in food and agriculture at the
global, regional and national levels and provides in-depth analysis of
important issues shaping food and agriculture. It reflects the views of
the most known specialists of Member States on the subject. FAO has always
respected scientific viewpoints in its reports but, as is always the case
in controversial subjects, there are differences of opinion.

2. As regards biotechnology, I should point out that FAO's position is
determined by its competent statutory bodies under the guidance of the FAO
Conference and of Summits of Heads of State and Government. For instance:

* The FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius has agreed on the principles and
guidelines for assessing health risks related to foods derived from modern
biotechnology. Foods derived from the GM crops currently being grown have
been evaluated according to existing procedures for risk assessment and
have been deemed to be safe to eat. However, the absence of evidence of
harm to human health from the consumption of foods derived from GMOs is
not a guarantee that they are completely safe; therefore FAO recommends
continued monitoring and refinement of risk assessment procedures;

* The FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on
Foods Derived from Biotechnology, open to all Member Nations is the body
responsible at international level to elaborate standards, guidelines or
other principles, as appropriate, for foods derived from biotechnology;

* FAO has recently published the guidelines adopted by the 130 Members of
the International Plant Protection Convention for pest-risk analysis for
living modified organisms. Such agreements can help harmonize regulatory
procedures globally.

3. As far as food sovereignty is concerned, FAO negotiated for 7 years to
arrive at the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources which will
become operational on 29 June 2004. This treaty recognizes, for the first
time at the international level, farmers' rights and the rights of
countries originating genetic resources. Further, under FAO's umbrella,
genetic resources for food and agriculture are conserved at the
international level by the international agricultural research centres of
the CGIAR. FAO also assists developing countries to conserve their
national genetic resources in situ and in vitro.

In the above context, I would also mention that, in the Declaration
adopted at the World Food Summit: five years later (WFS: fyl) in June
2002, the Heads of State and Government reaffirmed "the right of everyone
to have access to safe and nutritious food". Under the initiative of the
FAO Council, an Intergovernmental Working Group has been established to
develop a set of voluntary guidelines to support effective policies and
measures for the right to adequate food.

4. Regarding the fight against hunger, the 1996 World Food Summit
committed FAO Members to reducing by half the number of hungry persons in
the world by 2015. In speeches, interviews, and press conferences, I have
always reflected the discussions of the WFSt: fyl, by indicating that the
lack of political will and of mobilization of financial resources are the
main obstacle to meeting this goal. Implementation of concrete projects in
poor communities in rural and peri-urban areas are the priority for
ensuring food production, employment and income, and thus achieving
sustainable food security. These projects should emphasize:

* small water harvesting, irrigation and drainage works (wells, canals,
impoundments, treadle pumps, etc.). The other FAO annual report, The State
of Food Insecurity 2003, indicated that 80% of food crises are related in
some way to water, especially to drought. Yet Africa, for example, only
uses 1.6% of its available water resources for irrigation.

* the use of improved seeds and seedlings, particularly those issued from
the Green Revolution and conventional plant breeding and tissue culture;
the combination of organic and chemical fertilizer in soils that are no
longer placed under fallow and are now depleted due to population pressure
and clearly deficient in plant-available phosphorus; the integrated
biological control of pests, insects and plant diseases without making
excessive use of pesticides and complying with the PIC Agreement
negotiated under the auspices of UNEP and FAO; and simple post-harvest

* diversification of village and household farming systems, with the
introduction of short-cycle animal production (poultry, sheep, goats,
pigs) and the provision of feed, vaccine and shelter; artisanal fisheries
and small-scale aquaculture;

* the construction of rural roads, local markets and storage and packing
facilities, meeting quality and sanitary standards;

* the negotiation of more equitable terms for international agricultural

I have always maintained that GMOs are not needed to achieve the World
Food Summit objective: improved seeds and plant material generated by
international agricultural research centres, particularly within the
framework of the Green Revolution and by national research systems,
including hybrids and varieties from inter-specific breeding are barely
used by the smallholders of the Third World.

In the meantime, I have always drawn attention to the need to feed a world
population that will increase from a current six billion people to nine
billion in 2050, requiring a 60% increase in food production, while
expanding the arable land area is becoming increasingly unfeasible because
urbanization, industrial expansion and transport infrastructure is
encroaching upon rural land and deforestation and the cultivation of
fragile ecosystems are causing soil degradation. Such a situation will
require intensified cultivation, higher yields and greater productivity.

With this in mind, we will have to use the scientific tools of molecular
biology, in particular the identification of molecular markers, genetic
mapping and gene transfer for more effective plant enhancement, going
beyond the phenotype-based methods. Decisions on the rules and utilization
of these techniques must however be taken at the international level by
competent bodies such as the Codex Alimentarius.

The developing countries should not only take part in the decision-making,
but should also develop their scientific capacity and master the necessary
expertise and techniques so that they can understand the implications and
make independent choices in order to reach an international consensus on
issues that concern all of humanity. FAO provides support to the countries
of the Third World to this end and will continue to do so.

Finally, in contrast to the Green Revolution which was generated by
international public research and provided national research systems with
improved genetic material, at no expense, biotechnology research is
essentially driven by the world's top ten transnational corporations,
which are spending annually US$3 billion.

By comparison, the CGIAR system, the largest international public sector
supplier of agricultural technologies for developing countries has a total
annual budget of less than US$300 million. The private sector protects its
results with patents in order to earn from its investment and it
concentrates on products that have no relevance to food in developing

FAO, in accordance with its mandate, will continue to provide a framework
for ensuring a dialogue on these issues at the international level. Such a
dialogue should be based on sound scientific principles allowing the
analysis of socio-economic implications as well as sanitary and
environmental issues.

For the sake of transparency, I would be grateful if you would post this
reply on your internet site.

Yours sincerely,
Jacques Diouf

Source: AgBioView
17 June 2004

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1.27  A Vital Step Towards Global Food Security

- Financial Times, July 4, 2004, By M.S. Swaminathan
and Per

Last week, an extraordinary treaty came into force. The International
Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, adopted by the
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, is meant to
help ensure a sustainable and plentiful food supply, regardless of the
challenges posed by nature or humankind. This is no small task, given the
unknown impacts of future forces such as climate change, disease and
poverty, and sweeping technological advances.

But unlike many treaties that enter the world in an anaemic and enfeebled
state, this one comes full of vitality. It derives its energy, in part,
from a unique instrument known as the Global Crop Diversity Trust. The
trust, established by the FAO and the Consultative Group on International
Agricultural Research (CGIAR), is building a $260m endowment. The interest
income from this endowment will fund crop diversity collections around the
world, in perpetuity. Although not widely realised and appreciated, thnese
collections form the basic building blocks of all agriculture. Without
them, the treaty, and indeed humanity itself, would be the losers.

Crop diversity collections form the basis of much innovation in
agriculture, containing genes that confer traits to improve yield, to cope
with new or old pests and diseases, and with changing conditions such as
extended drought or the salinisation of soils as sea levels rise.

Every year, farmers and breeders around the world generate scores of new
crop varieties, and without them, world agricultural production would
spiral downwards. Each time a gene or species is lost, we further limit
our options for the future.

One classic example serves to illustrate this point. In the 1970s, a virus
was reeking havoc with maize (corn) harvests in many parts of Africa and
the islands of the Indian Ocean, leaving corn plants with half-formed

Scientists turned to crop diversity collections, gaining access to corn
varieties from a number of countries. A handful of these were found to
have resistance to the disease - including certain plants from Tanzania,
Reunion Island, and Nigeria - and from these the scientists were able to
breed new maize varieties resistant to the virus. They eventually produced
more than 100 varieties of maize, suited to all of the relevant farming
systems and ecologies in Africa, improving maize yields for poor farmers
acnross the continent.

While crop genetic diversity - the legacy of 10,000 years of plant
domestication - has dwindled in farmers' fields, it is today secured in
some 1,470 gene banks around the world. But most are erratically funded,
and many lack the resources needed to carry out basic operations such as
refrigeration or replication of seeds. A number of irreplaceable
collections has been lost - from maize collections in Latin America to
citrus collections in China. Unless the world's crop genetic collections
are secured, foodn security will remain in jeopardy.

The first task of the Trust is both historic and Herculean. Region by
region and crop by crop, it has begun a global inventory of the material
in the world's collections of crop diversity. From the large collections
of the CGIAR to small national collections - whether in the Ural Mountains
of Central Asia or on remote Pacific Islands - all will be accounted for.

This process will enable scientists, farmers and policymakers to identify
the most endangered collections, with a focus on 64 food crops and forages
designated by the treaty as critical to world food security. The trust
will then direct its resources towards the rescue and rehabilitation of
gene-bank hot spots in urgent need of support.

But there is a hitch. Even as it begins its work, the trust is seeking the
full financial backing of the world community, including national
governments, foundations and the private sector. Although $13m per year
(the annual income from the $260m endowment) may seem like a small price
to pay for a unique heritage with the potential to underpin food security,
the trust is not yet fully endowed. To date, $45m has been committed, with
a further $60m under discussion.

The nations of the world, whether large or small, developed or developing,
have shown their commitment to this cause over seven years of tough
international negotiations to bring the International Treaty on Plant
Genetic Resources into being. Given the global significance of its task -
which may ultimately provide a passport to the basic human right of
freedom from hunger - it is perhaps unsurprising that the negotiations
were drawn out and difficult.

But though the negotiators' work is done, the treaty's is only just
beginning. The international community must ensure that this political
achievement is complemented by the financial muscle of organisations, such
as the Global Crop Diversity Trust, that have a mandate to implement their
collective will.

-- M.S. Swaminathan, who received the first World Food Prize in 1987, is
chairman of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, India.
Per Pinstrup-Andersen, recipient of the 2001 World Food Prize, is a
professor at Cornell University and the Danish Agricultural University and
chairman of the Science Council for the CGIAR

Source: AgBioView
6 July 2004
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1.28  Plants for the future: a 2025 vision for European plant biotechnology
As the worlds population will grow from 6 to 9 billion over the next 50 years, and fossil resources will diminish, the need for food, bio-fuelsand bio-materialsfrom renewable, plant-based resources will increase. A report presented in Brussels today highlights how advances in plant genomics and biotechnology can help Europe to address these challenges, for instance with stress-resistant plants. Leading representatives from research, the food and biotech industry, the farming community and consumersorganisations presented to European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin a long-term vision for European plant biotechnology towards 2025. The paper identifies three priorities: to produce more affordable, healthy and better quality food products; encourage environmental and agricultural sustainability; and enhance competitiveness in European agriculture, industry and forestry. Stakeholders and policymakers will participate in the new technology platform on plant biotechnology to deliver a strategic research agenda by the end of the year.

"Despite Europe having been at the forefront of plant science and biotechnology, its leading position has drastically deteriorated in recent years, due to public concerns over the impact of these technologies, insufficient communication of the benefits of this technology to the public, and lack of strategic research programmes as compared to our competitors,said Philippe Busquin. This is alarming in view of the challenges Europe is facing: providing a growing world population with more healthy foodstuffs in a sustainable way and replacing fossil-based materials with new, environmentally sound bio-materials made from renewable plant resources".

Lagging behind

While US biotech firms spend ¬650 million a year on R&D, their EU counterparts invest only ¬400 million. Last year, the American government launched a National Plant Genome Initiative with a total budget of ¬1.1 billion from 2003 to 2008. EU15 support is estimated to be around ¬80 million annually.

Towards a sustainable bio-economy

Agricultural production accounts for 17 million farms in Europe and 8% of the EU-25 workforce, while the agro-food industry has a ¬600 billion annual turnover. The vision paper highlights the role biotechnology and genomics can play in helping the EU move to a knowledge based bio-economy that uses renewable plant resources.

New stress-resistant plants will be capable of increased agricultural productivity, despite increased seasonal instabilities and climate change, while also requiring less fertiliser, pesticide and water. The research agenda can also increase genetic diversity of plant crops, and boost the development of greenmaterials, including bio-fuels.

The vision

The vision paper calls for a European technology platform on plant biotechnology research aimed at:

  • Developing a strategic research agenda covering genomics, physiology, agronomy, ecology, bioinformatics and other emerging skills
  • Boosting public and private R&D investment and enhancing research transparency
  • Strengthening industry support for the platforms research agenda
  • Promoting societal consensus through mutual understanding and communication

Vision paper:
EC biotechnology action plan and reports:

The document: 2025: a European vision for plant genomics and biotechnology

June 24, 2004

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2.01  Crop diversity continues thanks to modern, traditional practices
Peruvian peasants, Italian consumers and California peach farmers are all helping to promote crop diversity in unexpected ways, says a UC Davis anthropologist who studies agriculture.

In his new book, "Farmers' Bounty: Locating Crop Diversity in the Contemporary World," Stephen Brush investigates areas that are bucking the trend toward fewer agricultural varieties in modern agriculture.

He concludes that, worldwide, a variety of farming and consumer practices are maintaining much more diverse foods than has been assumed.

In Italy's case, an ancient wheat grain, farro, which takes more time and effort to hull than more modern versions, has experienced a renaissance after surviving in isolated pockets of the country, Brush says.

"Foods prepared with farro have become fashionable because the grain is organically produced and is associated with a traditional Mediterranean diet," Brush says in his book. Moreover, the grain has been promoted as part of local identity and its regional cuisine.

In California, peach varieties have increased over the past century so that now more than 200 varieties are grown commercially.

Brush says farmers are driven to diversify their crops by lengthening the harvest period to take advantage of "dramatically higher prices at the beginning and end of the harvest season" and to avoid bottlenecks in labor and equipment.

Native farmers throughout the world are also credited with preserving crop diversity, despite more efficient hybrids since the Green Revolution of the 1960s. Brush, who has studied the practices of farmers in Peru, Mexico and Turkey, says while the agriculturalists have been open to the new varieties of potatoes, corn and wheat, they continue to conserve their traditional varieties as a back-up measure.

23 June 2004

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2.02  Catalogue of boro rice (Oryza sativa L.) germplasm from Uttar Pradesh, India

Book Release in International year of Rice 2004

By Ram C Chaudhary and Nisha Chaudhary;
Published by PRDF Gorakhpur, India and UPCAR Lucknow India, 129 pp.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1         Introduction     
Chapter 2         Background Information          
Chapter 3         History of Boro Germplasm Collection 
Chapter 4         Collection of Present Germplasm
Chapter 5         Method of Evaluation
Chapter 6         System of Coding Passport Data
Chapter 7         Longitude and Latitude of Collection Sites
Chapter 8         Descriptor, Descriptor State and Code
Chapter 9         Characterization of Morpho-agronomic & Physiological traits
Chapter 10       Grain Quality Analysis
Chapter 11       Accessions Important to Plant Breeders and Geneticists
Chapter 12       Seed Conservation and Availability
Chapter 13       Summary
Chapter 14       References
Appendix I       Illustrations
Appendix II      Passport Data
Appendix III     Morpho-agronomic and Physiological traits      
Appendix IV    Grain Quality Characters by Accessions

Traditional boro rice (Oryza sativa L.) of eastern Uttar Pradesh, India is primitive rice, and has now almost has disappeared. This is quite different from other rice for which term Borois used. This is the only Boro rice, which can tolerate 4C low temperature during germination and vegetative stage, and 45C during reproductive phase in May.

Through various expeditions, boro rice was collected from 10 districts of eastern U.P. namely Ballia, Basti, Deoria, Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Mahrajganj, Mirzapur, Sant Kabir Nagar, Sant Ravidas Nagar and Siddharth Nagar.  After rejecting the duplicates, 558 accessions were classified, catalogued and conserved.  The rate of loss of traditional boro germplasm is so fast that probably, it will be the last systematic and complete collection.   Boro is a source of sterile cytoplasm and thus source of developing Cytoplasmic Genetic Male Sterility system for hybrid rice.  Alternate source of semi-dwarfism is already known in this collection. Boro is also known to be source of resistance to bacterial blight and brown spot.  It may be source of resistance and tolerance of several abiotic and biotic stresses.  Besides, source of several rare nutritional characters is expected to be found based on the traditional knowledge of those tribal farmers, who still grow it.

The catalogue describes detail morpho-agronomic and quality characters description of 558 accessions of boro rice.  It also gives addresses where seeds are stored and process to get it for users.

Contributed by Ram C Chaudhary,

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3.01  The Sesame and Safflower Newsletter
The Sesame and Safflower Newsletter is the only global newsletter which deals
with these high quality, widely adapted and, as yet, relatively neglected
oilseed crops.

Very many of the articles deal with aspects on plant breeding.

Hard copies have been published with support from FAO since 1985.

Four Newsletters are now on line (click on the URL when connected to the
Internet to get cover page and contents, then choose the articles):
2003 -$PassCheckStart?ID=E188
2002 -$PassCheckStart?ID=E189
2001 -$PassCheckStart?ID=E195
2000 -$PassCheckStart?ID=E196

Should you be interested in submitting scientific articles, news notes or
reports on Sesame or Safflower then please address them to

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3.02  A chronology of corn's migration

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Jan Suszkiw, (301) 504-1630,
A chronology of corn's migration from Mexico's Aztec civilization to the Silk Road to China is now available on the Web at
Prepared by Agricultural Research Service chemist Anne Desjardins and technical information specialist Susan McCarthy, the website details a timeline for corn's worldly travels, starting with the crop's only known center of domestication in "Mesoamerica," a region comprising south-central Mexico and adjacent areas of Central America.

The authors cite some interesting sources, including Christopher Columbus, the first known European to encounter corn, Zea mays, during the first of his four sea voyages starting in 1492. While in Cuba, Columbus purportedly logged an account in which "... [his party] had seen many fields & also of a grain like panic-grass that the Indians call maize. This grain has a very good taste when cooked, either roasted or ground and made into a gruel."

Chapters 2-6 chronicle early events in corn's five-century journey from Mesoamerica to Europe, Africa and Asia, with subsections providing historical context. A section titled "Aztec Records of Maize and Teosinte" notes those Indian people's early writings on corn.

Another section, "Maize Crossed Asia Within 100 Years," reflects Desjardins' interest in corn's Asian beginnings while working in Nepalese villages as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1972. "As I ate my maize [porridge], I wondered how an American crop had become a staple food in a remote region of the Himalayas," she writes in the website's introduction. "My neighbors were convinced that their maize, or makai, was 'local'... ."

Creating the website, 30 years later, reaffirmed Desjardins' belief that Asian and African farmers rapidly adopted corn, an American crop plant. Today, at the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill., she seeks ways to protect corn, wheat, barley and other grain crops from diseases like Fusarium head blight. McCarthy, Desjardins' collaborator, works in the Public Services Division at the ARS National Agricultural Library, which posted the website in February.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

June 21, 2004

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4.01 Scholarhip offers from the Asian Rice Foundation USA
The Asian Rice Foundation USA is offering $3,500 scholarships for students studying rice.  More information at .  Applications due Sept 30.

Contributed by Russ Freed Dr. Russell Freed
Professor, International Agronomy
Dept of Crop and Soil Sciences
384C Plant and Soil Sciences Building
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824 USA

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4.02  IAEA research proposals invited: Improving crop tolerance to salinity and drought
You are cordially invited to submit research proposals for our new Coordinated Research project (CRP) on Identification and pyramiding of mutated genes: novel approaches for improving crop tolerance to salinity and drought. You may kindly download the application form for submitting project proposal.

For more information Please contact: S. M Jain. Tel: +43 1 2600 21623

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* 20-24 August 2004. XVIIIth International Congress on Sexual Plant Reproduction. Beijing, China. Contact: Dr Shu-Nong Bai, College of Life Sciences, Peking University, 5 Yiheyuan Road, Beijing, 100871, P.R. China; Tel: +86 (10) 6276 1444; Fax: +86 (10) 6275 1526;

* 6-9 September 2004): VIII International Symposium on Plum and Prune
Genetics, Breeding and Technology. Lofthus, Norway.  Info: Dr. Lars Sekse,
Plante Forsk - Norwegian Crops Research Institute, Ullensvang Research
Centre, 5781 Lofthus, Norway. Phone: (47)53671200, Fax: (47)53671201,
email: web:

* 8-11 September  2004. Eucarpia XVII General Triennial Congress, Vienna,
Austria. Contact: P. Ruckenbauer, IFA Tulln, Dept. Biotechnology in Plant
Production, Konrad-Lorenz Str. 20, A-3430 Tulln, Austria; Tel: +43 (2272)
66280 201; Fax: +43 (2272) 66280 203;
Email:; URL:

* 12-17 September 2004: V International Symposium on In Vitro Culture and
Horticultural Breeding. Debrecen (Hungary): Info: Dr. Mikl, Szent -
Gyorgyi A u. 4, PO Box 411, 2101 Godollo, Hungary. Phone: (36)28330600,
Fax: (36)28330482, email:  or,

* 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 or contact Dr. Russ Gesch Tel: 320-589-3411 ext. 132
or E-mail:;
Submitted by Dr. Terry A. Coffelt, Research Geneticist, USDA-ARS-USWCL

*(NEW) 3-15 September  2004: International Rice Science Conference : Rice Science for Human Welfare. Contact:International Technical Cooperation Center, Rural Development Administration, 250 Seodun-Dong, Gwonseon-Gu, Suwon,  KOREA
Tel : +82-31-299-2270, 292-0955
Fax : +82-31-293-9359
Mobile: 011-9957-5079

Rice is a foundation stone for some of the world´s most important and oldest cultures. In conjunction with the International Year of Rice (IYR) 2004, the Korean Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), the Rural Development Administration (RDA), and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) are jointly organizing the International Rice Science Conference in Korea to consider how rice will affect human welfare in the 21st century.

This conference will provide a forum for the presentation and discussion of the latest rice research on a wide range of related issues such as food security, biotechnology, environmental conservation, the impact of the rice industry on national economics and recreational activity.

The conference is open to all representatives from government, non-government organizations, private-sector organizations, research institutes, universities, the media, and the general public.

Poster abstract submission

The abstracts of posters to be submitted for the conference are expected to contain new information of high scientific standards and should have not been submitted to any other conferences or publications. An abstract should be submitted, not more than 600 words, by July 31 2004, preferably either by email or surface mail.

Contributed by Dae-Geun Oh, PhD (Mr.)
International Technical Cooperation Center
Rural Development Administration
250 Seodun-Dong, Gwonseon-Gu
Suwon 441-707, KOREA

* 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:;

* 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:;

* (NEW)10-13 October 2004: International Cotton Genome Initiative (ICGI) biennial world-wide meeting, Hyderabad, India. Contact:  P. Vidyasagar // C/O Vibha Agrotech Limited // 501 Subhan Sirisampada Complex, Raj Bhavan Road  // Somajiguda, Hyderabad82 (A.P), INDIA // Phone: +91-40-23301473, 55620538 // E-mail:    URL: Contributed by David M. Stelly, ICGI Chair (

* 24-28 October, 2004: IV ISHS Symposium on Brassica and XIV Crucifer
Genetics Workshop. Daejon (Korea) Info: Prof. Dr. Yong Pyo Lim, Dept. of
Horticulture, Chungnam National University, Kung-Dong 220, Yusong-Gu,
Taejon 305-764, South Korea.  Phone: (82)428215739, Fax: (82)428231382,

* 31 October 4 November 2004: Annual Meetings, American Society of
Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of
America, Seattle, WA, USA. Contact: ASA-CSSA-SSSA, 677 S. Segoe Rd.,
Madison WI 53711, USA; Tel: +1 (608) 273 8080; Fax: +1 (608) 273 2021;

* 7-10 November 2004: International Conference: Post Harvest Fruit:
The Path to Success, Campus Lircay, Universidad de Talca, Talca, Chile. (See complete
conference description in January 2004 newsletter)

* 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;

* 4 - 9 May 2005. 11th International Lupin Conference, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. 1st Circular is available at: Contact:
Submitted by George D. Hill, Secretary/Treasurer International Lupin Association ( 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.

13-17 June 2005, Murcia (Spain): XIII International Symposium on Apricot Breeding and Culture.
Info: Dr. Felix Romojaro and Dr. Federico Dicenta, CEBAS-CSIC, PO Box 164, 30100 Espinardo (Murcia), Spain. Phone: (34)968396328 or (34)968396309, Fax: (34)968396213, email: Symposium Secretariat: Viajes CajaMurcia, Gran Via Escultor Salzillo 5. Entlo. Dcha., 30004 Murcia, Spain. Phone: (34)968225476, Fax: (34)968223101, email:

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

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

REVIEW PAST NEWSLETTERS ON THE WEB: Past issues of the Plant Breeding
Newsletter are now available on the web. The address is:
 We will continue to improve the organization of archival issues of the
newsletter. Readers who have suggestions about features they wish to see
should contact the editor at

Subscribers are encouraged to take an active part in making the newsletter
a useful communications tool. Contributions may be in such areas as:
technical communications on key plant breeding issues; announcements of
meetings, courses and electronic conferences; book announcements and
reviews; web sites of special relevance to plant breeding; announcements
of funding opportunities; requests to other readers for information and
collaboration; and feature articles or discussion issues brought by
subscribers. Suggestions on format and content are always welcome by the
editor, at We would especially like to see a broad
participation from developing country programs and from those working on
species outside the major food crops.

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